When talking about Aggression it is important to clarify the meaning of the actual term ‘Aggression’.
In the most simplistic way, Aggression means “Hostile or violent behaviour or attitude toward another…”
The aggression we most commonly discuss in relation to dog’s behaviour is the same process but with a possible outcome of pain, hurt, stress or injury to one or several parties involved in the act. Aggression is a normal part of the way all animals behave. Animals fight. Dogs fight. Kids fight. And good for them as if they didn’t – there would be no peace and no quiet anywhere. My two young daughters fight on average 30 times per day. Every day, no exception. And so did you when you were growing up. We watch over them and supervise these “conflicts” but they will still go back and lovingly play with each other till the next outburst happens. What we don’t want is the top of the scale i.e. dangerous encounters that would have a long-term effect on them. The only way for this to happen is to let them fight and learn to resolve the situation themselves, and if not restore peace, then to learn to live with less than one wants – this is also a part of life. Some things are just not pleasant. Get used to it!
So would you call it aggression if a dog responds with raised hackles resulting in another dog walking away and resolving the conflict this way? Yes, the dog was clearly hostile and unwilling to make contact with the perpetrator. No bite / attack occurred, but the fact remains… Or would you brand aggressive the act of a dog twirling away and air-snapping at a male dog trying to mount him in a sexual frenzy? A growl? Angry look? Tensing up?
Well, yes and no. By determination, all of these are acts of aggression, but all are aggression appeasement behaviours. Do they then represent different categories of the term? Not at all, and in displaying one the animal concerned often initiates the other turning the “go away” appeasement behaviour into the proper fight. And here I’d also call it appeasement behaviour – it will hopefully deter the other dog from confronting the “guilty” party on the next occasion therefore diffusing the unpleasant energy between the two. So as long as we agree that a dog trying to look away, and another taking a chunk of someone else’s flesh is the same behaviour, just varying in grade, we can carry on.
Dogs are all suppose to be guided by clear instincts that are developed and polished up properly, and they have to be given the chance to rehearse these over and over again so that there’s nothing “untold” and “unclear”. This is never the case in any aggression referrals any of us are called to sort out. So what do we usually get?
Let’s step away from the topic for the sake of the argument and design an opposite scenario – we need an aggressor, the dog who would jump into action at any opportunity and provoke another dog or challenge a person with little or no reason for such behaviour. We want the “wild and uncontrolled, unpredictable and unstoppable” attacking dog, a dog that would hurt, injure and defeat the object of that attack.
So, How to…
This was “brain-stormed” by some of trainers including myself, so might slightly overlap and are not listed in the any particular order:
When new to training or young:
Choose a larger, and less companion-dog type breed for your pet
No walks till as late in life as possible!
No off-leash or little exercise
No training to listen to and follow instructions
No certainty about people coming in or animals who make contact
Not having early socialisation in place and no dog-to-dog interactions
Buying another dog “to keep them company” so that they bond with each other and as a result do not develop much connection with humans
Scarce resources so that the dog treasures them and protects them.
Try to install the “dominance” structure in and around the home attempting to sit in dog’s bed, take away its chews and win every tag-of-war game whatever it takes. “Make sure he knows who’s the boss!” – this usually means keep him scared, otherwise he might not have a reason to bite!
Never use or carry food or other incentives with you as they would distract a dog from other things like smells, dangers, competition etc. If you also consider using food for rewarding your dog when it attacks other dogs – don’t as they would still develop more positive emotions in those situations and will be expecting the taught positive feedback from the handler rather than focusing on the job at hand
Motivate and interact with them as little as you can – you don’t want your dog to spend it’s time out or around strangers watching and listening to you!
With older dogs:
(I’d include all of the above as most applicable to any dog even though it makes much more difference in younger and less experienced dogs)
Walk only on tight lead or use a retractable / Flexi lead
Get tense and look nervous every time when seeing a dog or human
Speaking loads with no meaning to the dog, giving instructions that are not followed
Cuddling the dog when naughty
Lack of motivation is your key to success – not having any goals your dog is likely to discover some values on his own, you might be lucky!
Never develop in them any interest in food – they may be easily conditioned to like something or someone if fed by or around them!
Do not introduce your dog to many humans; keep locked away when having visitors
Having no play-skills developed with the handler and never let them mouth your hands
Keeping dogs’ fitness levels down so that they feel vulnerable
Using loads of strong negative stimulants around other dogs and people e.g. shouting, yanking the leash, using e-collars (electric shock devices) pinch (spike, prong) collars, chock (check) chains, slip leads etc.
Allowing for the repeat behaviours such as attacking, lunging, biting
Not allowing a bored dog any social encounters or having social skills developing
Not recognising signs and emotions so retaining the wrong attitude towards the situation at hand
Not having a male dog castrated – testosterone is a steady and powerful source of strength, stamina, confidence and bravery, as well as rage. You might be lucky also if your dog enjoys competing for status, resources and mates if he’s not castrated
Allowing for the female dog to have a littler and mature and discover her guarding skills
Introduce your dog to un-trained, anti-social and aggressive dogs with no social etiquette so that they can learn from it
Allow for traumatic experiences such as being bitten, chased, bullied, punished, abused etc.
If we start any de-aggression training with these pointers, training dogs would become such fun as any time you see a dog being walked in a park, street or any other places you will start noticing people who (sub-consciously I hope) train their dogs with animosity towards others, unfriendliness to other dogs and intolerance to humans. It is fun, and most people with a dog on lead do look like potential customers. Some just do not realise it yet.
So, let’s equip ourselves with the right knowledge, and… let’s try and not do any of these – I like the world to be a friendlier place, so help your dogs to see the funny side of life as we did in this article. And go and give them a big treat right now, for no reason – because you want them to love you whenever and wherever, because we love them!