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What is Aggression Toward Familiar People?

Aggression in dogs toward familiar people is a frustrating situation that dog owners may face during the ownership of their companion. Growling, barking, biting, snarling, lunging, or any type of aggressive behavior can be caused by a variety of reasons. Many people view the term “aggression” in different ways; some feel that if a dog bites a familiar person it is considered aggression, while others may feel that a growl or snarl to a familiar person is a signal for aggression. What is important to understand is that if a dog has been a member of your family for a period of time and has had time to “bond” with everyone, it is important to be mindful of any behavioral changes. If your companion has never snarled or growled before, and all of a sudden begins to do that (without being threatened or provoked) then it may be time to visit the veterinarian.

Aggression in dogs toward familiar people occurs when a dog, well known to its family or family friends, becomes aggressive towards them, causing emotional harm or physical harm to his loved ones.

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Aggression Toward Familiar People Average Cost

From 22 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$500

Symptoms of Aggression Toward Familiar People in Dogs

Aggression is on such a wide spectrum of behaviors, and that is why it is so important to keep a documentation of any regular “times” or “triggers” that are leading to any negative change in behavior of the dog. Symptoms can include:

  • Snarling
  • Lip licking
  • Biting
  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Having a tense or stressed demeanor
  • Inability to relax in certain situations
  • Being unhappy or seemingly irritated
  • Moodiness
  • Averting their gaze
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety

Types

There are many types of aggression in dogs and it can occur in many different situations. Types include: 

  • Dominance aggression
  • Aggression related to an incident
  • Competitive aggression
  • Conflict aggression
  • Maternal aggression
  • Anxiety induced aggression
  • Pain related aggression
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Causes of Aggression Toward Familiar People in Dogs

Aggression can occur more often in certain breeds if not handled properly. There are breeds that are known or considered to be more aggressive than others, and this is still widely debated. Studies do show that this is the case at times. Causes of aggressiveness toward familiar people can include:

  • Inconsistent training
  • Hectic environment
  • Mishandling of the dog
  • Improper and inappropriate discipline of the dog
  • Neglect
  • Genetics
  • Underlying medical conditions
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Diagnosis of Aggression Toward Familiar People in Dogs

If your dog has suddenly or gradually over time become aggressive toward you, other family members, or friends, it is imperative to make an appointment with your veterinarian before the symptoms progress. The veterinarian will ask for a detailed history of the dog, including his home environment, habits, routines, discipline, training, and any other questions he feels is necessary to properly diagnose the underlying condition, if any.

The veterinarian will perform a complete examination which may include medical testing, such as blood work, a urinalysis and other tests. It is very important to tell your veterinarian of any changes in diet, or if the dog is showing any symptoms of illness. The medical professional will check for anxiety issues or dominance issues by asking you specific questions pertaining to these disorders.

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Treatment of Aggression Toward Familiar People in Dogs

With a diagnosis of aggression, the veterinarian will usually recommend a tailored program so it doesn’t become worse. Treatment may include:

Behavioral Therapy

This will often be the main form of treatment, and the veterinarian will usually recommend a canine behaviourist to help your dog and your family. Behavioral therapy may include modification of the dog’s behavior, desensitization, eliminating triggers, training and much more. The behavioral therapist must get to know your dog and may come into the home to help you, and will even teach you strategies to help your dog. This may take time, and things may have to be eliminated from the dog’s life in order to decrease his aggression, but will be worth it in the end.

Medication

If your dog is suffering from anxiety, the veterinarian may choose to prescribe medication. This is questionable and debated, though, because what is crucial in dog aggression is to address the underlying issue. If the dog has an illness that has caused him to suddenly become aggressive the veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate medication if needed e.g. pain relief and anti-inflammatories for joint disease.

Lifestyle Change

Making sure that your home environment is calm and predictable may be a recommendation by the veterinarian or behavioral therapist. If you do not have a routine with your dog, and his day-to-day living is very unpredictable, a change will need to be made. Consistent and proper routine management is one step to helping dog aggression.

Diet

There are times when a low-protein and high-tryptophan diet may help in conjunction with therapies and any medication.

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Recovery of Aggression Toward Familiar People in Dogs

Recovery and management depends on the severity of the aggression. Dogs can be cured of this, but it does take much dedication and time from you, the loving and patient owner. Many dogs who display aggression towards familiar people are rehomed or surrendered to an animal shelter.  If a dog has attacked a person, causing suffering and severe injury, they may be euthanized. This is why it is crucial to get the dog’s aggressiveness under control before it is too late. The dog’s chances of recovery are much higher if he is taken to the veterinarian and started on therapy early on.

Recovery takes time, perhaps years, and over this time the methods learned must be followed. Follow-up visits with the veterinarian and behavioral therapist (if the therapy has ended) are necessary to be sure the dog is on the path to recovery. There is no “cure” for dog aggression; however, there are ways to drastically minimize any recurrences. It takes dedication and persistence from the whole family in order to help the dog with this condition.

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Aggression Toward Familiar People Average Cost

From 22 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$500

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Written by hannah hollinger

Veterinary reviewed by: Linda S.

Published: 04/15/2016, edited: 04/15/2021

Aggression Toward Familiar People Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Labstaff

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One Year

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3 found helpful

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Our dog was not socialized as a puppy due to the pandemic. We adopted him about 2 months ago but he growls and barks at things he is unfamiliar with. Recently he has began showing aggression towards our 7 year old son. He whines or begins to bark when we are interacting with our son and today growled at our son for being in the same room. We figure professional training could help, but in the meantime, what should we do?

Feb. 27, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Hello, yes a professional dog trainer would be best. In the mean time try to reward your dogs good behavior with treats when your son comes into the room and doesn’t growl give your dog a treat and tell them they are good.

Feb. 27, 2021

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Dachshund

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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sudden aggression. Biting

Dec. 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Hello, SO sorry to hear that your dog is suddenly having aggression issues. He could have a medical issue causing him to be aggressive. Things like GI pain and back pain can cause dogs to bite if they are hurting. Some dogs develop dementia as they get older and will also be more aggressive. It would be best for your vet to examine your dog to see if there is anything wrong. After that, try figuring out what is starting these aggressive behaviors. Then you can start with training him to not react to these instances aggressively.

Dec. 27, 2020

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Treeing Walker Coonhound

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Two Years

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Aggression

He’s is barking and growling at our mother he’s known her since we got him

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, over an email, it isn't possible for me to say what might be going on with your dog. Behavior can be a very complicated thing, but if it's something that has just started happening, it may be easily resolved. I think the best thing to do would be to start working with a behavior trainer, and if you do not know of one, your veterinarian can recommend one for you. They can often work with you in the house, and may be able to see what is triggering this problem so that this problem can get better. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

Sept. 29, 2020

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Chow Chow mix

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One Year

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Aggression

I adopted a chow chow mix and he is now 1 year old now. He’s sweet and playful to all members of the family except with my sister with autism. I noticed that lately my dog was aggressive towards my sister. One evening, my sister was about to go to bed when my dog tried to bite her and chased her all the way out of the bedroom. My sister has always accidentally stepped on him before. Would it be the cause of the aggression?

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I think it is quite possible if your sister accidentally stepped on him that she is not his favorite, yes. It may be best if you can keep the two of them separated, and having a trainer work with your dog with your sister presents would be a really good idea. It would be nice for you to be able to trust that your sister is safe. If you do not know a good trainer, your veterinarian will be able to recommend one for you. I hope that all goes well for everyone.

Oct. 6, 2020

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Rottweiler and pitbull

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One Year

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Growling

My dog is more aggressive towards my boyfriend. He tries to lick his face and than bite it. It’s not super aggressive but it’s still kinda of scary. Sometimes he’ll look at my boyfriend and just growl. He still has his balls im on a waiting list to get them removed. I feel Iike the aggression could be apart of that. He also with my friend golden doodle grows at him when he walks by or laying near each other.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I would get behavior training for your dog as soon as possible. He is a big dog, and you need to be able to know if he is going to bite a person or a dog. Having him neutered is a good first step, but having a trainer work with him would be a good idea. Your veterinarian can help you find a trainer in your area.

Oct. 9, 2020

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Zona

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Poodle x Shih-Tzu

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Anxiety

We recently rescued a 3yr old poodle mix female from a "puppy mill" situation. She is about 14lbs. We knew she was very timid, and especially around males. (she had bonded with me right away) Now that she has warmed up to me, my husband, and my daughter, she is still very nervous around my 16 yr old son. He can't even get near her. Now, the second he opens his bedroom door to come downstairs, she growls and sometimes barks. It's a very nervous growl. She doesn't lunge towards him or anything, but it's constant. I feel for my son that feels like he can't even leave his room without getting growled at. She's such a good dog, and has come a long way. It's been 2 months of struggle with my son, and I don't know what's best for this situation. Do I get after her, do we ignore it? What else can we do? We've tried having him give her treats every time he comes downstairs. He's ignored her, and not pushed too far, to my knowledge. With the COVID outbreak, he's with her all day and night. Please help!

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Kyler

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Chow Chow Rottweiler mix

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Aggression

My dog has been acting out of the ordinary for a few days now. He got into some type of fight I assume from the appearance of multiple injuries on his back, neck, and legs. I'm a little afraid he might have been exposed to rabies, but he refuses to go anywhere with me, including to the vet, to get checked out. He's also very very aggressive with my other dog Shorty, even when Shorty's nowhere near him. Usually they're friendly. It's gotten to the point where if Kyler's sitting out front I have to leave out the back. I have to park out back as well because if I walk around front he will chase me to my car, snarling and barking.

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Kaan

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Presa Canario

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fear
Barking
Growling
Dominance

I have 3.5 year old Presa Canary Mastiff. He’s about 110 pounds. I’ve had him since he was 6 weeks old and we’ve been basically attached at the hip since then. I’ve often socialized him since he was young at a dog park and around friends and family. I’ve made sure he had all his vaccinations when they were due. I’ve trained him myself to be pretty obedient: sit, stay, lay down, off, come on command (I’d give him a 3 out of 5). He’s a very affection dog with people. He doesn’t like to leave my side and loves my parents just as much. I’ve never hit him with anything more than a limp paper towel roll maybe a couple of times on the snout when he was younger. My disciplining tool of choice was always a spray bottle with water in it or suspension of affection and attention from me. As he’s gotten older, he’s become very protective, which I don’t mind at all. It’s only around things or places that he knows to be mine or “his”. When he meets new people at my house, he’s barking up a storm and ready to pounce until I distract him and redirect his attention long enough to get him to follow me away. I instruct new people to not pay attention to him or pet him initially and just let him warm up to them. During these interactions, I usually have him wear a shock collar or a head lead (I only use the vibration key to break his focus on the unknown situation so he can focus on me, the familiar. I use shock ONLY when I see any imminent danger, but that’s rare with people...even never). HOWEVER, for years, he’s done this low growling when people start to pet him anywhere on his body from his scapula up to his head. He doesn’t do this to me really at all (a few times), but he does this with strangers and with family members that he displayed immense affection toward. He will growl and then the hair on his back and tail will stand up and become stiff and may begin to growl even louder. But this growl is pretty low and gives the impression of “I don’t like you touching me right now, please stop” from him. I’ve followed up with the vet to see if this may be coming from any medical issues, but the vet said he seems fine. He did do this growl with the vet at one or two points of the visit but the vet didn’t relate it to anything other than some separation anxiety and being around strangers. When he does this with family, usually I’m there with him and he does it when I’m not. Now here are some details that may or may not be contributing factors to this aggression: 1. He is an intact male. I don’t believe neutering when he was younger would have prevented this or would correct this now so I haven’t given this much consideration, but I will say it’s possible it could or could have helped. 2. This growling seems to only be at female family members or women that he’s met before. So maybe the above detail about him not being neutered plays into this a little? But He does this with any stranger, man, woman, etc. so I don’t totally contribute it to that or dominance. 3. He only does this in confined spaces with these people. So in a house in a bedroom or some room where there isn’t a lot of space. In a small apartment. It’s only ever been while he’s inside confined spaces. If we’re outside walking in an unfamiliar area and strangers want to pet him, he is a teddy bear. He doesn’t growl and he is very playful with new people. An entire family (Parents, 2 boys, and 2 girls) have all pet and hugged him at the same time and he completely melted in their arms. He is the same outside with family members walking him around unfamiliar environments. So this could be a dominance thing or a fear response. I’m not sure what my next steps should be with training. I am definitely considering a professional trainer now since he is still exhibiting this behavior with my mother and sister who feed him and look after him often. He’s never tried to bite them but I won’t disregard that possibility. Are there any techniques I can try on my own to maybe rule out some things? Or any suggestions of things I should be doing now to correct this? With me, he is quite literally my best friend and is very affectionate and loving. We have our moments of disagreements haha but nothing more than a timeout or taking away attention from him won’t fix.

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Kaan

dog-breed-icon

Presa Canario

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fear
Barking
Growling
Dominance

I have 3.5 year old Presa Canary Mastiff. He’s about 110 pounds. I’ve had him since he was 6 weeks old and we’ve been basically attached at the hip since then. I’ve often socialized him since he was young at a dog park and around friends and family. I’ve made sure he had all his vaccinations when they were due. I’ve trained him myself to be pretty obedient: sit, stay, lay down, off, come on command (I’d give him a 3 out of 5). He’s a very affection dog with people. He doesn’t like to leave my side and loves my parents just as much. I’ve never hit him with anything more than a limp paper towel roll maybe a couple of times on the snout when he was younger. My disciplining tool of choice was always a spray bottle with water in it or suspension of affection and attention from me. As he’s gotten older, he’s become very protective, which I don’t mind at all. It’s only around things or places that he knows to be mine or “his”. When he meets new people at my house, he’s barking up a storm and ready to pounce until I distract him and redirect his attention long enough to get him to follow me away. I instruct new people to not pay attention to him or pet him initially and just let him warm up to them. During these interactions, I usually have him wear a shock collar or a head lead (I only use the vibration key to break his focus on the unknown situation so he can focus on me, the familiar. I use shock ONLY when I see any imminent danger, but that’s rare with people...even never). HOWEVER, for years, he’s done this low growling when people start to pet him anywhere on his body from his scapula up to his head. He doesn’t do this to me really at all (a few times), but he does this with strangers and with family members that he displayed immense affection toward. He will growl and then the hair on his back and tail will stand up and become stiff and may begin to growl even louder. But this growl is pretty low and gives the impression of “I don’t like you touching me right now, please stop” from him. I’ve followed up with the vet to see if this may be coming from any medical issues, but the vet said he seems fine. He did do this growl with the vet at one or two points of the visit but the vet didn’t relate it to anything other than some separation anxiety and being around strangers. When he does this with family, usually I’m there with him and he does it when I’m not. Now here are some details that may or may not be contributing factors to this aggression: 1. He is an intact male. I don’t believe neutering when he was younger would have prevented this or would correct this now so I haven’t given this much consideration, but I will say it’s possible it could or could have helped. 2. This growling seems to only be at female family members or women that he’s met before. So maybe the above detail about him not being neutered plays into this a little? But He does this with any stranger, man, woman, etc. so I don’t totally contribute it to that or dominance. 3. He only does this in confined spaces with these people. So in a house in a bedroom or some room where there isn’t a lot of space. In a small apartment. It’s only ever been while he’s inside confined spaces. If we’re outside walking in an unfamiliar area and strangers want to pet him, he is a teddy bear. He doesn’t growl and he is very playful with new people. An entire family (Parents, 2 boys, and 2 girls) have all pet and hugged him at the same time and he completely melted in their arms. He is the same outside with family members walking him around unfamiliar environments. So this could be a dominance thing or a fear response. I’m not sure what my next steps should be with training. I am definitely considering a professional trainer now since he is still exhibiting this behavior with my mother and sister who feed him and look after him often. He’s never tried to bite them but I won’t disregard that possibility. Are there any techniques I can try on my own to maybe rule out some things? Or any suggestions of things I should be doing now to correct this? With me, he is quite literally my best friend and is very affectionate and loving. We have our moments of disagreements haha but nothing more than a timeout or taking away attention from him won’t fix.

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Dusty

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mongrel (mixed)

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Aggression
Snarling
Growling
Snapping

Adopted Dusty for 3 months now. He was very well behaved shy and unsure of the environment at first. but after a month things has gotten a lot better. At 1.5-2 months in he started to barked at Grandfather (gf) when coming home. Slowly it has been his behaviour since then. we tried to stopped by scolding him, clapping loudly he usually stopped or tone down. But now seems like when we tried stopping him now it doesn't really work and seems more furious. And just a week ago, he started to growl, snarl, bark and even wants to snap when Grandmother (gm) and gf wants to walk into their room. Which will past by his usual chilling and sleeping spot.

Aggression Toward Familiar People Average Cost

From 22 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$500

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