Chapter 1 - Recognizing Aggression
What do dogs own? Primarily dogs consider themselves owners of: • • • • Themselves and the space around them, Possessions such as beds, toys, bones, chew toys, leash, and food, Home (and yard if they have one) and business (if they go to work with you), and Humans (their owner and their family or pack, sometimes including other pets in the household).
Notsurprisingly, these are the things your dog will want to protect or guard. Whether she is guarding you while on a walk or guarding her food from another dog in the household or keeping the cat off of her bed (or your bed), these are natural and normal behaviors for any dog! Your dog will feel threatened if another dog, a cat, or a human oversteps her boundaries on these things. Do not besurprised to hear a growl or see a snap in these situations. Do not scold your dog for that behavior in these situations. Your dog has as much right to her space and her possessions as you do. Either you can guard her rights and possessions, or she will do it herself. Is guarding the same as aggression? Sometimes a dog that is guarding can be aggressive about it. Some breeds tend to guard veryaggressively. However, if the dog does not feel there is a threat to his ownership, he should not be acting in an aggressive manner. It is usually when someone reaches for the toy or bone he is using that you hear a low, threatening growl. For this reason, family and friends should be warned about any possessions your dog guards aggressively and children should be chaperoned around the dog when the dog hasthose possessions. A bigger problem is the dog who aggressively guards you. This often happens when a dog is raised with a single person and then that person gains a new friend or a significant other. If there is physical closeness, touching, kissing, sitting next to one another on the couch, etc., the dog will very often go ballistic. There may be barking, growling, rushing, even snapping ornipping. In rare cases the dog will go into full attack mode. These dogs may even be fine with the other person walking them, playing with them, stroking them, and feeding them, but the minute that person sits next to or touches their owner, look out! This dog needs to learn “leave it.” (See page 24.) He needs to spend time in his crate in the same room (where he can see the two people beingtogether). This needs to happen every time. If that is the case, starting giving the dog a Kong® with peanut butter to occupy him in the crate. After a couple of weeks, try leaving the crate door open but still give the Kong with peanut butter. If that works, you can 3
probably transition to just giving him the Kong when you want to spend time together. If that does not work, he must continue to beshut in the crate during “together time.” Any dog that guards toys and possessions aggressively should be taught “give” (see page 25) as well as “leave it.” (see page 24) When someone else is in the house (such as a visitor or grandchild), those possessions will have to be hidden from the dog to maintain a safe environment. To identify what kind of aggression is your dog showing and learn moreabout dog aggression, fill in the journal http://www.trainpetdog.com/Journals/DogAggression_Journal.pdf
Aggression or Something Else?
Aggression in dogs is a very broad topic. Unfortunately, many people say “my dog is aggressive on a walk” or “my dog is aggressive to other pets in my household,” but often do not understand the difference between aggression and play, or even calming behaviorsused by dogs. Therefore, the beginning point is to understand and recognize aggression so that you can differentiate aggressive signals and behavior from various other behaviors. That way you will know which behaviors are problematic. Then you can learn how to change the problematic behaviors. A dog can be assertive or possessive without being aggressive. Sometimes curiosity is misinterpreted as...
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