Are You Worried About Off Leash Aggression Issues?

18 02 2009

It seems like you have a wonderful dog, you have given him a great home, but when you go out to the off leash dog park, things change, right?  Being off leash is truly a fantastic feeling.  Running around with the wind blowing through your hair as your ears flap in the wind is almost as much fun as riding in the car with our head hanging out of the window.  However, such a fantastic joy as it is, being off leash is ALWAYS a privilege.  This is something that needs to be earned. Read the rest of this entry »

Rocky’s “Fear Aggression”

6 02 2009

There are times when you have conversations with “dog” people that know little or nothing about dogs or their behavior.  They are often looked to for suggestions and advice because they hold a position of influence.  Oftentimes, they will dispense advice throwing words around that they may have overheard in a conversation.  Some of those words or phrases can be dangerous in the hands of untrained, uneducated individuals.  Phrases like fear aggression are among those that are dangerous.  They think that because they were thinking fast enough to throw out that phrase, it will impress people, increasing their influence among those they encounter.  Some of these people do not have a clue as to what fear aggression actually is, let alone what can be done to modify or manage it. Read the rest of this entry »

Quick Guide To Reading Dog Body Language

6 12 2008

Dominance Aggression:
Hackles will be raised, teeth barred, tail may be up or back, body & legs stiffen, lips are drawn back, growling, eyes fixed on target.

Fear Aggression:
Body and head lowered, ears are back close to the head, tail is down or may be tucked between the legs, growling, lips are drawn back, teeth barred, hackles raised, nose wrinkled.

Read the rest of this entry »

Aggression Part Two – Fear Aggression

5 11 2008

I received a question via e-mail last week about aggression.  Since there are eight different types of aggression, I have decided to break things down into an eight-part series on aggression.  Fear aggression is the second topic I will cover, and it is included below.

What is fear aggression?

Fear aggression is actually pretty self-explanatory.  It occurs when a dog is frightened by something and that will trigger a “fight” response.  Since his fear does not allow him the luxury of the “flight” response, he will respond the only way he can.  He bites.

This often happens as the result of a puppy’s improper socialization, especially not being properly socialized at the appropriate time.  From the age of three weeks to three months, your puppy should only be exposed to positive people and things.  Don’t ask me why, but some things to avoid this include men with beards, anyone with a hat, ladies with shrill voices, and even children, unless VERY CLOSELY SUPERVISED.  Taunting a dog or punishing him too severely can also lead to fear aggression.

Signs of fear aggression in your dog:

  • Nearly always displaying submissive body language
  • Ears that are laid back usually flat against the head
  • Tail is tucked between the legs
  • Reluctance to rolling over to expose their belly
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Tilt of their head toward the person seeking the dog’s attention, often licking their lips
  • Do not like to be groomed, especially the feet

What can be done to help correct this?

  • Train him using ONLY positive reinforcement. Remember, you are building or re-building trust!
  • Do not reinforce any fear aggressive behavior positively.
  • Never surprise or startle the dog.
  • Do not punish bad behavior.  Correct the behavior.
  • Do not allow people to pet the dog without permission, especially strangers.

Fear aggression can be very tricky.  Often, people will observe a fearful dog and try to give the dog some comfort.  However, the dog may not be aware of what the human is doing, and he will bite as a response.  Although any breed of dog can be fear aggressive, some breeds are born with fearful or anxious behavior tendencies and are more likely to be fear aggressive.

Dogs are the most social creatures on the face of the earth.   In fact, a dog is actually more social than a human being.  Allowing your dog to learn how to socialize at an early age will help prevent fear aggression.
Because most people are not well versed in canine body language, it is advisable that a professional be contacted to help with this situation in a dog that is exhibiting fear aggressive behavior.  The most important thing with fear aggression is to avoid the situation that causes the behavior (leashes, cages, grooming, etc.) when possible, until you can correct it with the aforementioned professional.

Does Your Dog Understand What You Are Saying?

18 10 2008

Simply, yes.  But it is not the language you might think.  As far as the spoken word, dogs understand it all, from English to Spanish, Chinese to Pig Latin, it really does not matter what language you speak to them.  To them, body language is the most important language there is.

Dogs never learn a word of any spoken language, instead they learn the repetition of specific sounds.  When  that sound is heard, they know there is a certain action expected from them.  This is especially true when you train your dog with hand signals as well as the verbal cue.

If you use a hand signal for your dog to “SIT”, when you say the word in English while giving the hand signal, then he or she knows to put his butt on the ground.  Now, if you say “¡siéntate!” (the same command in Spanish) while giving the same hand signal, your dog knows to sit.  Wow! That dog speaks TWO languages!

With dogs, the key to success lies in repetition.  In addition, the tone that you use is also very important.  If you are giving a command to SIT, then it needs to sound like a command.  If your tone is one that is more of a questioning nature, then you may or may not get a SIT.  It is important to note here that yelling at or to a dog is not a good practice.  The act and tone of yelling indicates a possible threat to your four-legged friend.

With a threat possible, your dog must resort to interpreting the language he thinks he understands, body language. People function on a very high level when it comes to interpreting non-verbal cues, and they do not always get it right.  Your dog is looking for other signs of possible aggression from the person that has started yelling. In the dog’s mind, he thinks, “I need to watch this person to see if his arms raise, perhaps he might strike me.  Maybe his heart rate has increased or his breathing pattern has changed.”  All of these are body language signals watched closely by dogs as they are committed by humans.

What if you are just yelling to your dog about how much you love him?  For your dog to interpret you correctly, you better make sure that the rest of your body language says the same thing.