One of the most common problems I am asked to give seminars on, or help pet owners with, is “aggression”. However this label can be very misleading.
Aggression is a response to something in the environment. So the important part of helping the animal is to try and find out what is motivating the behaviour.
The most likely cause of aggression is linked to fear. Other causes such as pain or an underlying medical condition may also be involved. Consequently a visit to the vets is crucial.
For dogs, owners often try and expose them to the things they are fearful of. They think that this will help them overcome their fear. Unfortunately, in most cases, this only makes the situation worse. Forcing the dog into a frightening situation can be dangerous and usually makes them more sensitised. This creates more tension which can lead to a bite.
The Canine Ladder of Aggression, designed by Kendall Shepherd, shows how aggression can progress. Being able to identify canine body language is a key method of helping prevent problems.
What can we do for fear aggression?
The list below gives some of the strategies that usually form part of a behaviour plan:
- Identify the underlying cause.
- Teach owners how to train the dog a set of alternative behaviours. This helps them cope better.
- Teach the dog some relaxation cues.
- Provide a structured desensitisation and counter-conditioning training plan.
- Advise on dietary modification.
- Help and support the owner as they often get stressed too!
http://www.theyellowdogproject.com has some great resources for dogs that need more space when out on walks.
This book also makes for some very good reading particularity for dogs that exhibit fearful aggression towards other dogs:
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If you are having difficulties with your pet or want to find out more on this topic just contact me to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, check out my courses page for forthcoming events.