Vol. 1 No. 3 (2015)

Stress in aggressive dogs towards people: behavioral analysis during consultation

Angelo Gazzano
Università di Pisa

Published 2015-12-11


  • dog aggresion,
  • stress,
  • behavioral consultation


Canine aggression, especially directed toward people, is one of the most severe behavioral problem referred to specialist clinic. The aim of this study was to analyze the behavior of aggressive dogs toward people and to compare it with the behavior of dogs affected by other behavioral disorders. For the present study 26 cases were analyzed, divided into 2 groups: AG consisted of 13 dogs with aggression toward people, and NAG included 13 subjects with behavioral problems other than aggression toward people. The Ag group was further divided into AGS, i.e. dogs aggressive toward strangers (n = 6), and AGF, i.e. dogs aggressive toward familiar people (n = 7). All dogs were subjected to behavioral counsultations and the first relative visits were videoed and then analyzed to measure the duration (in seconds) of social and non social behaviors. Thirty minutes of each video were examined as follows: T1 from 0 to 10 minutes; T2 from 25' to 35'; T3 from 50' to 60’. Comparing these three periods, a statistically significant difference was found only for the exploratory behavior,  for both AG (χ2 = 14:00; p = 0.001) and NAG (χ2 = 10:51; p = 0.005), which was higher in T1 than in T2 and T3.

A statistically significant difference was found for the total amount of SB in the three periods, higher in AG than NAG (U=39.5; p=0.019).

Statistically significant differences were present for the total amount of two social behaviors: attention seeking from the owner (AG vs NAG, U=45.55; p=0.044) and sniffing the owner (AG vs NAG; U=42.5; p=0.029).

Compared with the NAG group, the AGS dogs displayed significantly longer durations of: attention-seeking from the owner (U=9.500; p=0.003), sniffing the owner (U=13.000; p=0.011), and primary proximity to the owner (U=9.000; p=0.009).

AGF dogs showed a statistically higher level of behavioral signs of stress (U=21.000; p=0.052), a longer duration of autogrooming (U=20.000; p=0.046), and a higher attention-seeking from the owner (U=23.500; p=0.032), compared to NAG.

Interesting data emerged when comparing dogs aggressive toward strangers or toward familiar people. These findings suggest that through the systematic analysis of dog behavior during a consultation it is possible to observe different patterns of dogs’ behavior according to the kind of diagnosis. Namely, during the behavioral consultations, dogs aggressive towards strangers showed more seeking behaviors towards the owners, whilst dogs aggressive towards family members showed more signs of stress.