Jim Gillies CDBC is a highly experienced and qualified dog behaviourist in Glasgow. With over a decade of experience working with dogs and their owners, Jim has earned a reputation as a trusted expert in his field. He is dedicated to promoting positive reinforcement and reward-based training techniques, always prioritising the well-being of the dogs he works with.
What is Dog Aggression?
Defining aggression in dogs can be a challenging affair. In an attempt to select the most comprehensive definition, it is behaviour directed towards the elimination of an offender by injuring, inflicting pain, or giving a reliable warning of such impending consequences if it takes no evasive action. Aggression can range from reliable warnings of impending damaging behaviour, such as growling and snapping, to injurious behaviours such as biting (Abrantes, 2018).
The Benefits of Aggressive Behaviour
Aggression in dogs can be viewed in the context of the development of social communication. There is little benefit to dogs engaged in conflict to fight to the death.
Ritualised behaviour has developed so that dogs can communicate their intent, negating the requirement for actual physical conflict. Aggression then becomes an indicator of a dog’s intent.
This display of aggression facilitates the formation of social bonds among dogs and promotes their ability to survive and coexist in a state of relative harmony (Laidre and Johnstone, 2013).
Types of Dog Aggression
There are multiple types of aggression that dogs can display. All aggression should be assessed in the context of the range of circumstances that induce aggression.
Here are some of the main categories of aggression in dogs:
- Fear aggression – dogs can become aggressive when they feel threatened or scared by a particular situation or stimulus.
- Resource guarding – also known as resource guarding, this type of aggression occurs when a dog is protective of their food, toys, or other items they consider valuable.
- Maternal aggression – female dogs can become aggressive when they are protecting their young puppies.
- Territorial aggression – dogs can become aggressive when they feel their territory is being threatened, such as when strangers enter their home.
- Redirected aggression – this type of aggression occurs when a dog becomes aggressive towards an object or person it cannot reach, redirecting its aggression towards something or someone else.
- Consequential aggression – when a dog becomes aggressive due to the consequences of specific behaviour, such as being scolded or punished for misbehaving.
- Inter-male aggression – male dogs can become aggressive towards other male dogs,
- Predatory aggression – dogs can become aggressive when they are hunting or chasing prey.
- Sex-related aggression – dogs can become aggressive during mating, especially if they are competing with other dogs.
- Idiopathic aggression – sometimes, aggression in dogs can be difficult to categorise and may not have an obvious trigger.
- Dominance aggression – dogs can utilise aggressive strategies (usually through the form of ritualised aggression) when competing with members of their species when contesting a primary resource ( food, mates, locations etc.)
- Canine Cognitive Decline – older dogs may develop aggression due to age-related changes in their behaviour.
Understanding Aggressive Behaviour in Domestic Animals: Prevention and Treatment
Aggressive behaviour in domestic animals can be a result of several factors, including lack of socialisation and ineffective communication skills. In this part of the article, we will discuss the importance of socialisation, how aggressive behaviour can be learned, and methods for treating aggression in domestic animals.
The Importance of Socialisation
Animals are not born with innate social skills, and therefore, they must be developed. The lack of socialisation can result in an animal’s inability to interpret social cues, leading to aggressive behaviour. This highlights the importance of socialisation (Udell and Wynne, 2008).
Dog Aggression as a Learned Behaviour
Aggressive behaviour can be viewed as a learned behaviour. This is due to the positive outcomes that result from displays of aggression. If an animal uses aggression and it works, then it is more likely to use it again. This cycle repeats and becomes reinforced every time the aggressive behaviour is rewarded (Lindsay and Voith, 2013).
Prevention and Management of Dog Aggression
Prevention and management should be the primary focus when dealing with aggressive behaviour in animals. Until an animal has undergone behaviour modification, it should not be put in situations that increase the likelihood of aggression. Keeping the animal below its threshold at all times is crucial. If an animal has a significant bite history, it is recommended to consult a qualified behaviourist and a veterinary professional for a full medical check-up.
Establishing the Target of Dog Aggression
The first step in modifying aggressive behaviour is to establish the target of aggression. Ethologically evaluating the situation helps to determine the immediate and historical conditions that result in an aggressive response. Evaluating the animal’s reaction to the offending stimulus is also essential, including any signs of displacement or calming signals.
The Impact of Arousal on Dog Aggression
When an animal sees an offending stimulus, it causes an increase in arousal levels that rise until the threshold is reached in the limbic system. The cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher brain function, is inhibited, compromising the animal’s learning capacity. In this highly aroused state, an animal’s response is purely emotional, and the animal is unlikely to respond to an owner’s requests (Lindsay and Voith, 2013).
Techniques for Modifying Dog Aggression
Before attempting to modify behaviour, a “safe distance” must be established to ensure low arousal levels that promote high learning levels. Tools such as harnesses, muzzles and multi clip training leads can help with control and safety. It is also crucial to adhere to loose leash protocols, as pressure from the leash can increase arousal levels, increasing thresholds. Aversive tools such as prong collars, choke collars, and shock collars should never be used.
Addressing Aggressive Behaviour in Cockapoos and other breeds
When it comes to understanding and managing aggressive behaviour in dogs, it’s essential to consider a wide range of breeds, including popular ones like the cockapoo. Many pet owners wonder, “how to stop an aggressive cockapoo” when faced with aggressive tendencies in their beloved pets. While this article primarily focuses on ethological perspectives related to dog aggression, the principles discussed can be applied to various breeds, including the cockapoo.
We’ll delve into the factors affecting dog aggression, such as breed differences, individual traits, and owner interactions, providing insights into why dogs exhibit aggressive behaviour and effective methods for behaviour modification. So, whether you own an English Springer Spaniel or a cockapoo, the principles of addressing aggression remain applicable to ensure a harmonious relationship between you and your dog.
Desensitisation and Counter Conditioning for Dog Aggression
Desensitisation involves gradual exposure to the offending stimulus at a low level to prevent an adverse reaction. Counterconditioning pairs the offending stimulus with primary reinforcement, such as food, toys, or praise, conditioning a positive emotional response that eliminates fear or aversion, negating the reason for aggressive behaviour.
Aggressive behaviour in domestic animals can be prevented and modified by following the above techniques. It is essential to consult a qualified behaviourist and a veterinary professional before starting any behaviour modification program. Understanding the root cause of aggressive behaviour is the first step towards a successful behaviour modification program.
Resources from a World Renowned Dog Aggression Expert
If you are interested in learning more about dog aggression, check out our podcast with Michael Shikashio who is a certified dog behaviour consultant and the founder of AggressiveDog.com, where he helps dog owners and trainers understand and manage aggressive behaviour in dogs.
With over 25 years of experience in animal welfare and behaviour, Michael has a wealth of knowledge and insights to share with us today. In this interview, we’ll be talking about common misconceptions about aggression in dogs, the latest research and techniques for preventing and managing aggressive behaviour, and much more.
Jim Gillies, a Certified Dog Behaviourist and Trainer in Glasgow with over 10 years of experience, prioritises canine well-being through modern, science-backed methods. Handling 4000+ cases of 1-to-1 behaviour training, Jim is fully accredited, insured, and recognised for addressing various behavioural issues including aggression, separation anxiety, and more. Jim holds qualifications in level 5 (merit) Advance Diploma Canine Behaviour Management and level 6 Applied Animal Behaviour. Explore his insightful blog and podcast, sharing expert knowledge on dog training and behaviour. Certified by the IAABC, Jim’s expertise makes him a reliable choice for addressing your dog’s needs.
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FAQ: Understanding Dog Aggression
1. What is dog aggression?
2. Why do dogs display aggressive behavior?
3. How is aggression classified in dogs?
4. Why is socialisation important for dogs?
5. Can aggression in dogs be a learned behaviour?
6. How can dog aggression be prevented or managed?
7. How do you establish the target of a dog’s aggression?
8. What impact does arousal have on a dog’s aggression?
9. Are there specific techniques to modify aggressive behavior in dogs?
10. Can the principles discussed in the article be applied to any breed?
11. What is desensitization and counter-conditioning?
12. Why should one consult a behaviorist or veterinarian for aggressive behavior in dogs?
13. Where to surrender an aggressive dog uk?
14. Where to surrender an aggressive dog near me?
15. Does raw meat make dogs aggressive?
16. Are English Bulldogs aggressive dogs?