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  • Dealing with Aggression in Dogs

    In this article today I am going to write about the most common attitude that gets most dogs Euthanized or given away to another family or to an animal shelter. That is, aggression, and not being able to handle your dog or cat because of this trait.

    Written and Provided exclusively to Workingdogs.com by Floyd R. Garrett, D.V.M. Copying is not allowed.

    There are many types of aggression and far more than we can talk about in this article. I will write today on the most common of all types of aggression and the reason most dogs or cats end up being Euthanized. This is called dominant aggression. There are many ways to handle this type and I will try to mention most of these.

    First the primary person or master of the dog, plus the secondary master must spend a lot of time with the dog and maintain close contact for several months of training time. Most of the dominant aggressors can be successfully treated but others may not take any treatment and can be very dangerous. Dogs of course came from pack animal types like the wolves. They have a tight social group and recognize dominance with other
    members of the pack or group. Most dogs have a tendency to put the humans they live with in that group or pack. We as humans need to understand canine body language. This tips us off to dominance traits or subordinate traits..

    For example, lets mention some of the body language.: A dominant dog or at least one that is striving for dominance, may mount people, mount people's legs or mount other dogs. This would of course not be related to sex behavior if it is a person or if it is another male dog or a female that is not in heat. This is a signal of challenge. On the other hand some people will reach down and pat a dog on the head or reach down and rub the shoulders or back and get their hand bit. This is showing dominance on your part toward the dog and some dogs will bite at this time because they are or want to be the dominant aggressive party. Another little signal or body language is the stare. This is a dominant - subordinate signal when two dogs stare at each other or a dog and human are staring at each other. The first one to glance away, human or dog, is submitting.

    A misconception some people have involves walking by a dog when it is eating and the dog growls. This makes the person think the dog is growling because he is afraid the human is going to take the food away. WRONG! In most cases the dog is asserting his or her dominance controlling the food. Another signal, if the dog resists being pushed down in a lie down or rollover position which is submission. The most dominant aggressive dog is usually most aggressive to family members and people he or she knows or has an established relationship.

    A lot of these dogs will be non-aggressive to strangers or for example to Vets:; If I could have a dollar for every client that told me be very careful with their dog when I examine it because he or she bites, and yet I don't get bit and the dog is fairly nice, I would be rich:, This of course is not the rule and can't be totally counted on There is stranger-directed aggression and it is extremely dangerous, mostly because the family members or master usually has poor control over, the dog.

    To treat the dominant aggressor there are some basic rules:

    • Avoid situations that lead to an escalation of aggression. AVOID BITES!!
    • Don't ever try to punish or "have it out" with the dog showing YOU ARE THE BOSS: the dog already has an established problem this can lead to a significant escalation of aggression.
    • Use an approach that gradually reverses the dominance order or social standing The end result being a subordinate dog.
    • In some of the most recent cases I have had, the use of chemical treatment has modified the behavior and helped with the treatment and retraining. A drug I have used has been Prozac which is common in human medicine now.


    The first step in retraining the aggression is obedience. If the dog obeys the sit, stay and heel commands it is a start toward establishing dominance on your part and submission on the dog's part. Establishing dominance during this time by also putting your hand on the head and petting, also rub the shoulders, etc. Try staring in the eyes until the dog looks away. Do all these things slowly and at the right time. Do these things often as you must to establish your dominance over the dog. It is unacceptable for the dog to jump on the furniture or bed unless you call the dog up or say it is okay. If it goes up on a chair without your calling it up there, then call the dog down, make it get off the furniture when you say so. All of this behavior modification takes
    months but it can be done.

    Written and Provided exclusively to Workingdogs.com by Floyd R. Garrett, D.V.M. Copying is not allowed.