Aggression And Biting In Huskies

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This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series National Dog Bite Prevention Week

It’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Although huskies are not aggressive by nature, it does not mean that under the right circumstances that they won’t bite. Bites can happen for a number of reasons and the most common reason that bites occur is due to dog aggression. When a dog is afraid and does not know what to expect from his environment or does not understand what is expected from him, he will quite often default to aggressive behaviour that may, or may no, end in a dog bite. From the dog’s perspective , “I am afraid. I will get YOU before you have a chance to get me.”

The Key To Keeping Safe From Aggressive Dog Bites

The key to being safe from an aggressive dog attack is understanding why the dog might be acting aggressively and being able to accurately interpret the body language coming from the dog. Dogs are always communicating how they are feeling so we need never feel like we are caught off guard by their behaviours. Education and information is the answer for keeping people safe from aggressive attacks and bites.

What Is Dog Aggression?

Aggressive dog behaviour is both the most common and the most serious behaviour problem that can show up in dogs. It is the number one reason why dogs are given up for re-homing and it is also the number one reason that dogs are returned to shelters and other dog rescue organizations.

Aggression can be defined as an adapted effort to establish control (physical or mental) over a vital resource or situation that cannot be controlled (from the dog’s perspective) through another means. It is a rather generalized term used to cover a wide range of behaviours beginning with a mild behaviour like issuing a warning bark, growl, or snarl and ending with a full on lunging attack with a skin puncturing bite.

Behaviour displayed by aggressive dogs include:

  • Rigid postures, erect ears and tail, piloerection of hair (raising of the hackles).
  • Growls, snarls or deep chesty barks.
  • Lunges with or without bites.
  • Bites ranging from snaps, nips, to skin puncturing bites.
  • Mouthing to control a person and their movements.
  • Muzzle punch (driving the muzzle into a person’s body.
  • Repeated bites with or without shaking of a body part.

How Aggression Is Triggered in Dogs

Recognizing and understanding the triggers to aggression is the best way for people to keep themselves safe from an aggressive attack. Learn to recognize the signs of these different triggers to aggressive behaviours.

Aggression and bites can be triggered in a number of ways:

  • Fear Related Aggression – The dog will try to move away from the situation and will bite if he feels trapped or cornered. It is not safe to corner a fearful dog.
  • Inter-dog Aggression – This issue is related to the workings of the social hierarchies of dogs. Aggression between dogs occurs when neither dog is willing to defer to the other. Tensions escalate and explode into physical altercations. Without proper and sufficient interventions, repeated occurrences with escalations in frequency and intensity of these interactions can be expected.
  • Pain Related Aggression – A dog who is in pain from injury, illness, or from age related arthritis will often respond to humans or other dogs with aggression and retaliatory bites. Small children touching or accidentally falling on these dogs or high energy young dogs climbing on them may cause a dog that is in pain to deliver an offensive bite.
  • Play Aggression- A dog bite can happen during or just after very excited play. An overly aroused dog can become aggressive to both humans and other animals. This kind of aggression usually stems from a lack of early and appropriate socialization, removal from the mother and siblings too early, or a lack of appropriate bite inhibition training. To avoid triggering an aggressive attack or bite, avoid rough housing with a newly re-homed dog until you have been able to fully assess their behaviours.
  • Possession Aggression (resource guarding) – This occurs when the dog perceives (can be real or imagined) a threat to its food or other valued objects. He will guard his property by standing over it, barking, growling, snarling, snapping , and by lunging to try and drive away the source of the perceived threat.
  • Sex Related Aggression – Intact male dogs will vie for the attention of females in heat and females will still compete for access to a male. Intact male dogs can fight with other male dogs (especially living in the same household) even if no female dogs are present. Also, females living together in the same household may compete to establish social ranking. The most common time for sex related aggression to emerge is in dogs aged one to three years old.
  • Predatory Aggression- When a dog aggressively stalks or stares intently at other any moving object, is a signal that an attack or bite is very likely to happen. Though this is not considered to be a true social aggression, the outcome of this behaviour is still likely to be a delivered bite. Careful supervision is a must for these dogs and all stalking behaviours must be modified and redirected.
  • Protection Aggression-This type of aggression occurs in dogs that guard or protect people or other members of his social group from anything perceived as a “threat”. Sometimes the act of “guarding” a person has nothing to with protecting them from danger as much as it does as conveying the message that the person is considered to be the dog’s property. This kind of resource guarding can be modified through a combination of counter conditioning to change the dog’s opinion of the perceived threat and then operant conditioning to teach the dog a new behaviour to practice where this person is concerned.
  • Redirected Aggression-A redirected bite occurs when a bite that is intended for someone or something else becomes redirected at a target that happens to be within striking range. A bite or attack is a common occurrence when a person tries to intervene in dog on dog aggression. It can also happen when someone enters a space where two dogs are in a heightened state of aggression. To avoid getting bitten, never grab fighting or aggressive dogs by the collar and never place your hands near their face or mouths. Instead, use an object like a broom or stick to intervene and separate them. If you absolutely must physically separate two fighting dogs, try grabbing the back legs of the primary attacking dog and pulling him away from the other dog. At the same time as you are pulling the dog away, attempt to turn and flip the dog over onto its back. You can also try break up the fight by using a blast of water from a hose, using dog pepper spray, or even throwing a blanket over one of the dogs.
  • Territorial Aggression-This aggressive behaviour occurs when a dog is protecting its house, yard, fence, crate, etc.. The already aggressive dog can often be made more aggressive by the addition of a fence or other confinement of a territory. Unless this behaviour is modified, the dog’s territory will continue to “expand” to include new areas, people, and other dogs also. Do not allow territorial dogs to freely guard their territory. Use counter conditioning to convince him that having someone approach his “territory” brings pleasant things with it ( a yummy high value treat).
  • Status Related Aggression-This kind of aggression happens within the social group of a dog. Conflict develops from the failure of one of the group members to submit to another member. This aggressive behaviour worsens with the addition of punishment or physical force as this only adds tension too an already tense relationship. Always strive to neutralize these kinds of interactions. Redirect the inappropriate or offending behaviours and reward the appropriate submitting behaviours.

Most common times for Status Related Aggression to occur:
• Feeding time.
• New dogs or people entering into their space.
• or when getting ready to move from one location to another i.e.: leaving the house to go to the car.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2: Strategies For Breaking the Cycle of Aggression.

As always, we encourage you to ask questions, comment, or share your stories about his topic. When we share our stories, we might just be helping someone who is struggling with their dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.

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18 Comments

  1. Hi.
    We rescued a 2-1/2 year old female husky just 3 weeks ago. She is a great dog and we are slowly trying to introduce her to our cat of 9 years. I am usually holding the cat so she can’t chase her, but our husky likes to jump up at her and poke her with her snout. Sometimes it’s more calm and she only sniffs her. Today she tried to nip the cat while I was holding her which made the cat hiss and upset.
    Just wondering if you have any tips. Our cat has been living in the garage the last 3 weeks and she wants so badly to be back in the house and we miss her. We bring her in when our husky is on a leash and have also had her in a crate for these short visits or I’m holding the cat when the dog is loose.. Otherwise they are separate. We know this will take time and patience but any helpful suggestions would be welcome. We wondered if we should get a muzzle for the dog during these visits until they can share (hopefully) our home. Thank you!

  2. I bought a husky puppy, Hank, who had three siblings but I was told two died at birth and one froze. So, he grew up an only child. On the farm was his mother, his mothers son from another litter, who was big, and the father, who was small. Hank is 11 weeks now and bites 80% of our interactions and a fair amount of those times are out of anger at which time he snarls. For instance, when I sit on the couch, he jumps and attacks repetitively. I’ve tried redirecting. I’ve tried time outs. I’ve tried focusing on the positive. Maybe I’m failing. Today he bit me hard..though no blood.
    At night time, when he is in my room, he is good. He gets me up when he needs to go out and he follows me without trying to lead or bowl me over. He listens to me without attacking. My roommate watches him during the day. I think my roommate sleeps on the couch a lot of the day and night ignore Hank but could that make the couch a trigger for when I get home from work and attempt to sit for five minutes (more like 30 seconds). Either way, it’s beginning to be a real problem and my puppy seems unstable. He knows ma decent amount of commands (sit is down and some
    Others more than halfway down) he’s mostly potty trained with a few accidents, and he learns quickly. He also weighs 30 lbs so I want to get this under control. If he weighs this much at 11 weeks-I need to be his undeniable leader for when he is 80+.
    I do not think he respects my roommate as a leader. I’m considering letting Hank go to Doggy daycare to see if he can run off some steam and to neutralize any differences in the way my roommate acts towards him and the way I do during the week while I’m at work.
    Any direction or advice for this situation? My roommate is a nice person but I just have a feeling this situation and perhaps inconsistency is not benefiting Hank or maybe it’s a combination of that and something I’m doing wrong. Help. I want to encourage his good traits. I don’t like that he snarls, that worries me.

  3. I need advice plz! I have a 7 week week Siberian husky puppy I got for Christmas. She’s adorable until you try to take anything away from her. She attacks me! seriously! I was trying to take a away my sock so I grabbed her before going under the bed and all hell broke loose! Teeth, gums, and biting hard. So I flipped her on her back and closed her mouth and she kept going! She wouldn’t stop. I don’t know what I am doing wrong or why she feels the need to defend herself from me. Can someone please advise?

    • U need to hit them with two fingers on the side of them or put them on the floor on any side and holding their neck like their parents, you need to show them Dominos

  4. Carla-Marie on

    I broke up with my parter on Monday and he moved out that same day. We have had our make Siberian Husky for the last year and we have both bonded with him and I have established pack leader. My mum has come to stay this weekend to help me through my first weekend without him and my Husky has taken a dislike to her. He has snapped at her a couple of times. Could this be because she has slept where he used to sleep and sitting in his seat and he has seen us both removing all of his “dads” things and making changes with new bedding and items etc and they all have new smells. I would expect him to be upset with changes but he’s never been aggressive towards anyone before and he has met my mum before as well. Prior to this weekend he has been okay with me and didn’t seem to be missing his “Dad”. I’m not sure how to deal with the situation shutting him away might only make it worse? Anyone with any experience please advise

  5. LaurieSaylor on

    My female red and white husky is around 11. Got her when she was 1 1/2 years old. She already had a litter of puppies. My other dog is around 7. Had her since she was a puppy. Today the younger of the two went to eat the huskies dropping. Rite after that my husky got very aggressive toward her. And a number of times. What does this mean? Is that the reason for the agression? Please respond to help me.

  6. Hi, we have a 8-9 month old female husky. She is all around a sassy good dog. My only worry is that she nips a lot. We keep saying its play biting but I dont want it to turn into something more. I want to get her out of this behavior but don’t know how. She nips at the air and at our hands or feet but never actually bites and always looks to be playful about. But when she gets older is my concern and I don’t like that she has even been doing it for this long.

    • You need to stop playing with her if she nips you right away and tell you no bitting and wait a minute to start playing with her again

  7. Karla Huerta on

    Hi, I have a 3 year old husky. I have had her since she was 8 weeks old. She has always been very friendly and is usually scared of new people, but has never been aggressive with anyone. She play fights with my other little dogs but it has never been anything serious or mean. Today I woke up to my little dog bleeding out from horrible bites that my husky did. I was terrified and took my dog to the vet. She is now getting surgery on those horrible bites. I don’t know what to do, my dog has never acted this way. Please help me out.
    Thank you, Karla

    • Was you’re female husky in heat at the time? I had the same problem but with a Chow, She came into heat and started attacking out 11 week old Pit for dominance and she didn’t need surgery but got some stitches If You’re Female Husky was Fixed at the time it could’ve been a provoke or a jealousy Thing If Not none of those then i don’t know.

  8. HUSKYOWNER01 on

    I HAVE A GREY BLUE-EYED HUSKY , (2 Months) HE CRIES A LOT WHEN LEFT ALONE . WHEN I BRING HIM INSIDE THE HOUSE AND TRY TO PLAY WITH HIM ITS DIFFICULT. AT FIRST HE LICKS ME BUT SLOWLY STARTS ELEVATING INTO A STRONG BITE . AND WHEN I YELL AT HIM SAYING NO ! HE BARKS BACK . PLEASE HELP I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO

  9. I have a husky that is about seven months old. he is brown and blue eyed he has recently started to aggressively bark, jump, and bite myself and my family. he will bite anywhere on us our arms and calves are the main targets he was such a lovey puppy I don’t understand why he is doing this or how to fix it we have tried the crate the smacking and telling no but nothing is working and he is getting more aggressive. yes he was just recently neutered

  10. I have a husky we got when he was 2 years old, a rescue dog. He’s been with us since. Just last week when I was petting him, he bit my hand. I needed stitches. Then today, my husband was pulling some hair off of him and he snapped at him too, luckily my husband pulled his hand away just in time but he was PISSED that this dog, who we care for on a daily basis, would do this. These incidents aren’t the first either…he’s snapped at us and at others several times throughout the time he’s been with us. My sister says not to touch him at night as he’s probably trying to rest or sleep but when he lifts his leg to me as if he wants a tummy-rub, I think he’s being friendly and not aggressive! Then this incident today…it was 2:30 pm, not night time! No growls, no warning. Just BOOM! So just a week ago, he got me pretty good and then just this afternoon, a week or more later, he tries it again. I don’t know what to do. We are getting frustrated. When we have people over we warn them NEVER to pet him. He’ll sniff them then walk away and lays down or plays in the backyard. I know he’s a rescue dog but it’s been almost 6 years we’ve had him and I am still walking on eggshells around him. He’s beautiful, soft, brown eyes….loves going for runs or walks but when he does something like this, it’s like…what the hell?? A co-worker of mine claims it’s the kind of breed he is. I also say, he’s an animal first and a pet second. Gee…at what point will he calm down and trust us to just reach for him to pet or groom him….when he’s old and crotchety? He might even be worse then! I know I might be cranky when I get old too!

  11. Hi , i have 2 years old male husky . And i observed that lately he is kind of grumpy . Sometimes He just bite with out any reasons . There is one insident that my 16 years old cousin who used to live with us , just walking from the toilet to the living room and its just happened that my husky is walking same time with him and my husky just attacked him without any reasons . He bit him . I wonder why my husky behaving like that lately . Sometimes my sister just want to play with him and like holding his face and he will act like he wants to bite my sister . We begin to feel unsafe and scared that he will just bite one of us anytime . What do you think we need to do . Hope you can help .

    Thank you

  12. Have a 12 week old husky that is usually sweet but he growled and gobbled his food if you correct him with a no and take it he submits but he does it without thought again he amys rough with our older dog and gets pretty aggressive over toys so I take them from him and scold him and he lays on his side and seems to understand no have a one year old baby and don’t want anyyyyy dominance issues, please help, he is an excited jumper too

  13. Allie Mitchell on

    My husband and I just rescued a beautiful bi-eyed boy (estimated to be about 2 years old) from a shelter here in korea where we are stationed and he a really great dog but we have noticed serious aggressive tendencies towards koreans(the vet mainly) and with food and toys and general obedience training.
    Hes been through alot and we have to nurse him back to health because he is severely underweight. The thing is he doesnt give any warnings signs before he’s about to snap. He wont show any submissive behavior for me to praise (if he does he quickly realizes it and snaps and trys to dominate me) I want to help him realize its okay for me and my husband to be around his food and toys that we gave him.
    With the toys he acts like hes completely not interested in then never play with them or chew on them and then when hes all the way on the other side of the room uninterested we will go to pick them up and he runs and attacks us.
    Yesterday we went to the vet they had to sedate him because he was pulling off his muzzle and biting them for just putting the stethoscope to his chest. (I got really mad when the vet suggested we put him down if we cant get him under control).
    He is fine at home as long as there are no triggers around like food or toys and hes just a super happy lovable goofy dog.
    Hes doing well with his positive training and in just a couple days hes already got down sit, lay down, wait (for his feeding with release word “ok”) and in (for his kennel which was another issue but is solved now).
    i need help on how to get him to submit on his own will so i can praise him for that with out having to fight him for the little things.
    HELP!

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