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Aggressive Dogs

Breed specific laws (BSL) don’t keep communities safe

Biting is a form of aggression. Aggression can occur when a dog’s emotional state is negative (fear, anxiety, frustration). Most aggression comes from fear. Dogs use aggression to try to increase the distance between them and a perceived threat.

Angry tethered up dog in the snow snarling teeth

Signs a dog may get aggressive:

  • Before biting, dogs will often tell us they are afraid or uncomfortable. They do this through their body language. First they are tense, freeze, yawn, show “whale eye” (half moon of white around a dog’s eye) and raise their hackles. Then they might lift their lip, growl, lunge or snap.
  • Dogs who were not socialized as puppies, who have had negative experiences or who have anxious personalities are more likely to be fearful and possibly bite.

Learn about training an aggressive dog.

An aggressive dog barking and looking scary and angry

Things that can trigger aggression or make aggression more likely:

  • Objects or situations that cause fear, including unfamiliar things and people
  • Desire to guard territory (property) or resources (like people, food or toys), which can be heightened when on leash with no perceived opportunity to escape
  • Pain or illness
  • Not being neutered
  • Negative association with punishment-based training or previous experiences

The best municipal bylaws are based on this evidence. They offer licensing-discount incentives for owners who go through training and neuter their dogs. Aggressive behaviour, rather than a specific breed, is identified and addressed, resulting in a safer community.

Do you want to change your community’s bylaws on dangerous dogs?

  1. Read our position statement on Dangerous dogs and public safety (PDF).
  2. Research your municipal bylaw. If you can’t find it through this search, then contact your municipality and ask them to provide you a copy.
  3. Write a letter to your municipality asking it to remove breed specific language in the bylaw and to adopt language that provides for better public safety. Recommend the BC SPCA’s Model Animal Responsibility Bylaw (PDF).
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