Behavior that is meant to intimidate or injure an animal of the same species, or of a competing species.
FIVE PRIMARY REASONS A DOG MAY BEHAVE IN AN AGGRESSIVE MANNER:
The majority of aggressive behavior stems from fear.
Poor socialization or no socialization in the critical stages of development (the first 5 months of a puppy’s life) will frequently result in a dog that becomes anxious or fearful around unfamiliar people or dogs. Dogs learn that growling and/or barking is an effective way of making “scary” people or “scary” dogs “go away.” If these warning signs are dismissed the dog may attempt to communicate in a less subtle manner, by a snap in the air or delivering a direct bite.
Some dogs are hard-wired to actively control or guard their environment, it’s in their lineage. If these “working dogs” are not given a clear job description, they will be quick to create their own, Dogs commonly guard property, socially significant space, (couches, beds, doorway thresholds are hot spots) people, food and/or toys. It is also quite common for dogs to attempt to control movement or interaction between people and/or dogs.
The Use of Harsh Correction Training:
Owner directed aggression or aggression to other people or animals can result when dogs are trained with force and/or intimidation methods. Some dogs are programmed to match force with force and will not “submit” when a person addresses the dog in an aggressive manner. These dogs will bare their teeth or bite in anticipation of being verbally or physically reprimanded. (This is also an unintended consequence of the Invisible Fence).
Correcting the dog (verbally or physically) could have three dangerous pit falls:
It could intensify the dog’s aggressive behavior.
It could reinforce the dog’s fear that “bad things” happen when people approach him while he is in possession of a valued resource.
It could suppress the symptoms (i.e. growling or other stages on the hierarchy bite scale) but increase the underlying stress. Resulting in a dog bite “without warning.”
The best treatment is to condition the dog to have positive associations with people’s presence while he is in possession of a valued resource. With the right training plan, you can teach dogs to drop valued items on cue in the process build stronger communication and trust.
High stress levels, and subsequent aggression, can result from any significant changes in a dog’s day routine. This can include moving, major construction in or around the house, the addition of a new dog or human baby, or the loss of a loved family member.
Physical pain, arthritis, skin irritation, chronic infections or thyroid dysfunction can bring out aggressive behavior in the most placid dogs. Consulting with a veterinarian for a thorough physical exam is an important first step to determine whether medical issues are a contributing factor to aggressive behavior.
HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP ADDRESS AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR IN YOUR DOG:
DO: Respect Warning Signs of Aggression
Dogs cannot speak. Growling and barking is their way to express discomfort. If you feel your dog is expressing discomfort, neutralize the situation by using non-threatening body language. Give the dog space. Avoid approaching or forcing unwanted interaction.
DON’T: Correct Warning Signs of Aggression
Growling and barking is a symptom and expression of stress. If we correct a dog for growling or barking, we are only removing the dog’s ability to communicate their discomfort. This creates a powder keg. The dog suppresses their discomfort until one day the dog is pushed beyond threshold or provocation point and delivers a serious bite. People often say, “the dog bit without warning.” This is because they were “trained” not to give warning.
TRUE OR FALSE
A wagging tail means a dog is friendly?
A wagging tail is an indication of arousal level. Sometimes dogs wag their tail when they are happy, and sometimes they wag their tail when they are in an aggressive state of mind.
Petting a dog will show him or her that you are a friendly person?
The best way to make a fearful dog feel safe is to give him/her space. Use non-threatening body language and avoid extending your hand or making direct eye contact.
If a dog is behaving in an aggressive manner, he/she must be trained using corrections-based training methods.
The best way to treat aggression is to work with a trainer that reinforces the dog for behavior that is incompatible with aggression and creates a controlled training environment that will allow you to systematically desensitize and counter-condition the dog to a stimulus that generates stress, anxiety or fear.
If your dog does not like to be petted or approached by unfamiliar people—advocate for your dog.