Dog is Aggressive Toward Strangers?

September 21, 2010

My dog has recently started showing random aggressive behavior towards people. He has always had dog aggression and we had him in training for that, but in the last few weeks he has exhibited 2 instances of aggression towards random strangers. Both incidents happened in an elevator with a person that was staring at my dog and clearly uncomfortable with the dog. Both times he growled and lunged, but I was able to easily get control of him and change his attention.


It is very disturbing to me because he's always been a people lover. What could be causing this random aggression? Is it because he is getting old? He's a 9 year old Boxer. The first time I thought it was because the person was a guy that looked shady and maybe my dog sensed that. But this second time was some chick. Now, I feel like I need to take him up and down the 9 flights of stairs to take him to the bathroom.

Any ideas as to what could be causing this sudden change in behavior and what I should do about it?

By Amanda from NYC


September 21, 20100 found this helpful

Direct eye contact could trigger aggression. It's a challenge or threat to a dog. Don't let dog stare at others. Stand in front of dog if necessary to block his view or turn his head with leash. In the elevator keep your dog against a wall with you next to him to block him. If aggression continues you may have to use a muzzle. I'd have the vet check your dog to make sure he's not in pain or sick. Good luck.

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September 21, 20100 found this helpful

I second OliveOyl and especially the staring type of eye contact! Most humans do not realize that doing that is considered a challenge/threat by dogs!

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September 21, 20100 found this helpful

I agree. Block his view & distract his attention when someone is staring at him. I imagine he feels even more threatened/challenged to be stared at in a closed space such as an elevator where he can't get away & he is probably being protective of you too.

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

March 10, 2013

So many times I've seen on this site that a Pit shouldn't be alone with a stranger, especially a child. I have showed no fear with my Pit/Lab as he tends to show aggressive behavior toward men and small children on a walk or if they enter the house. I've gotten to the point of tackling him because humans are more important than my dog. It seems to be working. I don't hurt him I just wrestle him down until I am in complete control and he has submitted to me in the presence of these new people.

I would like to think I could take him to the park one day and have no fear that he will snap at a kid. Is this wishful thinking? Is it OK that I do this? It seems to be working, but I hope I'm not setting myself up for failure.

By Trish B


March 11, 20130 found this helpful

The issue is that your dog feels he's the pack leader. It's up to you to change that. Right now, he thinks it's up to him to do the protecting, the judging of strangers, etc. You have to teach him that this is your job and he'll be expected to follow your lead.

Find a friend he's not overly familiar with that's willing to practice with you on this. Read his body language, it tells you everything. If his tail raises, his ears perk and he seems overly attentive, snap him back to focusing on YOU, not the other person. This takes time and most of all, consistency. He will learn quickly that you expect a different response from him, but right now he doesn't respect or trust you to make smart decisions.

You have to teach him that your decisions are NOT up for his interpretation. Dogs are pack animals, and there must be a pack leader. If it's not you, it will be him. Best of luck. - Black Bear Animal Rescue

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March 12, 20130 found this helpful

Hi - since I have small grandchildren and love to take them to the park - this raises concerns to me. I love dogs so I want my grandchildren to also. I try to keep them from approaching a dog in the park but that does not mean it could not happen.

I have seen a child "attacked" and it was horrible! The owner tried very hard to stop it but the small dog would not stop (even the owner was bitten).

I believe we have all read stories where a dog had never been aggressive for years and still attacked someone - usually a child or older person.

I hope you are successful with your dog but please give it a lot of thought before taking him/her where a lot of people may be.

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