Worried your dog is aggressive? Canine trainer debunks five myths about this complex behavior

Dog barking in golden light
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated, any expert comments quoted in this news piece have been taken directly from the Instagram post cited below.

When it comes to all the possible issues you could face as a pet parent, there's no denying that aggressive behavior in your dog is one of the most challenging. 

Figuring out how to tackle dog aggression isn't easy, in large part because there are so many myths out there surrounding this complex behavior. 

With that in mind, Carolyn, an expert trainer and founder of Good Dog Training, has shared a post to Instagram in which she debunks five common myths surrounding dog aggression.

Spoiler alert: it's not your fault!

Read on to find out more...

1. It's all how they're raised, raise them right and they won't be aggressive: "Very few dog owners actually want an aggressive or dangerous dog," says Carolyn. 

"Most want a great pet, a dog they can do things with, a dog their kids can grow up with. People generally don't want a bite risk or a dog who mauls or kills people or other dogs.

"You can do everything to raise a dog "right' and still end up dealing with aggression."

2. Puppies are blank slates: Carolyn stresses that this is absolutely not true. "Aggressive behavior is complex and can be caused by a variety of things outside the owner's control." 

These factors can include genetics, irregular brain development, brain chemistry, hormonal imbalances, early social isolation, pain, stress, fear, and anxiety.

3. Aggression doesn't mean abuse: "It's a huge misconception that if you just love a dog and treat them well, you won't have behavior problems. If a dog has aggression issues, they must have been abused.

"Every trainer can tell you — that's untrue," says Carolyn. "Most aggressive dogs I've worked with (and lived with) have been loved since birth. And many dogs with abuse histories are not aggressive."

4. Aggression doesn't mean spoiled: "On the flip side, many wrongly believe that if a dog is aggressive it's because the owner has been too soft on the dog, and they just need to establish they're dominant or alpha," explains Carolyn. 

"This is also 100% untrue, and the dominance theory has long been debunked."

5. It's the owner's fault: "Most owners have done nothing wrong. Most are doing their best and love their challenging dog dearly. Aggression is so complex and it is far, far from just how they're raised. 

"Abnormal aggressive behavior can often be seen in very young puppies, long before they ever go to their first home."

Aggression is a super complex issue and most of the time, it has very little to do with how a dog is raised.

If you're dealing with aggression in your own dog right now, please don't struggle alone. We highly recommend reaching out to a qualified trainer for advice and support in working with this very challenging behavioral issue. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.