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Copyright 2000 Canine College of California
you are walking down the street with your dog. Another
dog and owner comes toward you. You start to pull your
dog closer, when, all of a sudden, your dog lunges at
the dog and owner, making sounds that roughly translate
into “I'm going to kill you!” How do you
you yank on the dog's leash? Do you yell “NO!”?
Do you pet your dog or hold him to try to calm him down?
If you do any of these thing, you're doing the doggie
equivalent of saying “Good dog, do that again!”
Now the next time your dog faces a similar situation,
the result will be the same.
what just happened?
are highly social, to the point of compulsion. When
dogs spot another dog on the street, they want to approach
and investigate. When they try to “go say hi”
they hit the end of the leash and get frustrated. That
frustration translates into increased excitement and
agitation – sometimes lunging at the end of the
leash, barking, growling or snapping at the other dog.
behavior scares the owner, who in turn may yank of the
dog's leash, start tensing up before encounters, deliberately
avoid other people and dogs on walks or even punish
the owner begins to anticipate any situation that might
trigger this behavior. Spotting an approaching dog or
person before the dog does, the owner tightens up on
the leash so he can control the dog better, stiffens
his own body posture and holds his breath. The dog notices
the change in the leash tension, the owner's body posture
and breathing, and begins looking to see what has the
owner so worried, and once he spots it, begins his aggressive
teaches your dog that when he sees other people or dogs
on walks, he will feel frustrated, feel his owner's
tension and associate that with the upcoming punishment.
can you do to solve the problem? Here's the basics:
Take the time to teach your dog self control and basic
obedience commands which you can reinforce, and praise
his good behavior.
alert to the earliest signs. No dog
spends his entire life in an aggressive state. Learn
what body language your dog exhibits when he is calm
and relaxed, and what changes occur as he moves into
a more aggressive mood. Watch for changes in ears, head
and neck carriage, eye shape and expression, mouth and
whisker changes, tail carriage and overall posture.
Intervention at the first sign of a problem is more
successful than trying to deal with the full blown aggression.
the dog's attention. By giving a command
he knows in a cheerful, upbeat tone, you can redirect
the dog's attention back to working with you. If possible,
change direction and move away from the situation -
the dog cannot walk briskly with you and be aggressive
at the same time.
the body posture, change the emotional state.
Body language is nothing more than an external expression
of an internal state. It is possible to change an emotional
state by changing body posture and vice versa. This
is why the advice to "Stand up straight, smile
and you'll feel better" actually works! In the
case of aggression, imagine how hard it would be to
be angry if you were sitting in a comfortable chair
with your face and head relaxed.
a dog, you can physically change the body posture, and
thus shift the emotional state, by simply asking the
dog to sit (a neutral, non-aggressive position) and
using your hands to stroke ears, mouth, head and hackles
back to a more relaxed position. This is not petting,
and you are not trying to reassure the dog. Concentrate
on changing the body posture using firm strokes of your
hands at the same time you insist the dog sit quietly
with no tension on the leash. This very simple technique
is amazingly effective.
aware of your breathing and body posture . Since
we tend to hold our breath and thus tense our muscles
when nervous (facts that do not escape the dog), it
is important to breathe in a more normal fashion. The
easiest way is to either sing or tell the dog a fairy
tale, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears. While
this sounds silly, the very silliness keeps you calm
and relaxed. How uptight can you get talking about a
blonde and three bears in the woods?
the leash loose. Remember tension on
the leash encourages aggressive behavior. Put the dog
under a command, like "sit", using the leash
if needed to help him, but then immediately loosen all
tension on the leash. This does NOT mean to give the
dog the full freedom of his leash - keep your hand on
the leash in such a way so that if needed you can quickly
control him, but do not have any tension on the leash.
If the dog breaks position, quietly remind him what
he was asked to do, and reposition him.
the difference between aggression and an appropriate
response to rudeness. Far too many dogs
are labeled aggressive when in fact they are responding
in a perfectly appropriate canine fashion to rudeness.
This usually occurs with others dogs whose owners allow
them to be very rude because they believe that their
dog is simply saying "hello" to your dog.
What is really happening is a canine version of a complete
stranger rushing up to you and hugging & kissing
you! If you verbally snapped at such a person and pushed
him away, you would be well within your rights, and
not considered aggressive. Don't let your dog be rude,
and try to protect him from well meaning but uninformed
owners who allow their dogs to be rude.
doesn't equal murder! Very few canine
arguments result in any serious injuries. Though it
is scary when dogs snap, growl and bark, remember that
dog behavior is mostly posturing and threats designed
to avoid real conflict. Just as you may raise your voice
when upset to warn someone that you are angry, this
does not mean you will escalate to real violence. Your
dog uses his body language and vocalizations in the
same way. Should a physical conflict arise, most dogs
have bite inhibition and rarely inflict any serious
damage. Knowing this allows you to stay calmer, and
not imagine the worst!
College of California
Pests into Pets”