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Aggression - what is it?

Well, we could say that it is an inappropriate response to something that causes you concern. With your dog that could be just barking, or it could be something much worse…. like a baring of teeth or a bite. And what level of a bite? Is it just mouthing or as some would say puppy biting or something much worse?

Usually, we see the word aggression used when a dog has “gone for” another dog or person. But we have reason to believe that the law goes much further than that and under the Dangerous Dog Act of 1990, a person only must show that he or she was afraid for the law to kick in and you as the owner are in deep trouble. So, it is our responsibility as dog owners not to put our dog into a situation that it cannot cope with.

For example, you know that your dog cannot cope with lots of excited children running about – so don’t take them to a place where they must face that. Your dog does not like walking along a road – the noise of the traffic is too much for him – so avoid this as much as possible. If you must walk along a road, then choose your time and try and act as matter as fact as you can. Your dog hates dogs rushing up into his space – so don’t take him to the park on a Sunday afternoon, where he is likely to meet lots of “out of control” dogs. It is up to us to allow our dogs to cope with what they can and not expect too much of them. This should not be a problem until you find that you cannot take your dog anywhere at all. Then it is a problem, and it is up to you to try and do something about it.

Firstly, does your dog believe that you have the right to take of him? Does he respect that you are the decision maker and know what you are doing? If you have any doubts, then you need to be working with us on a weekly basis, so that we can support you as teach your dog to listen to you. Join our life skills and beginners socialisation classes on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Remember your dog needs help and if you fail to do this, then to make sure that they stay safe, they will take all the decisions including dealing with all those silly people who want to pat them on the head, allow their dogs to jump all over them and generally control who comes to the “den”. For whatever reason, you have given them that job and you need to take that back. After all, how can they make decisions like that when just the dog? Once you have regained control, then you will see that they start to relax a lot more, may even put on a bit of weight – they have stopped worrying and start to play and enjoy life again. And even better, the aggression has stopped.

In our experience, aggression is usually caused by FEAR but not necessarily fear of what is happening at that moment but fear of the consequences of what might happen. A young puppy that has been properly socialised will have less fear than one that has not. But fear is normal as that is how they learn. We need to be careful how we react when they are fearful. A mother dog is usually brilliant at bringing up her young – but then we interfere and “screw” it up. Take for an example, the young dog the first time it is frightened, what we do – try and reassure it and pet it when you should be firstly not putting them in that situation but if you have been caught out, then you should be very clear and confident and help your dog get through the situation. Reassurance is fine but try and be practical first.

Sadly, there are sometimes when the fear is so ingrained, that it will take many months to help your dog, but believe me it is worth it. Barney had a terrible start with some awful men at 5 – 6 months old, but he has been with us ever since. Every so often, we see that fear come bubbling up – it is up to us to reassure and redirect this – he loves his sniffing and nosework – but if he’s bored, then the true guarding instinct comes out – it become very noisy! The solution is to give him something to do – even sprinkles in the garden will help.

Basic training is important, but we also need your dog to make sure they know how to react when you are not giving it a command. That is behaviour and that is learnt by example and by experience through repetition. We need to get your dog to make better decisions, in a safe and secure environment which we can control which is why we offer our regular life skills training sessions, so you learn how to make the right confident decisions. There will be a lot of laughs, lot of hard work, but the hardest thing is that you contact us to ask for help. You will learn that you are amongst friends who are all in the same boat as you. We can all help each other, and your dog can learn to relax and just be your dog.

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