Dog Aggression: Dos and Don’ts
|Keke’s just playing here, but I might have nightmares!|
Not sure what it is about the brisk fall weather, or the alignment of the planets (or more mundanely, as it turns out, the management of which “keywords” are triggering my Google Adwords account), but I’ve sure been getting bit a lot recently!
In the past month I’ve been growled at, snapped at, and bit by tiny little Yorkies and Chihuahuas with Napolean complexes (I have in my bag of tricks a pair of leather gloves that I call my “Chihuahua gloves”), prey-aggressive Pits, environmentally anxious Blue Heelers, a sizable resource-guarding Ridgeback, a Great Dane with no manners, and one very intimidating German Shepherd who even succeeded at latching onto my coat through the tip of his muzzle!
Head over body means dominance
– except when accompanied by a bellyrub. 🙂
- Many people overreact when confronted with their or other dogs’ signs of aggression. Overreacting never helps, and can often exacerbate a tense situation. Stay calm. Extremely few dogs will continue to attack someone who remains calm and exhibits neither fear nor aggression of their own.
- Don’t punish the dog. This can often escalate the aggression, and where it does succeed at removing precursors to aggressive behavior like growling, it only creates a more dangerous creatures. Signs of aggression are often adapted for precisely to AVOID violence, confrontation, fighting, or other unpleasantness. Growling, ears lowered, tail tucked, mouth taut…these are all signs saying “Go away! I don’t want to hurt you!”
- Many people get scared, angry, or embarrassed that they have a “bad dog”. Instead try to figure out what is causing the aggression (is it fear? dominance? protectiveness? guarding?) and make a plan (probably with an experienced professional) to help heal that injured mindset.
In my opinion however, the most common yet detrimental reaction is to immediately remove whatever is causing the aggression. For instance I see it all the time in dog parks, when two dogs get into a minor scuffle because the play got too rough or one is trying to dominate the other, the owners scoop their pups up in their arms, worried, embarrassed, and angry at each other, and high-tail it out of there. Think of what just happened: the dogs growled and snapped at each other, which caused their enemy to disappear! It worked! You’ve just rewarded your dog’s aggression. Reward means reinforcement. If it worked this time, be sure they’ll do it again – only quicker next time.
|“If i hide in the corner no one will see me.”|
Or in fear cases: the dog gets scared at the sound of a bus, or the approach of a bigger dog on the sidewalk, and you cross the street. The fear emotion and behavior succeed at saving your dogs life, as far as he knows. The fear worked! Once again, it is reinforced.