Most people who click to read this blog will do so expecting there to be a check list of things to look out for to know whether or not their dog is an inherently aggressive dog. This is because is a perception that there is such a thing and if you have an ‘aggressive dog‘ it will always be aggressive. It is on this notion that people re-home, or euthanase their dogs, believing that there is no hope for them, even though they love their dogs very much. Hopefully in the next couple of paragraphs I will change that perception.
I work with all sorts of dog behaviour problems, looking at the reasons behind the problem, and taking the pressure away from the dog so it doesn’t need to act that way any more… Recently a couple of clients who’s dogs have bitten have asked me whether their dog counts as an aggressive dog, as their friends and family have been telling them that there is no hope and their dog has bitten once, so will always bite, so they should get rid of it. These clients haven’t want to go down that road, so were asking my opinion before they gave into the pressure their peers were putting on them. The way I got them to think about this is by imaging that one of their children had lashed out at someone; would they get rid of their child, believing there was no hope for them, or would they find out why they had lashed out, and help them to understand that was unacceptable behaviour, and work to protect them from anyone who was antagonising them?
This is easier with a child because you can speak to them and find out what the problem was. You would most likely find out that they were either afraid, or angry about something, and they would be able to explain exactly why it ‘wasn’t their fault’ – you could then teach them right from wrong. The dog would have the same story! They would either be biting out of fear that they, or someone in their pack, was in danger, or because they felt that they needed to discipline a pack member who was challenging their authority over something. As their owners you can help to show them that they aren’t in danger, and that they aren’t in charge so it isn’t their responsibility to be the disciplinarian. It is also your responsibility to let others who will interact with your dog know the appropriate way of doing so, so that they don’t give him/her a reason for biting.
If you dog HAS bitten already, it doesn’t mean it will do it again, but what is DOES mean is that you need to take it seriously, and start giving it the right information. The best way of doing this will be to get a dog listener to come and go through everything with you and your family, so you can ensure that you all know what to do. I am based in Essex and will travel to parts of Kent, London and Suffolk as well. I am part of a network of Dog Listeners throughout the world, so if you are outside of my reach, then I can put you in touch with someone closer. Please please remember that your dog is an animal, and given the wrong signals will need to defend, just as any other animal would. There is no such thing as an ‘aggressive dog’ so if we take away the reason for the aggression we take away the aggression.
If you have any questions on this topic, please post them below.