Reactive and Aggressive Dogs: What’s the Difference?

Have you ever had a pet before? Have you ever owned a dog as a pet? Some people enjoy training reactive dogs, while others prefer to train aggressive dogs. In either case, depending on what the dog owner desires, both dogs can be trained.

If you choose an aggressive dog, you should learn about its aggressive behaviors. While dog owners who value a reactive dog should educate themselves on its behaviors, they will test your patience.

Knowing your dog’s behavior is the only safe way. Aggression is one of the most common reasons that pet owners seek professional dog trainers for their dogs. But what exactly is aggression?

This article will teach you how to tell the difference between an aggressive dog and a reactive dog.

Difference Between Reactive and Aggressive Dogs

The primary distinction between reactivity and aggression is that reactivity is characterized by increased arousal caused by common triggers. Despite the fact that fear frequently leads to aggression, fear is always the most common cause of aggression.

When confronted with danger, a dog’s natural reaction is to flee.

Dog's Aggressive Behavior

Aggression is defined as any aggressive, harmful, or unwanted behavior directed toward animals or humans. It is critical to identify the source of the anger in order to address the situation at hand. 

Reactive and Aggresive Dogs 2 min

Fear, frustration, pain, or the need to protect their territory or a family member can all cause dogs to exhibit aggressive behavior. All of this dog aggression may push a dog too far.

These conditions can quickly transform reactive dogs, fearful dogs, or guarding dogs into aggressive dogs.

Dog's Reactive Behavior

Aggression and reactivity can be difficult to distinguish. Reactive dogs overreact due to certain situations. Genetics, a lack of self-control training or socialization, scaring experience, or a combination of these factors can cause reactivity, with fear acting as a catalyst.

Certain situations cause reactive dogs to act out, such as when they are on a leash and feel restrained. If a reactive dog approaches you, the best thing you can do is give it space.

Approaching reactive dogs is not a good way to greet them. Changing the dog’s behavior with the assistance of a professional dog trainer will get to the bottom of the problem. If you have a reactive dog, this source can help you prevent the escalation of aggression.

Behaviors That Sometimes Lead to Aggression Issues

Dogs, like all other animals and humans, respond to danger by fighting or fleeing from it. Fearful aggression, or aggressive behavior in dogs when they are afraid, is triggered by something frightening.

Some of the dog’s aggressive behaviors are as follows:

1. Fight or Flight

Fear is the most common cause of a dog’s aggression. When a dog feels threatened, it will usually choose to flee from whatever is frightening. When an aggressive dog is confined and unable to escape, it may respond aggressively in defense.

Only a dog’s body language serves as a warning sign when it is afraid. Even if you believe your dog is friendly, people may interpret your behavior differently if they know it is aggressive.

Even if certain behaviors are dangerous and unwelcome, you may have fewer bites. A dog, for example, may become alarmed if you lean over and reach out to pet the top of his head. Another important factor in dog aggression is a lack of socialization.

If a dog has received aggressive dog training from a variety of people, sounds, and environments, it is less likely to be scared. It will also be beneficial if you train your puppy to relax when being handled.

2. Resource Guarding

Dogs are known to guard valuable items. Toys, food, and even humans can fall into this category. The fact that many dogs are descended from wild ancestors explains this dog’s behavior.

To survive, they had to guard their resources. Aggressive dog training tips such as “leave it” and “put” or “off” can help to reduce this habit. Trading with your dog is another effective method of dog aggression training for dealing with resource guarding.

Dog trainers should offer the item being guarded to the dog in exchange for a reward. You should also keep your distance from the dog’s feeding bowl while it is being fed.

3. Leash Reactivity

Leash-reactive dogs frequently growl or bark at things that frighten them. These triggers may be specific to young children, men, or other dogs. These dog breeds exhibit these behaviors because they are well-behaved.

Behaviors That Are Similar To Aggression

The following are a few of the actions frequently mistaken for aggression:


  • Mouthing Puppies

Puppies communicate with the outside world through their mouths. Puppies can become more mouthy and nip more. This nipping is done by a tired puppy rather than an aggressive one.

  • Rough Play

Canine teeth contact is frequently accompanied by dog play. Dog play can be aggressive, but as long as they’re having fun, it can be excellent exercise.

  • Physical Discomfort

A dog who begins snapping out of nowhere may have a medical problem. Take your dog to the veterinarian for an examination to determine whether the behavior is unusual.

  • Body Language

Dogs communicate with other dogs and humans through body language in a variety of situations. Here are some common dog body language signals to be aware of:


Signs of Anxiety

  • Licked lips
  • Unexpected scratching
  • Not being weary but yawning

Signs of Arousal

  • Ears pointed forward, mouth shut
  • Body tight and forward
  • Strong eyes with more white showing

Signs of a Friendly Dog

  • Intense body
  • Smile with a soft mouth
  • Tail wagging, bowing, and relaxed ears

Signs BEFORE a bite

  • Showing teeth
  • Growling

If you suspect your dog is violent, you should seek professional help. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend a licensed animal behaviorist in your area.

Best Dog Trainers in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, VA, & Surrounding Areas

K9aholics Dog Training offers a variety of courses and flexible training schedules to meet you and your dog’s needs. We can easily travel to pick up and drop off your dog.

We’re experts in applying behavior modification techniques that will enable your dog or pet to exhibit the right behaviors that you want especially in the presence of other people or your friends.

Contact us right away to set up a free consultation and for effective dog training.

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