Can You Fix Aggression In Dogs?
There are many variables when one considers answering this question. The type of aggression is one factor. The severity another. The individual character and genetic stability of nerve is yet another. To fix aggression, we must define it, figure out what kind of aggression it is, where it stems from, evaluate the dog on a personal level and try to undo a lot of issues, habits, miscommunications and more.
Types of aggression in dogs.
● Fear Aggression: Fear aggression is by far the most common type of aggression when talking human aggression in dogs. Dogs that are fear aggressive will often adopt body postures that signal fear while retreating, such as cowering, lip licking and baring teeth.
Many people say there was "no warning" before the bite, and the bite is often a quick bite and release, or several quick bites because the dog simply wants to get away. But, as with most aggression, there are warning signs. The body posturing I mentioned before, the "thousand yard stare" out of the side of their eye. The stiffening of the body etc.
Can fear aggression be cured or fixed? Sadly, no, it can't. A fearful dog who has never been pushed to being aggressive to be left alone can be worked with no problems. But once a dog has learned aggression and can get people to leave it alone, that lesson is never forgotten.
There are many things you can do to manage fear aggression, like work to overcome their specific fears in a purely positive manner. For instance, if your dog is afraid of strangers, turn strangers into treat machines. Have them walk by and toss a high value treat on the ground. Decrease the distance over time etc. The purpose of this article isn't so much to delve into solving the issues, but more so identifying the issue and what can be done about it.
● Territorial Aggression: This one is easily spotted. Territorial aggression is typically the result of an unfamiliar human in the dog’s home or yard. This form of aggression is rooted in fear, but isn't fear aggression. A fear aggressive dog with no territorial aggression isn't going to cross the yard to start a fight. It's going to hide in a corner somewhere. Territorial aggression is a more active form of aggression based in fear.
Some people don't mind this type of aggression as long as the dog can be taught the difference between a stranger who harbors ill-will vs an invited guest. And fortunately, this form of aggression is usually fixable with positive interactions with guests. You can even use corrections to teach a dog territorial aggression won't be allowed towards guests. That's something you cannot do with fear aggression because it'll backfire by making the dog more afraid.
● Idiopathic Aggression: Idiopathic just means "We have no idea what's going on here." If someone is familiar with aggression and cannot tell where aggression is coming from, it's often neurological. Rage Syndrome is a perfect example of an idiopathic aggression. These dogs truly have no warning before an episode, and often appear confused or like they have no recollection of having just bitten someone, often times their own owners, immediately after the episode has ended. This type of aggression isn't fixable and this type of dog will always be unpredictable and dangerous.
If you don't have children or ever have children over, and there are only adults who are fully aware of the risk and don't mind being bitten very hard by a very serious dog with a very serious mental syndrome of some kind, I guess you could keep the dog. Or if the dog lived outside in an escape proof kennel run, that's fine. But for every other situation imaginable, it's best to put a dog with this kind of aggression down. They're a loaded weapon with no safety that automatically targets random individuals and will continue to do it and there's no training, medication or therapy that can fix it or even tone it down.
Luckily, this is the rarest type of aggression. I've only seen it once and it's unnerving. Happy-go-lucky, normal dog who would freeze up like he was having a silent seizure, and randomly attack other dogs, random people etc. Might even skip past the closest person and go for someone else. This dog was only 40lbs but after a few broken fingers, hospital trips and severe dog fights, the family finally gave up and had him humanely euthanized.
● Predatory Aggression: This is a fairly common form of aggression that's often seen in dogs when they're hunting smaller animals like rabbits, squirrels and cats. In instances like these, proofing your obedience will fix your problems.
Things turn left when that aggression is fixated on humans. Predatory aggression is a very serious form. The dog is trying to kill something to satiate its prey drive. You need professional help from a very skilled trainer when a dog shows predatory aggression towards humans. In most cases it can be solved by proofing your dog's obedience, severe cases where a dog views their owner as prey is a dangerous gray area. These are the dogs you read about in the newspaper that killed their owner. Tread carefully and with the help of a qualified professional.
As a side note, this is the aggression most typically seen in dogs that work as police service dogs, military working dogs and the like.
● Dominance Aggression: These are dogs who want to fight. They're not really afraid, nor do they look at their victim as prey. They look at them as a fighting partner. This is the drive that can be seen in fighting breeds and can also be seen in some police service dogs, military working dogs etc. They're fighting to win. The #1 cause of death in adult wolves is being killed by other wolves. This is part territorial aggression and part dominance aggression.
When different types of aggression bleed into each other, it complicates things because you're trying to solve two issues with one training plan.
Dogs with dominance aggression can be controlled with solid obedience in most cases. But they cannot be fixed or cured. It's genetic. It's who they are. What they were born to be. Luckily, it's fairly rare and mostly seen in working dogs and dogs bred to fight. This drive to fight is also sometimes called social-conflict aggression or fight drive.
● Resource Guarding/Possession Aggression: This is another very common form of aggression that can be quite serious. It's simply when a dog will use violence to protect what he or she perceives to be theirs. It's most common over food, but it can extend to toys and even the attention of a person. This is a form of aggression that can be worked with positively with obedience and exercises where you trade something they have with something else. Another thing that helps is to limit toys and food in the open. A dog can't claim what isn't around.
Aggression is a very complex topic. This is just a short overview of the different types and what to expect and where they come from. It would take a whole book to break down the intricate details and how different types of aggression can present themselves at once, or change fluidly in a split second. We hope you have all learned something and if you want us to revisit the topic in detail, let us know in the comments section after hitting like and share. Thank you all.
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