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K9 Aggression 2


By Pete Eromenok

Aggression can sometimes be a hush hush situation. Kind of like the “crazy aunt” that lives in the basement.

All dogs are capable of showing some kind of aggression, because it is one of the ways in which dogs communicate.  Usually a bite is a corrective bite, from the dog’s point of view.  By correction, I mean they are trying to stop a behavior in someone or another animal. Whether the person is trying to get them off the bed, taking their bone away or whatever, they are trying to control the situation.  It can be very puzzling to a pet owner whose pet is quite loving 95 % of the time, but occasionally bites a family member when a certain situation occurs.  I have never met an aggressive dog that was not a “loving” pet some of the time…unless it had very faulty wiring.

To a dog, your postures and tones are indicators of your intentions.  For instance, some dogs don’t like to be hugged. To us it is a loving gesture, but to dogs it can be received as a threat or confrontation depending on the temperament of the dog.  By placing your arm over the neck of the dog it was received as an attempt to overthrow dominion. A dog that is dominant might confront the opponent, or a fearful dog may think that it could not flee so it will fight. So the bite has nothing to do with a dog being nasty or nice; but from a dog’s perspective, the bite was provoked.  But we as humans put our human emotions to the dog, which of course would give us an incorrect assessment of the situation.

Aggressions are filed in two categories, dominance and fear. In most dogs these conflicts can be controlled, through training, management and maintenance. A perception of leadership through the eyes of the dog is essential. Both types of aggressions can be minimized when the dog perceives its master as being in control of the situation.

In the case when a dog picks on one family member only, it is usually due to ranking, which means the dog considers itself to be ranked above that person.  There are countless scenarios that can cause a dog to growl or aggress, but again, it is usually because the dog thinks it was provoked.

Example:  Fido is lying on the bed and you think “what a wonderful time to sit beside him and pet him”. So you do, and you hear him growl.  Why would he growl? You just want to give him some loving.  Well you just broke the doggy rule of etiquette which states do not disturb the leader when he is resting. He may think, “by the way, why are you even near me when I’m sleeping on my bed? I think this primate needs a correction so he won’t disturb me any more.”  So in essence, the dog has somehow been appointed leader!

Some dogs you can do anything to and it will just wag its tail, while others can be set off by a glance.  The reason why this happens is at times we humans fail to read the dog, or understand the situation.  We don’t really consider how a dog thinks. So we unknowingly set the dog off.  No one goes into pet ownership expecting these problems. But when you own a dog with a certain temperament you must learn canine rules and regulations and how to turn the table in you favor.

A dog is born with a specific temperament or genetic package. We can shape and condition a dog to make the most out of that temperament but we can’t change his temperament.  Obedience is the best way to control or direct the dog. With enough training, most aggressive dogs can shut off such behaviors, and/or be managed without incident.  However you seldom can make them love everybody and everything. Dogs can be conditioned to be controlled.

So like that “crazy aunt”, your dog may simply need to be understood. With good communication a proper relationship can be formed.