8 insights into aggression in dogs
By Inge Pauwels
What is aggression?
Aggression is a threat or attack following a stimulus, for example when hunting or playing. It can be useful or sometimes detrimental.
Aggression is a basic emotion and a natural behaviour. However it can also be considered as an unnatural or undesired behaviour.
If in doubt it is advisable to consult a behaviourist
It may be intra – specific; that is within the same species, dog on dog, or inter – specific; that is aggression between different species, dog on human for example.
Dogs fight for different reasons, and it is not always about the ranking or hierarchy.
It may also be a social phenomenon, a learning process, in general in these cases there is a lot of noise but little or no real injuries..
When it is a serious fight dogs go for the neck or throat and use a shaking action with the intention of killing. They may also attack the other dog in the buttocks.
If you do not intervene very serious injuries can be inflicted or one of the dogs may even be killed. Please note that in the heat of battle you may also be bitten.
Furthermore, there is also a difference between aggressive and defensive aggression:
Why are dogs aggressive?
• Defending their interests e.g. food / water, territory, sexual partners, puppies
• Fear brought on by e.g. trauma, lack of experience, the need for self-defence
• Physical problems such as pain, stress, neurological, hormonal..
• Hunting Drive
• Through boredom
Is aggression acceptable in our society?
Aggression in dogs is rarely tolerated although aggression is a normal, natural behaviour, necessary for survival. A dog can use verbal aggression such as barking to defend his territory or the dog can use non- verbal aggression, biting to kill its prey, fighting to the death with another dog. Would you really prefer your dog to roll over and allow itself to be killed?
Aggression is actually necessary in our society, we also use aggression. If you grew up with brothers and sisters you will remember the squabbles you had. Some people will shout with anger, others may hand out a slap in the face when angry. So why do we punish our dogs for something that we ourselves do? Obviously it is not possible to tolerate all types of aggression; we may accept aggression to a certain degree
10 most common causes of aggression
1. Nature, predisposition, genetics
2. Temperament = response to environmental stimuli
3. Poor socialization
4. Past trauma
5. Inexperienced handling or problems with hierarchy
6. Illness or pain
7. Taking out anger on someone or something (= redirection )
8. Prey Drive
9. Territorial aggression
10. Protecting offspring
Signals which enable you to recognize (emerging) aggression
• – Frontal jump and approaching with open mouth
• – Leaning (Marking) = if the dog does not first sniff at the anus of the other dog
• – Whites of the eyes showing and fixating on a part of the body, which is probably the part he will bite.
• – Stare = fixate
• – Hard eye = very large, shiny eyes
• – Teeth showing
• – Growling or play growling
• – The hackles are up, that is the hair along the back
• – Snapping and / or biting
• – A rigid wag of the tail
• – Baring the (upper) teeth
• – Curling of the lip
The strength of the bite
If you had to choose, by which dog would you rather be bitten?
The dog on the right is a dog in a submissive posture. His ears are back; his torso and tail are very low. If the dog becomes aggressive we call it fear aggression. It will not be a hard bite and should only cause a minor wound or bruise the skin.
The dog on the left has a dominant or high position; its tail and general carriage are high and his ears are upright and facing forward. This dog would hold on and shake his victim.
If this dog bites, then the wounds will be serious.
Aggression often starts when the dog is just a puppy.
A puppy that is taken away from the mother too soon often has no or insufficient bite inhibition. That is, he doesn’t know when to stop. Unfortunately, this is often the case with imported dogs or dogs from puppy farms.
You can avoid this problem by choosing wisely and being selective if you bring a new dog or puppy into your home.
Also, if you have a new dog, it is important that you do not allow it to bite you, even in play.
Finding the right dog training school or the right trainer for private lessons is another important factor. Here do not think about the price, instead focus on the quality of the trainer!
When training and educating you must focus on the bond you are creating with your dog!
What to do if you are attacked?
Following an unfortunate biting incident in Riemst I gave an interview on this subject for TVL
Have you ever been attacked by a dog? How did you react?
What do you think about aggression in dogs?
Is it acceptable?
When can it be acceptable and when not?
Please leave your comments in the space below, l look forward to hearing from you!