Understanding Dog Aggression
An aggressive dog refers to a dog’s range of behaviours that can result in physical or non-physical harm.
Why do Dogs Get Aggressive?
Dogs get aggressive in situations that are unpleasant or it can be a cocktail of emotions that leads to aggressive behaviour, most commonly dogs get aggressive when provoked but the pre-aggression state of a dog at the moment of that provocation also matters.
Aggression can serve different purposes of a dog, including:
- To express anger or hostility.
- Feeling Powerless.
- To show dominance.
- To intimidate or threaten.
- If demands are not fulfilled.
- To express possession.
- A response to fear.
- A reaction to pain.
- To compete with others.
FACTORS THAT CAN INFLUENCE DOG AGGRESSION
Aggression is influenced by hormones, genetics, injury or any underlying health issues.
In most cases, aggression is influenced by Testosterone, which presents in both Male & Female dogs, but it is higher in male dogs which is one of the things that lead male to be more aggressive than female.
For example, 1.5yrs old dog is much more aggressive than 7yrs old dog because testosterone production decreases over time.
Anything that dog doesn’t like can cause frustration and stress which can influence aggression. Things like physical pain, strange noise, past experiences, strangers & a temperature rise are some of the things that can cause aggression.
Dogs learn how to act from others in situations where they don’t know how to behave. Some Dogs tends to act more aggressively in a group compared to how they would react if they were just by themselves. Pups who grow up witnessing aggression from other dogs are more likely to believe that aggression is acceptable.
How to deal with an aggressive dog?
Dog aggression is a huge topic and there is a whole range of things that can cause them to overreact and solutions are also very subjective. We can’t apply one method to all aggression-related problem so there is no simple answer.
Many dog owners don’t understand the responsibility that comes with owning a dog, which leads to a lot of dogs being given up for adoption or put to sleep. It is important to understand dogs are for life. Following few guidelines before getting a puppy would help to prevent aggression.
Find a suitable breed for yourself that matches your lifestyle and surroundings.
Try to adopt a pup from a professional breeder after meeting the parents of the pup, check their temperaments spend some time with them to see if they are aggressive or have any health issue. Aggression can be hereditary can come from parents to a pup.
Starting training your pup from day one is a good start. When you get a pup in your house from day one they start learning your behaviour and learn to communicate with you accordingly. For example, you know what are your dog’s likes and dislikes because you have successfully understood their signals. Issues come when there is a communication gap or wrong interpretations of their signals. To minimise misinterpretations or to solve any issue you need to understand how dogs learn & understand. So, if you are unable to understand their behaviour it will be very difficult to find the right solution for aggression or any other behavioural issue.
Psychology of dog aggression
Please take note, anger is an emotion it can be used positively or negatively that’s why you can’t get rid of it completely. Be fair and become aware of what provokes your dog and identify from where it’s coming, is it really aggression or anxiety. After investigating plan the training program accordingly. To make it simple I won’t use tons of terms. Aggression releases adrenaline (hormone) in blood stream which triggers fight-flight-freeze response its dog’s natural reaction to danger. When adrenaline gets release it is very difficult for a dog to understand logics and follow rules. Our goal should be to prevent adrenaline realise by limiting a dog’s exposure to the provocations. Training methods should be chosen on severity of aggression. You should not practice “ I am the boss or leader “ training methods which is very popular on youtube, when dealing with 50kgs dog who can inflict serious wounds. Treat based training also falls apart in such cases, it might work temporarily but whenever something triggers the dog he won’t give much attention to the treat. Training plan should outweigh dog’s desires to be aggressive.
Cheeku : An aggressive 3yrs old Labrador Mix
What I am going to present to you is my own case study about my client’s Labrador mix Cheeku. Cheeku is happy playful dog in general but sometimes when something triggers him he gets very aggressive and bitten more than 20 people mostly known to him including his owners. My client is family of four, Rakesh (father)(48) ,Shweta(daughter) (15), Riya (daughter)(20) & Deepa (mother)(42). After trying many trainers and behaviourist they came to me for consultation but this time cheeku has bitten Deepa very badly she got 20 stitches on her right hand. I immediately fixed up meeting and visited. Before coming inside of their house I decided to meet cheeku outside without his owners so that I can understand how he behaves outside his area, Cheeku looks very cute and docile at first glance but when I started walking with him he started pulling with lots of force to the places he wants to go and started sniffing everywhere, I felt no aggression towards me outside his territory. Then I asked family to keep cheeku inside and so that I can have peaceful conversation we decided to sit outside in the garden which is quite huge with farmland like open area.
My first question was why he bites deepa mostly only not other family members, if a pet dog is aggressive towards strangers it suggest lack of discipline , socialisation and obedience but attacking family member is not at all normal and its a deep psychological issue. After series of questions I found out Riya and Rakesh was blaming Deepa that she knows cheeku bites her why she was walking around cheeku. As per Rakesh’s observation cheeku bitten deepa because cheeku is possessive for Rakesh and that daughters also confirmed. After 2 hours long conversation I realised Cheeku, Riya, Shweta and Rakesh is in Team A and Team B is Deepa alone. So Cheeku was bullying her whenever he gets chance and Cheeku knew he gets support from his other team members, it was very normal and day to day thing for cheeku to bully Deepa. I believe if my dog sees me fighting to my brother all the time and my dog is in my team he will support me instead of supporting my brother because dogs can learn by observing situations. To work on this problem, I gave them few guidelines to follow:-
1. So, I asked Riya & Rakesh be polite to Deepa in front of Cheeku so that he should start respecting Deepa and understand Deepa’s place in hierarchy which means She is above Cheeku not below.
2. Neutering Cheeku asap because the way he was pulling me a lot when we went for walk outside, I suspected he was looking for mate and it might also be a reason for his frustration & aggression, high levels of testosterone may increases aggressiveness and risk-taking behaviours.
3. Limiting cheeku’s roam around area, many believes if they have big space for their dogs they don’t required to go out for walks because they have enough space for exercise. No matter how big jail is still a jail, walking outside is a very good psychological exercise for a dog specially dogs like Cheeku, it helps them understand that its okay to be around strangers and walk is very good way of telling your dog how to take directions from you. Walks should be very disciplined and it’s a very crucial part of obedience training.
After following up with Rakesh after a week they said Cheeku is understanding the new rules of the house and aggression is declining towards Deepa gradually.