How to deal with a Snappy Dog

If a dog is fairly aggressive towards people and other dogs, it can be quite scary. For the owner, it can also be fairly embarrassing.

However, with the right knowledge and understanding, an aggressive and snappy dog can be tended to and the problem behind their snappy behaviour resolved.

The Signs

The signs of an aggressive dog aren’t hard to spot. It can be displayed as growling, snapping, snarling and biting.

Generally, a dog will often give an early warning sign before going for a snap. Its body language and posture will often change, followed by growling and bared teeth.

If you go to pet a dog, and these signs start to flare, then it’s best to back off to avoid any snaps or bites.

Biting and Snapping

Dogs are accurate with their mouths when they want to be. If a dog snaps at the air, it was likely deliberate as a warning. If it really did want to bite you then there’s little chance you’d be able to avoid it.

A dog doesn’t wish to hurt people, especially family members, and until it is driven into using real bites to keep people away then it will result in this air snapping. Injuries often only occur when people move their hands accidentally into the line of a dog’s air snapping.

Repeatedly being put into a situation where they feel the need for aggression will lead to less warning before biting, as well as biting harder. It starts more as a jump scare, but over time it will lead to fairly painful and damaging bites.

Why does this happen?

Dogs do not get aggressive for no reason, unless they have a brain disease, which then it’s still very rare. Even if it’s really difficult to figure out, there is always a reason behind it.

Some dogs that have been abused by humans in the past will likely show aggression but there are multiple factors that can have an effect. Some common reasons can include fear, possessive aggression, frustration and physical reasons.

When finding a solution, you should resist punishing your dog after aggression. An intelligent and thoughtful approach is a much better solution in the long run as punishment and force will often just make aggression problems worse.

While in some cases, severe punishment can intimidate a dog into stopping aggressive behaviour, it still won’t resolve the underlying issue which will just resurface again later on. So it’s not a good approach to take.


The most common cause for a dog to become aggressive is down to fear. It comes in a few strains too. It can be down to the fear of the owner or a stranger, fear of being handled, territorial aggression, protection or the fear of separation.

Since the subject of fear is quite a broad one to cover, we will cover it with its own full article so you can get as much as possible out of it. [Article coming soon, keep checking back!]

Possessive aggression/Guarding

Aggression can be caused to keep food or what your dog considers items of value. Items of value can be anything, such as a toy, food in a bowl, or even a bottle found on a walk.

To treat this type of behaviour, it involves teaching the dog that humans come to give, and not take. They need to understand that we don’t really want what they have but we are willing to take it in exchange for something they want more.

If a dog becomes possessive over a lot of items then it may need more exercise and stimulation. Giving them a job to do can also help as it takes their mind off their obsessive possession.


Just like some very spoiled humans, a dog can sometimes get aggressive if it doesn’t get its own way. Since our world can be fairly frustrating for our 4-legged friends, some of it can be re-directed as aggression towards anyone unlucky enough.

To ease frustration, your dog needs to learn how to deal with this feeling and keep calm. Plenty of exercise can often help, with plenty of off-lead running. Also play with your dog as often as you can. Keeping them happy and enjoying life eases off that frustration.

Another way to teach your dog to deal with frustration is to teach the “wait” command. This will teach your dog how to deal with frustration and disappointment if it can’t get what it wants.

Physical reasons

Dogs can’t physically tell you when they’re ill or if something hurts, and sometimes this channels as aggression. Changes in the brain due to disease or tumours can make a very sudden change in your dogs behaviour, or if it is handled in a painful manner.

If your dog suddenly does become quite angry and snappy, it’s best to check with the vet for signs of something that could be causing it pain.

If you ever have concerns over your dogs well-being always be in touch with the vet. If aggression becomes an issue and you’re unable to resolve it yourself, it could be worth getting in touch with a dog therapist to advise you on how it can be dealt with.

If you have any success stories, or information you’d like to add then please feel free to comment below!

Image credit: Warren Photographic

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