Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 11 July 2002
The Aggressive Dog
Biting the Hands that Feed You
with Krista Mifflin
Aggression is one of the most wide-spread problems among companion animals. Nothing is quite as frightening as a very angry animal lunging at you.
Unfortunately, an aggressive dog these days is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
If you find that you have an aggressive dog on your hands, the very first
thing you need to do, is visit your veterinarian to rule out any physical
causes. Any dog in pain or discomfort may lash out and just be generally mean and irritable. You'll need to determine that he is physically sound before
doing anything else.
Obedience training is essential to a dog, both for the ever important
socialization, and to prevent aggression from occurring. Prevention is the
key, especially since correcting bad behavior is ten times as hard once the
behavior is established.
Aggression is caused by many things, and often identifying the cause is the
key to correcting the problem. Recognize your dog's problem, so that you can
get him help, before it is too late.
Dog Aggression - General Aggression, to you or other dogs.
Chained Reaction - Fear and Territorial Aggression together make chaining a
dog up a bad idea.
Possession Aggression - When sharing is a foreign concept. There are lots of
different types of dog aggression, aside from the three mentioned above.
Cage Rage is often seen in neglect situations, or, more accurately, in puppy
mill dogs. After spending months, perhaps years in a cage by yourself, or
even with others, these dogs begin to see the cage as their territory,
defending it when necessary. Even worse, a caged dog is a trapped and
cornered dog. In a confrontational situation, the dog no longer has the
"flight" option, and "fight" is all that is left.
In shelter dogs too, you may see the beginnings of Cage Rage. Perhaps not
Aggression, but rather an unruly hyperactivity that will put off a lot of
potential adopters, who may think that the dog will be like that normally.
Often this is just a temporary thing, resolving itself as the dog has a
little more freedom, and is no longer staring at bars all day.
Dominance Aggression happens when members of the pack, be they dog to dog, or dog to human, struggle for the top position in the pack hierarchy.
As the dog owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold that
leadership position. If your position is not secure, you may find yourself
being walked all over by your pet, and it can cause numerous problems down
If you find yourself locked into battle with your dog, there are a few things
you should start doing immediately.
Put yourself first. Be first through the doors, first up the stairs, do not
let him decide when to be pet, ignore his pushy nose, and be first in a
vehicle. Do not let him up on a bed, do not place yourself in a position
under him (on a piece of furniture, on stairs) height is a leadership
position. Do not attempt an alpha roll, this method is outdated and will only
add to aggression.
Make him work for it. If he is hungry, make him sit. If he wants his water,
make him sit, a treat? Make him beg, or "sit pretty", or do a trick for it.
Make him sit before opening a door.
Remember: Aggression breeds aggression. Punishment will invariably make the problem worse. If need be, seek professional help.
Return to Animals in Print 11 Jul 2002 Issue
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