Part Two of little things lead to big things
What causes dog aggression? When I last wrote about this, I pointed out to all of you, my readers, that when a dog is behaving badly or does something that we humans view as bad, it does not come out of the blue yonder. Little things lead to big things over time.
Just as a dog, or any animal for that matter, is trained in small steps leading up to the desired trick or behaviour, it is the same for the undesired and dangerous dog behaviors.
The majority of dog owners don’t want their dogs to attack or bite another human yet it keeps happening again and again. I say ‘majority’, because there are people who seem to enjoy having their dogs terrorize other people. We used to have neighbours like that. A couple of Rotties living not far from us, were continually chasing anyone on a bike, confronted anyone on foot, and it got especially bad if anyone was walking their dog. We learned to walk in pairs, one person holding a bat, a sling shot or finally I purchased a bb pistol for these walks. I guess you could say we always had someone ‘walking shotgun’.
Now as to the majority of dog owners, most of that group are well meaning but simply don’t realize that they may be in inadvertently training or conditioning their dogs to be violent and reactive. I recently came across a story from the Sun, in the UK. A little two year old was mauled by a pack of American Bully dogs, These particular dogs were/are XL American bully dogs which are the result of cross breeding with Mastiff breeds.
Two of those dogs have already been euthanized,
the rest are in limbo for now (at the time the story came out). The little girl is in serious condition but not life threatening at this time. I can imagine the terror of that little girl and her Aunt, who rescued her, as the dogs were tearing at her face and limbs. Yet at the same time, I also understand the bloodlust that dogs can go through, one dog attacks and the others join in (as I have mentioned in another article). Dogs don’t stop to think, they just react.
I am guessing, from the pictures of the dogs (in the paper), that it was the breeding pair that instigated the attack, led by the Alpha or dominant dog and the others followed. It may have been the high pitched excited screams from the 3 playing children that stimulated the predatory instincts in these dogs. *Note- this story is from earlier in 2017.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of similar stories like this,
from Sled dogs, to Pit Bulls, to Mastiffs and so on. Some breeds are more reactive to stimuli and have a high prey drive. Take a powerful breed with a high prey drive, over reactive to stimulation and now throw in lack of good training and socialization… you may have a very dangerous dog if the conditions are ripe.
I was shocked when I did some research on stories about people who are mauled and killed by dogs in the USA . Wikipedia has charts with links to their original news reports. There is also an article for Canada and the Uk but the results there are not as extensive. Most of the dogs that caused deaths in Canada were listed as sled dogs, and packs of roaming dogs in the North.
Don’t think your family dog would ever kill? A dog does not need to be an abused and neglected dog to kill. When a dog has no respect for a human, and his or her prey drive is activated (often called blood lust), the result can be deadly. What shocked me further from these stats is that most of the human victims were children, many of them babies in their cribs, and elderly people who were frail.
When our children were babies, I could trust them completely with our Golden Retriever, Chelsea. She absolutely adored everyone, especially children. Our dogs, and we have had many over the years, were always taught respect first through teaching boundaries. This inspires trust and is further cemented through affection. In that order. I found it interesting that there was not a single fatality caused by a Golden Retriever. There was actually one caused by a Pomeranian, biting a 1 month old baby’s head when the mother left the room.
In the Wikipedia article, People killed by dogs in the USA
were dominantly breeds like Pit Bulls, Pit Bull crosses, Staffies, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, American Bulldogs, Huskies, and mixed crosses . There were other breeds represented too of course, and in some cases the breeds were not known.
It became apparent to me that unless you own a dog (as gentle and trustworthy as our Chelsea), NEVER leave your dog or dogs alone with your young child. It only takes a few moments for a dog to inflict fatal damage to a young baby or toddler’s vital areas. Doubtful? Read the article above in Wikipedia and do a Google Search for yourself.
The image on the right is a sweet picture of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Staffie), that had to be destroyed because the dog (Marley) got out of his yard and went on a rampage.
Marley ran over to a playground and mauled 12 children while their parents tried desperately to rescue their children. The running screaming children would have put this dog’s high prey drive and over reaction to stimuli at 100%.
The owner admitted the dog had bitten two people years before but despite an order to destroy the dog, she had kept Marley. The owner has been given 4 years in prison for her part in this travesty.
I agree with the verdict, owners that have let their dogs down and have endangered lives, deserve jail time and more. It’s not this dog’s fault but unfortunately Marley became too dangerous.
Those of you with small dogs will probably not wind up with a killer on your hands
no matter the training, but little dogs can inflict painful bites too. The photo on the right, is a Cocker Spanial. I used to groom a few Cocker Spanials, that all came from one breeder. All of them were over reactive, and anxious, and had to be handled carefully, very carefully, on the grooming table.
These Spanials came from different mothers but all had the same father. I used to groom the father or sire of these dogs, and he was a sweetheart except for one thing, he went nuts if he was kenneled (anxiety).
Why were the behaviors worse in his offspring? I am going to say, lack of the right training, and too much pampering.Yes, just as you can wind up with a brat of a kid, when there is a lack of balanced parenting with your children, same thing happens with animals. Not too harsh but not too soft either.
Those of you with large powerful dogs,
need to be very mindful of the damage an uncontrolled dog can inflict. Our society has a very low tolerance for dog bites these days and it is mostly the dogs that pay the final price. Some towns and cities have a one bite policy, meaning either your dog is never allowed off your property or place of residence without a muzzle or may have to be put down. Not fair to the dog or the dog owner I say. Where is the chance for rehabilitation for the dog? Education for the dog owner?
That is exactly my aim here, to try and prevent more loss of life (for human and dog) through education. As I have talked about in a previous article, What does a dog need?, dogs need guidance to live peaceably in a world dominated by humans. Even seemingly little things like allowing your dog to jump on you, to walk ahead of you on a leash or to push ahead of you at a doorway lead to more disrespect.
Allowing your dog to sleep in bed with you, if the dog is dominant, that privilege puts your dog on even pack status with you. Same with dominant dogs, taking over furniture. Even more medium dominant dogs will become bolder, and from their way of thinking, their status in the pack has just risen when he or she can take the best resting spots or can push his owner around.
From my experience though, an insecure dog is harder to train than a dominant one. Training methods for both must be consistent and firm but one has to be very careful not to cuddle and comfort an insecure dog. To do so with a insecure or frightened dog, only entrenches that fear and insecurity deeper.
Here’s a quick check list of possible causes for dog aggression:
1.- Not enough exercise every single day to burn off excess energy and boredom
2.- Bad food, and bad treats that have ingredients in them that make your dog irritable and unhealthy.
3.- The dog might be in pain physically, especially an older dog.
3.- The dog has never been taught to respect a person’s boundaries, regarding jumping up, pushing himself in front of you, taking over furniture, guarding his toys and treats and pulling you along with the leash.
4.-The dog is afraid and insecure, making him or her defensive in an aggressive way. Coddling and pampering a dog at the wrong time is only going to create an insecure dog and make an already frightened dog worse. Reaching out to an insecure dog or cornering one, is going to result in a bite.
5.- There are some dogs, very rare, that are born unstable. Dogs like these require experienced dog owners. In the wrong hands, they are ticking time bombs of aggression. I used to own a dog like this. I chose to euthanize her humanely, rather than wait until she had done serious damage. I believe she was a dog/coyote hybrid and that made her more feral than domestic as a dog.
In summary, please don’t blame your dogs behavior on your dog, he or she depends on you for guidance in this big world. Calling your dog names like stupid, dumb, and worse, doesn’t solve the problems. In fact you may as well be calling yourself those names, because your dog is a product of your training or lack of it.
Your dog is the product of his or her environment and breeding too, all brought about by humans. If you are a new dog owner, check out the Basic Manners page. If you are a dog owner needing some extra help with training or behaviour problems, teaching basic manners will help immensely, wouldn’t you agree? Little things lead to big things is something to think about when you are wondering what causes dog aggression.
Until next time…. Happy Training!
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