Happy Sunday to you all and how are your dogs?Dog aggression is a serious problem which must be dealt with immediately before someone gets hurt.
Does your dog show aggression towards other dogs?Does he display food aggression and growl when you touch his stuff?
Today you’ll learn how to recognize, prevent, and handle dog aggression….A dog is an instinctively aggressive creature. In the wild, aggression came in very handy: dogs needed aggression to hunt, to defend themselves from other creatures, and to defend resources such as food, a place to sleep, and a mate. Selective breeding over the centuries has minimized and refined this trait significantly, but there’s just no getting around it: dogs are physically capable of inflicting serious harm (just look at those teeth!) because that’s how they’ve survived and evolved.
And Mother Nature is pretty wily – it’s hard to counteract the power of instinct! But that doesn’t mean that we, as dog lovers and owners, are entirely helpless when it comes to handling our dogs.There’s a lot that we can do to prevent aggression from rearing its ugly head in the first place, and, even if prevention hasn’t been possible (for whatever reason), there are still steps that we can take to recognize and deal with it effectively.There are several different types of canine aggression. The two most common ones are:
Aggression towards family members
You may be wondering why we’re bothering categorizing this stuff: after all, aggression is aggression, and we want to stop it NOW, not waste time with the details, right? Well, not quite.These two different types of aggression stem from very different causes, and require different types of treatment.
Aggression towards strangers
What is it? It’s pretty easy to tell when a dog’s nervous around strange people. He’s jumpy and on the alert: either he can’t sit still and is constantly fidgeting, leaping at the smallest sound, and pacing around barking and whining; or he’s very still indeed, sitting rock-steady in one place, staring hard at the object of his suspicions (a visitor, the cleaner, someone approaching him on the street while he’s tied up outside the gate.)
Why does it happen? There’s one major reason why a dog doesn’t like strange people: he’s never had the chance to get used to them. Remember, your dog relies 100% on you to broaden his horizons for him: without being taken on lots of outings to see the world and realize for himself, through consistent and positive experiences, that the unknown doesn’t necessarily equal bad news for him, how can he realistically be expected to relax in an unfamiliar situation?
What can I do about it? The process of introducing your dog to the world and all the strange people (and animals) that it contains is called socialization. This is an incredibly important aspect of your dog’s upbringing: in fact, it’s pretty hard to overemphasize just how important it is. Socializing your dog means exposing him from a young age (generally speaking, as soon as he’s had his vaccinations) to a wide variety of new experiences, new people, and new animals.
How does socialization prevent stranger aggression?
When you socialize your dog, you’re getting him to learn through experience that new sights and sounds are fun, not scary. It’s not enough to expose an adult dog to a crowd of unfamiliar people and tell him to ‘Settle down, Roxy, it’s OK’, he has to learn that it’s OK for himself. And he needs to do it from puppyhood for the lesson to sink in.The more types of people and animals he meets (babies, toddlers, teenagers, old people, men, women, people wearing uniforms, people wearing motorcycle helmets, people carrying umbrellas, etc.) in a fun and relaxed context, the more a tease and happy, and safe around strangers he’ll be in general.
How can I socialize my dog so that he doesn’t develop a fear of strangers?
Socializing your dog is pretty easy to do, it’s more of a general effort than a specific training regimen. First of all, you should take him to puppy pre school. This is a generic term for a series of easy group-training classes for puppies (often performed at the boarding Center, which has the additional benefit of teaching your dog positive associations with the vet!). In a puppy preschool class, about ten or so puppy owners get together with a qualified trainer (often there’ll be at least two trainers present, the more there are, the better, since it means you get more one-on-one time with a professional) and start teaching their puppies the basic obedience commands: sit, stay, and so on.
Even though the obedience work is very helpful and is a great way to start your puppy on the road to being a trustworthy adult dog, really the best part of puppy preschool is the play sessions: several times throughout the class, the puppies are encouraged to run around off-leash and play amongst themselves. This is an ideal environment for them to learn good social skills: there’s a whole bunch of unfamiliar dogs present (which teaches them how to interact with strange dogs), there’s a whole bunch of unfamiliar people present (which teaches them that new faces are nothing to be afraid of), and the environment is safe and controlled (there’s at least one certified trainer present to make sure that things don’t get out of hand).
However, socialization doesn’t just stop with puppy preschool. It’s an ongoing effort throughout the life of your puppy and dog: he needs to be taken to a whole bunch of new places and environments. Remember not to overwhelm him: start off slow, and build up his tolerance gradually.
Aggression towards family members
There are two common reasons why a dog is aggressive towards members of his own human family:
He’s trying to defend something he thinks of as his from a perceived threat (you). This is known as resource guarding, and though it may sound innocuous, there’s actually a lot more going on here than your dog simply trying to keep his kibble to himself.
He’s not comfortable with the treatment/handling he’s getting from you or other members of the family.
What’s resource guarding?
Resource guarding is pretty common among dogs. The term refers to overly-possessive behavior on behalf of your dog: for instance, snarling at you if you approach him when he’s eating, or giving you ‘the eye’ (a flinty-eyed, direct stare) if you reach your hand out to take a toy away from him. All dogs can be possessive from time to time, it’s in their natures. Sometimes they’re possessive over things with no conceivable value: inedible trash, balled up pieces of paper or tissue, old socks. More frequently, however, resource-guarding becomes an issue over items with a very real and understandable value: food and toys.
Why does it happen?
It all boils down to the issue of dominance. Let me take a moment to explain this concept: dogs are pack animals. This means that they’re used to a very structured environment: in a dog-pack, each individual animal is ranked in a hierarchy of position and power (or ‘dominance’) in relation to every other animal. Each animal is aware of the rank of every other animal, which means he knows specifically how to act in any given situation (whether to back down, whether to push the issue, whether to muscle in or not on somebody else’s turf, etc., etc.). To your dog, the family environment is no different to the dog-pack environment.
Your dog has ranked each member of the family, and has his own perception of where he ranks in that environment as well. This is where it gets interesting: if your dog perceives himself as higher up on the social totem-pole than other family members, he’s going to get cheeky. If he’s really got an over inflated sense of his own importance, he’ll start to act aggressively.Why? Because dominance and aggression are the exclusive rights of a superior-ranked animal. No underdog would ever show aggression or act dominantly to a higher-ranked animal (the consequences would be dire, and he knows it!)
Resource guarding is a classic example of dominant behavior: only a higher-ranked dog (a ‘dominant’ dog) would act aggressively in defense of resources.To put it plainly: if it was clear to your dog that he is not, in fact, the leader of the family, he’d never even dream of trying to prevent you from taking his food or toys, because a lower-ranking dog (him) will always go along with what the higher-ranking dogs (you and your family) say. So what can I do about it? The best treatment for dominant, aggressive behavior is consistent, frequent obedience work, which will underline your authority over your dog. Just fifteen-minute sessions a day will make it perfectly clear to your dog that you’re the boss, and that it pays to do what you say. You can make this fact clear to him by rewarding him (with treats and lavish praise) for obeying a command, and isolating him (putting him in ‘time-out’, either outside the house or in a room by himself) for misbehavior.
If you’re not entirely confident doing this yourself, you may wish to consider enlisting the assistance of a qualified dog trainer which I would gladly do. You can have a private conversation with me for details.
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About Akinluyi Jerry
Akinluyi Jerry is a young entrepreneur, Animal lover, Dog Consultant and Security expert, CEO of Jeak’s kennel and securities. Certified dog behaviourist and Pro trainer with over 50 trained dogs, Popular Dog Columnist of ‘Jerryandyourdog’ with over 100 published articles, Member of international association of canine professionals (IACP), member International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants,(IAABC)A graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile ife and National K9 School.