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How To Make a Dog Aggressive (Unintentionally)

Dogs are naturally social creatures and benefit from having familiar faces around them which makes life easier for everybody involved.

It’s vital not to let your dog wander down the road of fear and uncertainty because that is what causes aggression.

You may want to check out what not to do to make a dog aggressive so you can avoid it or you may think that “aggression” is what you want.

Listen, I could name a million reasons why you don’t want your dog to be aggressive.

  • It’s dangerous for you, your dog, and other animals or people
  • Having a dangerous dog around puts your whole family at risk
  • Scaring the crap out of people gives canines a bad rep
  • Your dog will 100% feel miserable
  • You’re liable for all financial damages and healthcare costs

An aggressive dog is a liability.

If you’re planning to model your dog more into a guard dog, I have something for you below.

But whatever you plan (and I hope it’s not making your dog aggressive as that would be a grave mistake), there are a couple of things that you might not know about that can cause aggression.

How Do You Make Your Dog More Aggressive?

It’s never a wise decision to make your dog aggressive as that not only hurts your dog mentally and perhaps physically but also puts everybody around you at risk. If you want to develop guard dog characteristics, chat with a professional.

To be clear, none of these are positive things and you should avoid making your dog aggressive at all costs.

Making a dog aggressive means immense stress caused most commonly by fear with territorial or dominance issues coming second and third.

Yep, that’s right. Aggression is caused by fear most of the time.

It has nothing to do with being “strong” since wolves in the wild don’t display unwarranted aggression and it wouldn’t increase their survival chance, on the contrary.

Protecting one’s own territory isn’t really aggression in the common sense of the word but it can be quite the vicious display.

Some breeds are more prone to territorial aggression than others.

True dominance (or whatever you want to call it) issues are incredibly rare.

Fear makes a dog aggressive but a lack of exercise can contribute to undesired behavior too.
Photo by Jaromir Chalabala on Shutterstock

This ties back to the fact that euthanizing an otherwise healthy aggressive dog makes no sense in most cases since they can often be rehabilitated if the aggression isn’t rooted in genetics or brain chemistry (even then, it might be fixable).

So let’s cut to the chase, here are all the factors that might make your dog aggressive:

  1. Lack of socialization
  2. Isolation
  3. Poor breeding and genetics
  4. Pushing dogs with explosive temperaments to their limit
  5. Traumatic past experiences

To get a friendly (or at least neutral) pup you should work a lot on socializing, make sure your dog is part of the family and has a strong bond, and not encourage incredibly rough play over the limits.

While a well-socialized dog may be able to handle traumatic experiences and bounce back easily, it’s not guaranteed and it should never be tested.

How To Train Your Dog to Attack Strangers

If you want to train your dog to be aggressive towards strangers you should think of other ways to protect yourself first and only look into protection dogs once all other options are exhausted.

If you’re a concerned family member, rest assured that many dogs guard their home or step in when hairy situations arise while large breeds can seem intimidating by appearance alone.

You never want your dog to outright attack strangers.

As outlined above, this not only potentially causes harm to everybody involved but it also means you have absolutely zero control over your dog.

If you’re talking about a dog that attacks people invading your home, lots of dogs will do that.

While there are certain breeds that are predisposed for guarding, every individual is different and you might want to contact a trainer or behaviorist specializing in that if property protection is of concern to you.

You think you need a real protection dog?

You most likely don’t.

Very few people really need a protection dog and it comes with an incredible responsibility.

One thing is for sure, protection dogs are heavily trained and have a stellar set of commands and general discipline, they never walk around and attack strangers.

Also, training a protection dog should never happen at home but only under professional supervision.

If you think you need protection, think of other ways you can protect yourself.

Most of the time, the mere presence of a large powerful dog can be intimidating to people looking for trouble.

Furthermore, when push comes to shove, many confident dogs will step in anyway in dangerous situations (never count on that with a regular pet dog though).

Making a Dog Aggressive Towards other Dogs

Dog on dog attacks are probably the most common form of dog attacks.

Making your dog aggressive towards other dogs creates a health risk for both dogs involved as well as for bystanders caught up in the fight in addition to causing immense stress for all parties involved.

Why is this so common?

Because so many dogs are poorly socialized or have behavioral issues in general, thus create tension with other dogs.

One dog pushes his limits, the other clearly wants to disengage but the instigator is not having it and thus you have a fight. Dog fights can – but don’t have to – be caused by one side only.

Why are dogs aggressive toward other dogs?

  1. Lack of socialization
  2. Isolation prevents exposure to dogs of all kinds
  3. Poor breeding (i.e. dogs bred for disgusting fighting pits or attack dogs)
  4. Trauma from previous attacks or accidental reinforcement of aggression
While rough play can make dogs more aggressive, normal play between dog is often interpreted as aggression.

Sometimes, aggression is caused by one dog only and the other dog may or may not react to it.

When that happens, it can be fear-based aggression but it can also be that this dog misreads the other dog’s body language.

This might happen with wheezing pugs who have respiratory issues, blind dogs, dogs unfamiliar with larger breeds and the list goes on.

Alternatively, your own dog may lose social skills due to medical issues.

In rare cases, the “aggression” is actually just a correction that the other dog might not welcome if he has never learned to accept measured corrections.

At other times, both dogs are fighting over a resource, territory, or something else.

Whatever the reason for a dog being aggressive towards another dog, this is always an issue that needs to be addressed with patience and care, perhaps under professional supervision.

If you have poorly trained dogs in the neighborhood, read up on how to use dog repellents and protect your dog, not the other way around.

Pro Tips To Avoid Making Your Dog Aggressive

A couple of questions pop up time and time again. I’ll just answer them in a rapid-fire way and point you toward the appropriate article.

Q: Why is my dog aggressive toward me?

A: Dog aggression can have several causes like traumatic events for rescues, lack of exposure, etc. as discussed above.

Record your dog’s body language, not the circumstances, and approach a professional if you’re unsure.

Here’s a good article on how to calm an aggressive dog and one about food aggression.

Q: Should I get rid of my aggressive dog?

A: If you have the necessary resources, please do not get rid of your dog. It’s never their fault and rehabilitation can be achieved. If necessary, consult a behaviorist and/or work your way through all the countless information and studies available online but do take precautions when out in public.

Q: I have a dog-aggressive rescue / may have accidentally made my dog aggressive towards other dogs. What should I do?

A: Check out my article on dogs being aggressive in the same household as well as reactivity (many of the symptoms are the same).

Q: What if I just want a bit more aggression to have a fearless guarding dog?

A: First of all, while aggression isn’t encouraged, boosting your dog’s confidence can help with a lot of things. Please don’t go beyond a dog’s natural instincts by training him to be an aggressive guard dog unless you have professional supervision.

I hope this helps. Aggression is a very complex topic and particularly nuanced compared to average training issues.

Please don’t encourage your dog to be aggressive toward other people, dogs, or animals in general. It’ll almost always end badly for everybody involved.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.


Monday 5th of December 2022

Thank you for this article. We have a 3 yo neutered male black lab mix whose mother died when he was six weeks old. We adopted him at 3 months old. He’s a lovely sweet dog, but acts aggressively towards my husband and occasionally with me. It usually happens when he’s startled but sometimes we are petting him and he will snap at us. We live in Cleveland OH and are seeking a good trainer who could help us with him. Do you have any networks or connections or recommendations on how to find an appropriate dog behavioralist to help us? Thank you!