Dog aggression, behavior all owners need to be aware of

Aggression in dogs can be found in a variety of different behaviors and personality traits. Most dog owners only focus on the common aggressive dog behaviors such as barking, biting, growling etc… But it vital that you get to know your dog, that you can distinguish all types of dog aggression. Aggression and dominant behavior are natural instinct for pack animals such as dogs, they play an important role in the survival of wild dogs, giving each member of the pack a place in the hierarchy, using aggression to defend against predators, to hunt, and to assert dominance.

The level of aggression your dog demonstrates is determined by how much of a threat the individual or animal is seen to be. We class these as low and high level aggression. Low level aggression is the everyday aggression most dogs display. This is generally passive aggression, giving the other dog or person a warning that your dog is aggressive and in control of the situation. Low level aggressive behaviors include

1. Growling 2. Ignoring owners commands 3. Pushing and leaning into people 4. Jumping up on people or animals to intimidate 5. Aggressive stance

You will notice your dog displaying this lower level aggression when he or she begins to feel threatened. A common time to observe your dog in ‘low level aggressive’ mode is when he or she is introduced to another dog for the first time. Both dogs will take a stiff stance, observing and keeping their head up, tails up, and ears pointed. This is intended to make themselves appear dominant, and to look as tall as possible. After getting a good observation of the other dog and getting comfortable with the situation, one dog will generally back away, and you will notice the aggression begins to die, and the two dogs will start to become familiar with each other. Generally speaking, a spayed female will usually be the first to back down, followed by a neutered male, then an intact female, and last to back down will be an intact male. The build and stature of a dog is often irrelevant when it comes to introductions and this first aggressive encounter. The exception to this hierarchy is in instances when neither dog backs down, the aggression then builds as the battle for dominance begins. This will often lead to an extremely loud vocal display and often physical interaction.

When dogs meet a human for the first time, aggression will be shown through jumping up, pushing or leaning until the person becomes unstable and looses their footing, or growling with an intense stare. With smaller dogs and young puppies this behavior can often be portrayed as cute behavior and go un-noticed. Failure to identify and deal with this behavior can lead to more serious when the puppy has grown to be a larger dog, it can become dangerous and difficult to train. Whether your dog is a new/small puppy or a larger dog, it is important to deal with these aggression issues as early as possible, so your dog’s ‘low level aggression’ doesn’t become a problem in years to come.

If your dogs passive (low level) aggressive behavior is ineffective, it will escalate to higher levels of aggression in an attempt to recover dominance. Higher level dog aggression includes:

1. Snarling and snapping viciously 2. Biting 3. Jumping up and barking in an aggressive manner 4. Nipping at heels or legs 5. Staring and displaying teeth

Higher level aggressive behavior means business, your dog is still feeling threatened or non-dominant and your dog will move on to actual physical aggression, fighting, biting or attempting to bite. This is where things get serious and potentially dangerous. If you notice your dog’s behavior escalating to high aggression levels, you must look into behavior modification training immediately. It is your responsibility to keep the public, other dogs, children and visitors to your home safe by isolating or sufficiently restraining your dog.

Aggression is a natural instinct for dogs, and it is essential that the owner is in control of the dog’s aggression. Through early socialization and a firm understanding of the dog-owner relationship, your dog should not show aggressive behavior. If aggression does become a problem it is important to deal with the issue immediately. Re-training using positive methods works much better than punishment, but often professional assistance is needed.

Neutering a dog will control the hormonal causes of aggression, but not all aggression is hormonally caused. Spaying and neutering dogs does not guarantee that they will be docile, and breeds that are bred as watch dogs or herding animals will need specific training on being non-aggressive. Some dogs are not good with other animals or dogs, just like some breeds are less tolerant of children. It is important to understand the natural aggressive tendencies of the breed of dog that you are considering obtaining to make sure you get a good match for you and your family.