Recently, a young 22-year-old woman in Virginia made headlines after her dogs attacked her in a vicious turn of aggression and killed her. Furthermore, the dogs also proceeded to eat her body. It left many people wondering what caused such unpredictable behavior and why dogs attack their owners.

Those who knew her said that she had gotten the dogs when they were puppies and had raised them. Moreover, the bond between her and her dogs was strong. While the dogs were identified as pit bulls, it’s important to note that any dog breed can attack its owner and this is not a pit bull thing as many misinformed breed haters and lobbyists would like to believe.

Let’s find out more about why dogs attack their owners.

Your dog acts in fear or is territorial

Fear aggression is a major reason why dogs attack their owners. If your dog has a bad history or she has been beaten and mistreated before, then they feel threatened and become defensive.

It is important to raise your dog the correct way and to teach them good manners without instilling fear in them through physical abuse. However, a dog attacking out of fear will normally not have the intention to kill its owner. Consequently, it is a last resort if the owner doesn’t read the body cues to back off.

Secondly, dogs are territorial animals and will defend their space and comfort zone from anyone they deem is not a part of it. Therefore, if you keep your dog isolated all the time, and you suddenly walk into their space, they may feel the need to defend themselves and their space and show aggression or hostility towards you. However, such cases are extremely rare.

Your dog is in pain

Sometimes a dog may be in pain but their owner pushes them into something they don’t want to do. For instance, imagine your dog had a broken leg (god forbid) from an accident and you tried to lift the dog. The extreme pain might prompt him to bite you to get you to back off.

Sometimes health issues such as liver disease, or rabies will cause the dog to act unpredictably and is one more reason why dogs attack their owners. Therefore, it is crucial to watch your dog for any signs of discomfort and to make sure they are healthy and in their best physical condition.

Food aggressive

Some dogs are possessive over their food and can quickly turn aggressive if someone tries to get too close, pet them or touch their food. Consequently, this is a common reason why dogs attack their owners.

If your dog gets aggressive when feeding, it is important to take the necessary measures to discourage the habit. After all, a child could touch the dog when it is eating causing the dog to react aggressively.

Why is it mostly children? 

Data surrounding pit bull attacks may be a complete waste. I mean let’s face it, there is no accurate information to confirm that the majority of dog attacks come from pit bulls. However, there is no denying that most people attacked by dogs are children.

There are two main reasons why a dog is more likely to attack a child than an adult. Firstly, dogs are natural predators. In the wild, hunting is difficult and prey animals have evolved means of defending themselves that can prove lethal to a hunting predator. Think of sharp horns and skull breaking kicks.

The young of animals, however, haven’t developed these defensive mechanisms yet and are therefore easier prey to hunt. Secondly, kids often land themselves in trouble. They are not experienced enough to heed the warnings of an angry dog and will sometimes agitate a dog until it attacks.

It is crucial to teach your kids how to handle the family dog and to watch for signs that they need to be left alone.

Redirected aggression

Unfortunately, the attack on the young woman reinforced people’s perception of pit bulls. Note that some dog breeds such as Chihuahuas and Jack Russel terriers are more aggressive than pit bulls. They don’t make headlines as they are not big enough to cause severe injury to humans. There are many reasons why pit bulls make great family pets.

However, all this doesn’t explain why the two dogs attack their owner as she takes them for a walk in the woods. Some sources claim that it was a case of redirected aggression where there was a trigger and then the dogs turned on her.

The dogs might have seen a squirrel or rabbit and decided to chase at which point the owner tried to stop them. However, this to me sounds highly unlikely. After all, the most likely way that she could have stopped the dogs from chasing any prey animal is by pulling on the leash. Every dog owner pulls on the leash if his or her dog gets excited. This doesn’t cause dogs to attack their owners.

A more likely scenario was that her two dogs got into a bit of a scruff. Consequently, while she was trying to get them to stop fighting each other, the excitement caused the dogs attack their owners.

Dogs are pack animals which means that they will work together to bring down their prey. Trying to hold back two athletic dogs might have proven too much for the 22-year-old woman and she was simply overwhelmed.

However, it is also very likely that her dogs had shown signs of disrespect to her before. She might have ignored it or was unsure of how to handle such behavior.

The importance of dog training

There are several reasons why dogs attack their owners. Moreover, it is crucial to make sure that your dog has undergone proper obedience training. Any kind of aggression in dogs towards a human or animal should be discouraged. Furthermore, it is also important to educate children on how to read dog behavior and avoiding running towards a new dog.