April 8th is DOG FIGHTING AWARENESS DAY, and I’ve written about dog aggression and stopping dog fights before. It’s a good time to review the 5 common kinds of dog aggression and what to do.
According to the ASPCA, dog fighting happens all over the country and in all kinds of communities–rich, poor, middle class, it doesn’t matter, it’s there festering just beneath the surface. When fight rings are located, cases are built, offenders are prosecuted, and abuse survivors find loving homes.
Patrick Stewart lends his voice to the cause, seeking to help the ASPCA educate as many folks as possible about this cruel sport. Yep, can you believe it? it’s considered a SPORT by fight proponents. #GetTough on Dog Fighting campaign offers free information and ways for all animal lovers to get involved.
DOG FIGHTS AFFECT ALL PETS & PEOPLE
Hey, a dog fight issue doesn’t affect just about one breed. It impacts ALL dog owners–and cat lovers, too, because dogs are trained to fight by “practicing” on other animal victims.
Spectators even bring kids to the fights to introduce them to the sport. *wiping eyes* The thought makes me weep with anger. That’s why my 3rd pet-centric thriller SHOW AND TELL shines a light on this dirty practice (and for once, the bad guys get appropriate justice!).
While breed bans might suggest that “dog aggressive breeds” are at the heart of this issue, let’s get real here. All dogs, even the one snoozing on your lap, may from time to time act in an aggressive manner. The fight industry exploits and perverts canine behavior for its own ends. Still, it’s important for all dog lovers and even those who do NOT have dogs, to understand what’s going on with “aggression.”
5 Kinds of Dog Aggression
Here’s the deal. Aggression is a NORMAL part of being a dog, and while dog-on-dog aggression is more prevalent in some breeds, ALL dogs have the potential to fight and bite. Aggression can arise out of pain or health issues. Growly dogs believe they have a good reason to aggress (they often do!) whether owners agree or not.
Aggression can be complicated and require professional help, but here’s how to recognize 5 common types and learn how to keep the peace.
Play Aggression looks scary but dogs tell each other it’s just pretend by using gestures like the play bow (butt up, front down). Puppies learn to inhibit bites when they play with other dogs, and owners also can teach limits.
If the mouthing hurts, YELP like another puppy. Whimper and say, “You hurt me.” Immediately after you yelp, give the dog a 10-minute time out—no mouthing allowed—to teach him that hard bites make the fun stop.
Predatory Aggression includes stalking, chasing, catching and biting like in play, but predatory dogs won’t play bow—they’re deadly serious. Joggers, bicyclist, and moving cars and cries of young children, babies and smaller pets can trigger prey drive.
Predatory behavior may go away as the youngster grows up, but keep targets safe with strict supervision. Identify triggers (like joggers) and avoid them. Teach dogs to control natural impulses with obedience drills. A “happy” word the dog can’t resist (ball, cookie, ride) can often change the dog’s attitude and interrupts the behavior.
Fear Aggression results when a dog can’t escape a scary situation. Caged, chained or cornered dogs often bite out of fear. Snarls, growls or bites make the scary “thing” go away, which rewards the dog so she’ll repeat the behavior. Reaching for the scared dog’s collar almost always prompts a bite, because a hand descending toward the head looks threatening.
Dogs may be fearful of strangers. And if you wear a hat, your dog may not recognize you! Learn about dogs hating hats in this post.
Avoid petting on the top of the head. Instead, pet the dog’s sides or chest. Don’t stare, which can intensify intimidation. Play builds confidence, so teach “fetch” while avoiding tug-games that can encourage fear-biting behavior. Use pheromone therapy such as Comfort Zone with DAP to help calm fears.
Territorial aggression typically involves herding and protection breeds. Dogs bark, lunge and growl at the fence or doorway, and are rewarded when the mailman, new dog, or your fiancé goes away. Conspire with visitors so the outcome changes.
Have the mailman toss treats to the dog, but without making eye contact or saying anything. Once the dog quiets to munch the treat, the mailman can say, “Good Rex!” and walk away. He should NOT walk away as long as the dog barks and lunges. If Rex ignores the treat and continues to bark and lunge, then YOU call the dog and reward him with a treat or toy for coming. The mailman leaves as the dog retreats—so essentially neither won.
Guarding Food, Toys, Furniture are all part of dominance aggression. These dogs often object to being restrained—as for nail trims—and the aggression can gets worse with punishment or confrontation. They’re often young intact male dogs who want to call the shots with people, but then tremble or seem to act “remorseful” afterwards. An argument over toys or mealtime that prompts a first instinctive snarl teaches the dog that aggression keeps others a safe distance from important resources.
Dominance aggression can be complicated and dangerous to solve and usually requires a professional. Neutering the dog and managing resources can help. If the dog protects toys, remove them so he has nothing to guard. Require the dog to “earn” privileges by paying with good behavior. For instance, ask him to “sit” (he sits), which earns him what he wants (attention/food bowl/open door/verbal praise). He should get NOTHING unless he earns it by responding in a positive way to your command.
Learn where to find professional pet behavior help in this post.
Are dog fights a problem in your community? Have you ever had an issue with aggression in your dogs or in a dog that belongs to someone else? How did you handle it?
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!
Excellent tips! Dog fighting is a very common affair in almost all county in the world. Dogs love fighting. Once they get a chance to fight, never miss that. Play Aggression is quite common in almost every dog breed. I like this aggression though some guys don’t like it at all. Thanks Amy very exceptional post with nice images. I have learn some new things from your post. Very informative! But you can go more dipper.
Yes, mostly these kind of aggression are seeing in dog fight and that is dangerous also. However, with proper training, we can reduce it. Pet trainers are teaching them how to behave and visit with new ones.
When I was walking to school one morning in the 1980s, a man and his dog came out of the house. While he was locking the door, the dog jumped up to say hi to me and scratched me. Which kind of aggression would you consider that, or is it just a case of a dog forgetting he’s not a cat (and as such cannot put his claws away)?
Actually, based on your description (jumping up to say “hi”) I would consider that a submissive signal. *s* Dogs show their deference to other dogs and to people by aiming licking at the face/mouth/eye area, and so often jump up to reach us. People get aggravated, yell, etc which tells the dog, “Oh, I need to be even MORE submissive, I’ll jump up even more!…” *s*
Dogs can be taught to greet/show deference in other ways but they do need to be taught. Great question!
Great Post! I knew about each of these and see them all the time in dogs. It is good to be able to compare them and know how to handle each of them.
Very helpful information. I would love to share this with dog shelters who use aggression tests. Thanks for spreading the word!
TY for the info, Amy . I know even the sweetest of dogs can get angry and we know Dexter does not like a dog messing with him if he is eating a bone.
Hi Carol, and I don’t blame Dex at all. Don’t mess with ME if I’ve got M&Ms handy. *s*
This is a great post – valuable information. Henry and Reese (and Ricky) change roles regularly and we joke about who is king or queen of the castle. Joking aside, this is a serious matter. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Sadie, well adjusted pets DO change roles, especially in play. Often the one “in charge” will take the subordinate role during play to entice others to engage in the game. Then once it’s over, the established roles resume.
Thanks for this explanation. I knew there were different types (just like they are for humans), but this is really helpful in understanding, preventing, and handling aggression.
It would be interesting to do a side by side comparison: dogs–>cats–>humans Hmnnnn.
It is very interesting to learn about the different types of aggression in dogs. They are similar to the ones in cats. I think it is important that pet owners become aware of these and learn to tell the difference so they can properly communicate with their pets.
Absolutely Robin, and they are similar for cats. Guess I need to do one for our kitty friends, too!
Ugh my daughter is having to work on this so often with their 2 dogs. It doesn’t happen often that the 2 break out in a real fight but when they do it is so scary! I’ll forward this to her.
Hi Michelle, I hope it helps!
Very informative and very interesting post ! It’s important to make these distinctions, we didn’t know all of them.
Excellent post on the types of aggression. Very informative!
Thanks so much!
It’s important to make these distinctions. I am the marketing director for a dog boarding facility and although I work from home, I still went through all of the training about how to differentiate between types of aggression. It’s proven to be helpful even at the dog park!
Very true, Amanda! It’s very important for dog owners, but equally important for PARENTS of young kids that encounter other people’s dogs.
These are excellent tips Amy, thanks! Sharing.
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
Thanks so much, Cathy!
Hi Amy – A great deal of valuable information packed in an easy read form. Great post.
Thanks a bunch for visiting and commenting!