Aggression in Dogs and the Reasons
We all know that there are aggressive dogs but did you know that actually any dog has the ability to be aggressive? It is commonly misunderstood that big dogs are all aggressive while small dogs are not. However, this is not true and I have trained tiny breeds such as the Pomeranian who have aggression issues.
Even when Vera, my adopted dog from Purely Adoptions, take a play bow ( a way of initiating play), it can appear as her getting out of control and ready to attack.
Aggression is when owners lacked the authority that should be in place and the dog becomes the alpha leader of the household. Think of it as not correcting a child from young and he or she is being brought up with bad habits that may have the potential to worsen. As mentioned in my previous articles on the 3 basic needs of the dog, missing out on any may result in an unbalanced dog and it could become potentially aggressive.
A dog can switch suddenly overnight when it thinks that it needs to step up as the leader and hence, it is crucial to know how to prevent it from even happening in the first place. Aggression must also not be confused with insecurity or fear which can all result in biting, growling or baring their teeth.
Reasons for Aggression #1 Not knowing its place
Aggression occurs because your dog does not know its place in the pack and takes control of every situation. Follow my sequence of "exercise, authority then affection" and your dog should more or lessfollow your lead. There are many signs that your dog may still not look to you as its leader. These dogs have a more dominating character that needs to be addressed. It may challenge you in many ways such as not not listening to your commands; these dogs may have spotted a gap in yourleadership and do not see the need to obey you. The key lies in how you portray yourself to your own dog in terms of your actions and feelings instead of simply strictly following this article, other articles or what other dog trainers say. If you have such a dog, challenge it in the presence of a dog trainer or me, instead of simply finding ways to prevent the situation. You can find my email at the end of this article.
Reasons for Aggression #2 Feeling the need to protect owner
Sometimes, dogs will only be aggressive in the presence of their owners. The dog may see their own owner as fearful or having a soft energy and will feel the need to protect. Such aggressive behaviour can include attacking both dogs and humans when they get near the owner. Usually when their dogs get too rough and jump on other dogs or does mouthing (a common way of safe-play), their owners will let out an "Oh no" and bring their dogs away from the situation they are in. This can result in 3 things. 1. Your dog feels that it can do whatever it just did in a fiercer manner. For instance, from nibbling to biting. 2. Your dog feels that you are weak and fear situations involving other dogs. 3. Your dog will not learn that it cannot attack other dogs and might feel that it had won the fight since you, as the owner, is preventing the situation instead of addressing the issue.
A better way to handle such situation will be to get your dog to sit or lie down sideways if it snaps or bites. This needs to be done with a firm and confident tone. If you are merely trying with the intention to see if it works, it will not. Envision what you want to see at the end - calm and submissive dog, and work towards that.
Rough play need not necessarily be corrected. It is only when it gets too out of hand or when one dog gets aggressive that the correction needs to be done so that you can clearly let you dog know that you disagree with what it has done. Be quick with the correction as your dog needs to be able to relate to the unacceptable behaviour. Do not just pull dogs away from the fight as you are simply preventing and not correcting.
Lastly, I cannot emphasise the importance of getting your dog to stay by your side while passing another dog. Your dog should pass by other dogs easily and no struggle should occur. This eliminates the aggression of dogs lunging at other dogs or people during walks. Lunging does not always mean aggression; it can be uncontrollable excitement that needs to be taken note of.
Reasons for Aggression #3 unfamilarity to stranger
Sometimes, when visitors go to your place, your dog may be wary of the visitor and starts licking, pacing or have their ears drooping. These are indications that your dog is not ready to be touched and can choose to fight, flight or become submissive. If the visitor do not heed or read the dog's warning correctly, they might thus get bitten. This misinterpretation might therefore result in your dog being labelled as aggressive.
Always ask visitors to ignore the dog for about 5 minutes (safe timing rule for many dogs) to let your dog get used to them and their presence before deciding if the dog can be touched. Do not allow dogs to jump on visitors and you can prevent so by stepping in between the dog and the visitor. With a firm body language, move towards the dog and the dog should back away. Leashing it and pulling away is again, a preventive methodwhile using your body language and tone is a method of addressing the issue. Follow the dog and wait till it sits/ lies down (submissive position).
Dogs usually act to protect themselves or their owners as they might have previous history of being attacked by dogs that resulted in their dislike towards other dogs. Correcting and letting them sit in order to calm them down is important. you must also not be fearful when bringing your dogs for interaction as it might cause them to be protective and aggressive.
My email is email@example.com. Feel free to contact me for help regarding training or techniques or tips as discussed in this article for your dog.
Wishing owners all the best with their dogs!
Xavian Mar with Vera