In the previous article, we have discussed the importance of canine & human aggression.
We have spoken about people thinking violence and aggression are things that need to be erased and ignoring the fact that order and peace are maintained under the threat of (authorized) violence.
In a civilized society, the majority of people maintain a good conduct because of moral values but also because of fear of consequences (for breaking the law). Not complying with the law is ultimately met with an arrest (by force) and resisting the arrest is met with justified violence. Without the violence or the threat of it, morality and law obedience are optional.
Dogs use the display of aggression, active aggression and violence to make a point.
With aggression or the display of it, they communicate: “stop”, “back off”, “this is mine”, “leave me alone”, “you are hurting me”, “I don’t trust you” and “you are scaring me”.
Possible messages are:
“Comply with my request, or else, I will bite you.”
“If you are planning to take my life, I will resist and try to take yours, so, don’t do it!”
Engaging in physical fights means a high risk of serious injuries and open wounds that can get infected.
In the wild, there is no veterinary clinic and no owner providing food and water. So, being seriously injured is a sort of death sentence for the wild dog.
An injured dog cannot run and follow the pack, and therefore, he cannot hunt or, maybe even, reach water sources. Being injured means being weak and vulnerable; because of that, the dog will lose hierarchy position within the pack as others will take advantage of his weakness. Other predators can see the injured dog as an easy meal due to the low risk of resistance.
Because being injured is highly dangerous, wild dogs do not engage in serious violence unless it is a life or death situation.
In the wild, the threat of violence is taken very seriously.
There are different types of aggression:
Some forms of aggression are driven by hormones; in a male dog, testosterone is responsible for inter-male aggression.
Because of testosterone, male dogs will challenge each other to establish the hierarchy within the pack, to establish territory and to mate with females in season.
The more testosterone a dog has the more confident and assertive that dog would be. It is not unusual for a male dog to display aggression towards other males.
Socialisation can help to improve a dog’s response towards another male. Still, it is important to remember that the risk of a challenge over a toy, food, water or whatever resource is real. If there is a bitch in season nearby, no form of socialisation will hold male dogs from confronting each other.
In the case of hormonal aggression, neutering the dog can be beneficial in reducing aggression but a socialisation program must be included.
This is another form of aggression driven by hormones. However, the maternal instinct is also responsible for a bitch aggressiveness.
In general, a female dog will not hesitate to protect her puppies. If she feels someone or something is threatening her puppies, she will attack with little or no warning.
Usually, owners of a bitch with puppies do not mind or understand their dog’s aggressiveness, because protecting the puppies is a good sign of motherhood. So it is important to respect her space and to keep curious children under control, or else, someone will get hurt.
Some people also know it as food aggression. In this case, a dog will display aggression or use it to protect whatever she thinks is hers.
She will not allow anyone to touch anything that she holds: food, toys, sofa and, in some cases, even the owner.
This is not an uncommon form of aggression. In the wild, dogs have to protect their food; if they don’t, they will starve and not survive. Aggressiveness towards food is also used within the pack. A higher rank dog will not allow a lower rank to take his food.
As domestic dogs are fed regularly, there is no high need for them to protect their resources. It is possible to train them not to protect their resources by teaching them that you will not take them away permanently, but you will return or exchange them for something better.
If a dog hasn’t adapted to this since puppyhood, due to the high risk of dog bites, an owner must consider hiring a qualified expert to address the problem.
Most of dogs bites are consequences of a scared dog’s reaction. Even the previous two cases are related to fears: fear for the safety of the litter and fear of losing resources.
However, fear aggression is more related to the dog scared for his life. A fearful aggressive dog is communicating that he has no intention to attack the threat but, if pushed or cornered, he will fight for his life.
This is not unnatural; the dog’s natural flight or fight response has been triggered. He will decide what is better, to run away or to attack.
If a scared dog that wants to run away is cornered or escaping rote are blocked, he will only have the option to fight, and he will.
In this situation, avoid staring directly into the dog’s eyes; this is a confrontation and, therefore, a threat. Be quiet and slowly move away. Leave the dog alone or else he will attack you.
This type of aggression can be related to resources aggression as even the territory is a fount of resources. In the wild, the pack’s territory provides prey to hunt, water resources and dens to rear the young.
Losing the territory means losing access to all resources; a trespassing pack is a threat to the existing pack living on that territory.
Defending the territory is a normal behaviour for a dog. For domestic dogs, their territory means the owner’s house, the surrounding land and the owner’s car. Domestic dogs protect their houses and land for the same reason as their wild counterparts.
A domestic dog cannot understand the difference between a postman, a visiting friend (unknown to the dog) or burglars. For her, these are all invaders that she needs to deal with accordingly.
It is the owner’s responsibility to train the dog, maintain her under control and guide her to behave calmly.
Pain inflicted aggression.
This is an aggressive response caused by the pain inflicted on a dog. A dog cannot communicate with words that he is getting hurt. The only way he knows is to bite to tell you to stop and to give him space.
Because of this, always handle an injured dog gently and with care. If you are not familiar with the dog, consider putting a muzzle on him.
Be really careful when approaching a dog that got run over, he can be both scared and in pain; because of this, he is likely to bite.
During a dogfight, a dog can withstand a great deal of pain due to the release of adrenaline, but only temporarily.
If a dog seems to be aggressive for no apparent reason, consider a visit to the veterinary to ensure the dog is in good health. Make sure there are no internal problems that may cause discomfort to him.
Also, consider that with age dog senses start to deteriorate. A dog with poor eye-sight and hearing can have the impression of someone’s sudden appearance. This may scare the dog and he may bite out of fear.
Dog aggression is something necessary and natural for a dog: it will ensure its survival. Dog aggression can be a problem if displayed in the wrong place at the wrong time. In any case, it is the owner’s responsibility to keep things under control. Dog aggression is something that has to be taken seriously due to the risk of injury or death. It is important to remember that in this situation, I highly recommend consulting a qualified professional to resolve the aggression problem.
This article is a follow-up of the article “The Universal Importance Of Instinctual Aggression (Part 1)” and is named in the title as (Part 2).
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Also, if you like the topic of dogs, please check my book ‘Before You Get A Dog’ by Simone Burani. You will find the essential knowledge written in simple language to have a great time with your pet.