Fear aggression is referred to both in a canine and in a human psychological context, and it literally means aggression which is induced by fear. In potentially life threatening situations, adrenalin kicks in and the body responds with flight, freeze or fight. Which response the adrenalin generates will depend on personality and past experience. All animals can learn to ‘get the first punch in’ if they have been attacked in the past, instinctively lashing out in a situation where they perceive a possible threat. Some dogs are particularly nervy, and don’t need the negative first experience, they will just lash out when they perceive a danger.
In many cases the perceived threat isn’t actually a threat, so the dog’s attack can appear unprovoked to the untrained eye, however the dog will be attacking for good reason. Bearing in mind that dogs instinctively understand that they should operate in a pack, which does not interact with other packs (unless it is when they are fighting to the death), would be a prey animal for other preditors, does not leave it’s territory, or have others enter it, and is not able to communicate effectively with the species it spends the majority of it’s time with… then the following can give a dog good reason for fear aggression:
- Visitors to the home
- The postman
- Other dogs (not part of the same pack)
- Going out
- Going in a car
- Loud noises
- Sudden movements
- Hair dryers, hoovers, lawn mowers
- Owners shouting
- People approaching them in their personal space (especially when tied up outside shops etc.)
- Larger animals
If you dog is not aggressive, this does not mean it isn’t fearful. Some humans who are regularly on the receiving end of abuse (in the form of verbal intimidation/bullying for instance) may learn to freeze, and take the abuse, rather than run or fight back, fearing that could motivate an attacker further. This can be the case with dogs too. For instance, dogs which cower, urinate or freeze when they are fearful, rather than those which fight back or run off.
Some dogs are blessed with the laid back gene, although the dogs I meet day to day are on the whole, fearful. If you dog is showing fear aggression then you can help it by showing your dog that you are the one who is the decision maker. You decide what is a danger and what isn’t, and if it were a danger, then you would take action. Your dog does not need to rush in teeth first. I can teach you how to do this, so if you want help with dog aggression in Essex then give me a call. Also I’d recommend a read of The Dog Listener, by Jan Fennell.