Aggression in dogs - Part 1/2
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Aggression in dogs - Part 1/2
Many dogs have an aggression problem. This usually arises due to incorrect keeping and education of dogs and is one of the most important problem in the human-dog relationship. Get to know what exactly aggressive behavior in dogs means, which different forms of aggression there are, how to diagnose aggressive behavior and what to do against it.
What exactly is aggression in dogs?
In principle, aggressive behavior is a natural response to external stimuli. The innate instinct of aggression is different on each dog, depending on the predisposition. Biologically speaking aggression fulfill in dogs the function of avoiding damage, the physical integrity, the resource acquisition and resource cover.
Thus, aggression is an instinct and also part of the social behavior of dogs. The goal of biological "meaningful" aggression is not primarily to injure or even kill an opponent, but to give the possibility to submit or to escape by giving different signals.
Aggressive behavior in dogs is dependent upon the genetic and environmental influences. On the one hand aggression and stimulus threshold of a dog are genetically determined, but on the other hand they are fundamentally changed by environmental and keeping conditions. Aggressive conflict resolution strategies are principally acquired and only a very small proportion is genetic.
What forms of aggression exists?
So you can better understand the aggression in dogs, it is useful to look at the various forms of aggression. These can be divided as follows (according to FEDDERSEN-PETERSEN & HASSENSTEIN):
- Aggression as a defense (pain, fright, etc.)
- Readiness to attack towards prey (predation)
- Aggression as a counter-attack (fear biters that have no means of escape)
- Aggression against sexual rivals (aggression among males, etc.)
- Aggression as a trial of strenght (presentation of own high rank, dominance)
- Aggression in the defense of the territory
- Group aggression
- Aggression out of frustration (Frustration is discharged to a third party)
- Pathological aggression (Dr. Stemmler)
Basically, aggressive behavior is not a problem. But if the dog has, through various circumstances, no other solution strategies available as to act aggressive and a peaceful coexistence between dog and human is not possible, aggression becomes a problem.
How can aggressive behavior be diagnosed?
First of all the reason and the cause of the aggressive behavior must be identified in order to show the dog more solution strategies so that the not desired behavior will not be exercised. In general we can say that anxious, uncertain and not well socialized dogs were more likely to exceed the tolerance limit and show aggressive behavior.
The questions you should ask and answer:
- What is the exact cause of the aggressive behavior?
- How long has this been a problem in the dog?
- How is the bond between dog and dog owners?
- How dangerous is this behavior for humans and other animals?
If you can answer these questions, the dog trainer has good starting points in order to be successful with the anti-aggression training. The chances are good, if you can explain the exact cause, the aggressive behavior occurs since a short time or a good bond with the dog is in existence where the dog can be well controlled over hearing and visual signals.
But the most important is the willingless of all family members to work hard and consistenly with an experienced dog trainer, for a longer period. In most cases, to "let get help" is the biggest hurdle in this problem.
Reasons for aggressive behavior in dogs can be:
- Genetic reasons
- Environmental experiences, socialization, environmental influences
- Previously negative experiences made with the "cause"
- Keeping conditions (If a dog is under stress the stimulus threshold for fear and anger is lower, which can lead to aggression)
- Learning experiences made in the context of aggressive behavior (successful experiences for the dog)
Dogs show many different signals and warnings before they growl or snap. Mostly, these are not interpreted as such by humans.
The following escalation ladder is a normal reaction of the dog to a threatening stimulus:
In the second part I will deal with the question: "What can be done against aggressive behavior in dogs?".
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