Aggressive Behavior

I want to touch basis on Aggression this month. I get more calls about this issue from owners frustrated and want me to help re-home their dog or ones who have bought from other breeders. Shih Tzus are not known to be aggressive but once in a while we will come across one that does. The term “aggression” can refer to a wide variety of behaviors that can occur for a multiple of reasons for different types of circumstances. In the wild, dogs can be aggressive for many reasons such as guarding their territories, defending their offspring and protecting themselves. Pack animals like dogs can also use aggression and the threat of aggression to keep the peace and to negotiate social interactions.

“Aggressive” can mean different things. Aggression can be a range of different behaviors. Usually aggressive behavior starts with warnings and can escalate into an attack. A dog that shows aggression to people will usually show some of the behaviors below and will increase with intensity, if not corrected early:

  • Becoming very still and rigid

  • Guttural bark that sounds threatening

  • Lunging forward or charging at the person with no contact

  • Mouthing, as though to move or control the person, without applying significant pressure

  • “Muzzle punch” (the dog literally punches the person with her nose)

  • Growl

  • Showing Teeth

  • Snarl / growling while showing teeth

  • Snapping

  • Quick nip that leaves no mark

  • Quick bite that tears the skin

  • Bite with enough pressure to cause a bruise

  • Bite that leaves punctures

  • Repeated bites in rapid succession

  • Bite and shake

Dogs don’t always follow all these behaviors or in this order.However, most owners don’t recognize the warning signs and think that their dog has gone off the deep end, out of nowhere.This isn’t the case. Dogs almost never bite without giving some type of warning behavior. It can be just milliseconds between a warning and a bite, but dogs rarely bite without giving some type of warning beforehand.

Finding Out Why?

If your dog is being aggressive or looks like they are going to become aggressive remove them from the situation.

If your dog has been aggressive in the past, take time to evaluate the situations that have upset them.

  • Who were they aggressive to?

  • When and where did it happen?

  • What else was going on at the time?

  • What had just happened or was about to happen to your dog?

  • What seemed to stop their aggression?

Learning the answers to these questions can provide insight into the reasons for their behavior. If you can determine what motivates your dog to behave aggressively and identify what they hope to gain from their behavior you have a better chance of correcting the behavior. You need to know their triggers and reason for the aggression before you can hope to help your dog.

Here are some interesting facts to keep in mind:

  • 90% of dog bites happen to people who know the dogs

  • Most of the dogs that bite are the family pets

  • 60% to 70% of dog bites are to children or the elderly

  • 40% of the bites to children result in loss of facial tissue (lips, cheek etc.)

  • 1/2 of the claims made on homeowners insurance are dog bites claims

  • Over aggressiveness in dogs has a number of different causes that all can be traced back to

2 different areas: poor breeding or poor socializing.

An over aggressive dog does not just rear its ugly head one day and become a monster. A dog will show signs that it's not a normal friendly pet. As a pup it may have acted timid and wanted nothing to do with strangers or strange places. This behavior can tu

rn them into a bully after growling at people (getting a reaction) who came near its toys or food dish. This is why it is so important to get your puppies from good breeders who socialize them from birth with people, other dogs and different situations. It is also important as the owner to keep the socialization up while they are developing. Exposing them to new people, different situations and reassuring them they are safe and keeping them calm at a young age will help develop a mentally healthy dog.

We can't really blame the average pet owner for missing many of the early warning signs. If someone has never raised a dog before, they had enough problems teaching a puppy not to pee in the house. But this same pet owner still has the responsibility to recognize and correct the problem as their dog becomes overly aggressive at inappropriate times.

There are several different categories of Aggressive Behavior:

  • Territorial Aggression

  • Protective Aggression

  • Possessive Aggression

  • Fear Aggression

  • Defensive Aggression