Are female dogs more aggressive? Choosing and raising a friendly dog was a top priority for me. There are plenty of factors that can influence a dog’s personality, including gender, breed, and even whether or not they’ve been neutered. On top of this, the level of socialization and training a puppy has will play a huge part in how friendly they are. In this guide, I’ll take a closer look at the ways your dog’s sex can influence aggressive behavior, how to recognize these traits, and what to do if you’re concerned your dog is displaying this behavior.
- Are female dogs more aggressive?
- Maternal aggression
- Other types of aggression
- How your dog’s breed plays a part
- How to raise a friendly dog
- Signs of unfriendly behavior to be aware of
- What to do if your dog is unfriendly
Are Female Dogs More Aggressive?
There are tons of studies into canine aggression available for us to look through. Some suggest that the sex of your dog has a role in aggression, labelling sexually intact males as the most aggressive dogs. However, the most common theory suggests that multiple factors contribute to aggression in dogs. These factors can include things like the level of socialization, overall health, and past traumas.
What this means in simple terms is that being female doesn’t necessarily make a dog more or less aggressive. Instead, you should pay attention to overall breed traits and natural instincts, as well as your dog’s experiences and health. A healthy, well-socialized dog bred to be a lapdog is much less likely to show aggression than a poorly socialized guard dog breed which has a painful health condition. However, there are exceptions.
Dog aggression has been categorized into several different types, based on what triggers it. Maternity aggression is specific to female dogs that have given birth or are pregnant. The behaviors triggered are prompted by a dog’s instincts to protect her puppy. But, this territorial, protective instinct can also extend to cover the place she gave birth and any areas where the puppies spend a lot of time.
Female dogs who have just given birth might show angry, protective traits if unknown people come to play with their puppies – particularly if you aren’t around. And, some dogs show this behavior towards their owners! If your dog has just had puppies, give her some space and move at her pace when it comes to meeting the pups! Most mom dogs will bring her puppies over to you to show them off when she’s feeling secure and safe.
Other Types of Aggression
There are other forms of aggressive behavior in dogs, whether male or female. It isn’t just a behavior seen in pregnant dogs or dogs who have recently given birth! Here are some other reasons that dogs may show these unwanted emotions, regardless of their sex:
- Lack of socialization (feeling unsafe and defensive)
- A social anxiety disorder
- A health problem or injury
- Territorial nature
- They’re scared
Some of these factors will come from elements that you can’t control – such as your dog’s natural instincts that have been bred into them over generations. However, other aspects could be from the way they were raised, or residual emotions and fears from traumas early in life.
Are Some Dogs More Aggressive Than Others?
Some dogs are quicker to respond with aggressive behavior than others. Guard dogs are trained to be alert and use aggression when they detect an intruder. When producing puppies, breeders will prioritize traits that make them good at this role, like a territorial nature. Your dog’s gender won’t play as much of a role as the breed of dog and their natural instincts.
Several studies into canine aggression have found that there’s a huge difference in these generally unwanted traits from breed to breed. Breeds deemed the most aggressive include dogs like the Dachshund, Chihuahua, the Chow Chow, and the English Springer Spaniel. Some breeds considered to be more friendly include the Golden Retriever, Brittany Spaniel, and Labrador Retriever.
How to Raise a Friendly Dog
The way you raise a puppy has a huge impact on their temperament throughout life. Puppies experience a fear period from around 8 to 12 weeks old. During this time, owners must give them positive new experiences with other dogs, animals, people, places, and so on. Dogs who have been well socialized are much less likely to show fear-based aggression when they’re adults. Socialization can happen at over 12 weeks, but will be a much slower process.
On top of this, keep your dog as healthy and stimulated as possible! Injuries and illnesses can lead to reactive, defensive behavior. Especially among small, fragile breeds like the Chihuahua and Dachshund, who are easily hurt. So, attend regular veterinary trips, and keep an eye on your pup’s overall health.
Training is also vital for a happy, healthy dog. Use positive reward methods to avoid any stress or fear-related behaviors. Punishment methods can lead to unwanted behaviors, stress, and aggressive behavior. So, stick to the kinder positive methods.
Signs of Aggressive Behavior in Female Dogs
When your female dog is stressed out by something you’re doing, she’ll use her body language and posturing to get you to stop. This includes yawning, tucking her tail between her legs, averting her gaze, dropping her ears, turning her head away from you, or rolling over her back.
If that doesn’t defuse the situation, she’ll turn to more threatening behavior.She will bare her teeth, narrow down her eyes and let the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Next comes the growling. At first low and deep but it gets louder the more the threat persists. This is followed by angry barking.
If nothing changes, she will stand up, raise her shoulder and lower her head. Her eyes are focussed on the source of the threat and her mouth is slightly open. Before she bites, she’ll send one last warning in the form of snapping.
Not All Dogs Act the Same
Your female dog might skip some of the first few steps and go straight to more threatening signs. Small dogs, for example, or those who lack facial expressions are more likely to bite first then talk later. This is also the case for dogs who are often provoked, ignored, or neglected.
It’s really important to teach yourself and your family members the signs that a dog is feeling nervous, scared, or unhappy about something. This way, you’ll recognise when they need some space, and prevent any aggression.
What Should I Do when my Female Dog is Being Aggressive?
Aggression is your dog’s response to an unpleasant, uncomfortable, or threatening situation. So the first thing to do is to stop whatever you are doing and see if that will calm down the dog. If it’s something outside or in the house that’s scaring your dog, see if you can remove your dog from that environment. Don’t crowd your dog, as this can make her feel more unsettled. Instead, take a step away and speak in a soothing voice.
Try to analyze the circumstances that led to your dog acting so aggressively. Did she show submissive behavior that you failed to interpret correctly as discomfort and stress? What were you doing when she started to act this way? Finding the cause of the behavior can be your best way to prevent it and avoid it in the future.
In many cases, unusual aggressive behavior from your female dog is a sign of illness or hormonal changes. The vet will be able to help you determine the causes and prescribe the appropriate medication. In severe cases, you may need to speak to a behaviorist – particularly if you’re bringing home a dog with past traumas.
Are Female Dogs More Aggressive? A Summary
Both female and male dogs are prone to aggression under certain circumstances. Factors like your dog’s breed, natural instincts, and past experiences are more likely to impact temperament than your dog’s gender. But, some female dogs may express maternity aggression.
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- Frank, D. ‘Aggressive Dogs: What Questions Do We Need to Ask?’, Canadian Veterinary Journal (2013)
- Kleszcz, A. (et al), ‘Review on Selected Aggression Causes and the Role of Neurocognitive Science in the Diagnosis’, Animals (2022)
- Farhoody, P. (et al), ‘Aggression toward Familiar People, Strangers, and Conspecifics in Gonadectomized and Intact Dogs’, Frontiers in Veterinary Science (2018)
- Arata, S. (et al), ‘“Reactivity to Stimuli” is a Temperamental Factor Contributing to Canine Aggression’, Plos One (2014)
- Scandurra, A. (et al), ‘Behavioral and Perceptual Differences between Sexes in Dogs: an Overview’, Animals (2018)
- Duffy, D. (et al), ‘Breed Differences in Canine Aggression’, Applied Animal Behavior Science (2008)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website