?Aggression in dogs is the most serious behavior problem that pet
owners must deal with, and it is largely preventable if the owner
understands canine growth periods and the factors that influence the
development of aggressive behavior.
Health authorities report that more than one million people are bitten
each year, but this number probably represents only half the actual
bites; the rest go unreported. Although many bite wounds are minor,
experts have reported that bites account for one percent of all
emergency room admissions and cost about $30 million in annual health
care. At least half of dog bite victims are young children, usually
under 10 years of age.?
?Dog aggression is any behavior meant to intimidate or harm a person
or another animal. Growling, baring teeth, snarling, snapping and
biting are all aggressive behaviors. Although aggressive behaviors are
normal for dogs, they?re generally unacceptable to humans. From a
dog's perspective, there?s always a reason for aggressive behavior.
Because humans and dogs have different communication systems,
misunderstandings can occur between the two species. A person may
intend to be friendly, but a dog may perceive that person's behavior
as threatening or intimidating. Dogs aren?t schizophrenic, psychotic,
crazy, or necessarily "vicious," when displaying aggressive behavior.?
San Francisco SPCA
?Some dramatic looking, non-injurious squabbling between dogs is
normal - it is the dog equivalent of human arguments. Problems arise
when such altercations are non-ritualized (i.e. dogs are being
seriously injured) or when the incidence is greatly elevated.
Dogs that have serious difficulties with other dogs often have similar
issues as dogs that have problems with people: resource guarding
(against dogs), undersocialization (to dogs) and poor bite inhibition.
Dogs will also occasionally learn that it is fun to bully other dogs.
Treatment efforts may include desensitization and counterconditioning,
remedial socialization, prompting and selective reinforcement of more
polite on-leash manners and changing the consequences for dogs that
Beta Dog Aggression Syndrome
Behavior Case of the Month
?Does your dog growl at you? Do your neighbors complain about your
dog growling at them? Has your dog ever snapped at or bitten someone
in front of you? What did you do??
?It is quite natural for dogs to be protective of food, bones, and
other valuables because experience has often taught them that if other
dogs "borrow" or expropriate valuable possessions, they may never see
Tug of War & Keep Away
?Trainers disagree about whether or not to recommend playing tug
of war with dogs. While this game works fine for some, problems result
for others. Factors to consider include the temperament of the dog,
the temperament(s) of the people who will interact with the dog, the
dog's physique and your lifestyle.
The Game Plan
Trainers have long used tug of war to reward dogs in training for
tasks requiring high-drive behavior. They also use it to get a dog
juiced up for a more driven performance. You might see this in police
dog work and in competition agility.
As trainers gain skill, tug of war games with their dogs become
goal-oriented and carefully structured. The dog learns to play only
when the handler initiates the game and to release the tug object
immediately on the handler's cue. The handler may be the only one who
plays tug of war with the dog. Tug of war is appropriate for this
Dog-handling skill requires time and practice to develop. Most people
who start out training a dog don't continue to competitive or
professional levels. Without training for control, tug of war can
become a dangerous idea in the dog's head.?
?For years we have been told not to play tug 'o war with our dogs. We
were told it would make them aggressive & we'd end up getting bitten.
Yet, many of us played it anyway with no problems. How come? Well,
because most of us played by the rules, even if unknowingly. And if
you play by the rules, tug games are not only acceptable but should be
encouraged as a great way to play with your dog!
Tug games provide great exercise (for both of you) and can be played
inside in a small area. Quick games of tug are great rewards for
obedience training, too! However, there are some very important rules
which MUST be followed. If you don't, you may very well up with a dog
that becomes unacceptably aggressive.
Be cautioned, as well, that I still don't recommend tug games for dogs
that are already showing aggression toward their owners! But for the
average pet who isn't having dominance issues at home, tug games are
?Tug of war, for some reason, has gotten a bad rap," says Best Friends
professional trainer Lisa Judge (North Plainfield, NJ). "When played
correctly, by your rules, tug-of-war is actually a natural outlet for
energy and exercise, and promotes real bonding between you and your
dog." What's more, Judge added, some dogs have a very high "play
drive," and a game of tug-of-war can be used as a reward.?
Avoid Keep Away
?Avoid any action that might be mistaken as a challenge or teasing.
Don't hover and pounce. Avoid games of keep-away, taunting the dog
with the toy before it is thrown, wrenching it out of the dog's mouth
after a momentary game of tug-of-war, and dangling the toy out of
reach or behind your back to keep the dog from grabbing it away from
you. These games increase dominant, pushy behavior. These might be
good ways to entice a shy dog to play, but should be avoided with a
highly motivated, confident dog. A dog who enjoys playing these games
with the adults in the family cannot possibly know that it isn't the
same game when the five-year-old holds his peanut butter sandwich
above his head. Tug-of-war games become merely annoying when clean
laundry is ripped from the clothesline - its a dangerous game when the
adult dog plays it with a passer-by on a bicycle, or snares a running
?In essence, disc play with your dog is just an elaborate game of
retrieval. Retrieval can be taught with any number of objects and many
times it is appropriate to begin training with something less
intimidating than a hard plastic disc. Many people actually turn their
dogs off to the disc in the early stages of training because the
animal is struck by the disc due to the owners over exuberance and
lack of forethought. Don't make this mistake. Start out with something
soft and easy for the dog to sink its teeth into. Rope, rubber and
faux fleece toys serve this purpose quite well. Regardless of what you
choose, be certain it is something both you and your dog will be
comfortable using. The object must be easy to throw and pick up.
Before you begin, choose your retrieval object and make sure you have
at least two that are very similar or identical. Being able to
exchange one item for another of equal or better value is a crucial
element in converting prey drive to play and will help you avoid
accidentally training the dog to play keep away.?
?Territorial behavior in domestic dogs reminds us of their
wolf-like ancestors. The information gathered by wild animals during
their territorial investigation is crucial to their survival. Regular
patrols provide details regarding natural resources, such as the odors
of prey. Territorial investigation also allows detection of intruders
that could compete for food and water or threaten the safety of the
young. Males tend to explore larger ranges than do females, and young
males often break away from the pack to wander alone or in small
groups. Dogs "claim" their territory by leaving deposits of urine or
?The desire to protect the home or den was probably one of the
fundamental reasons why man and dog became such close companions.
Today, with crime on the rise, the dog is still valued as a protector
of our home and family. Unfortunately, some dogs take this role a bit
too far. It is clearly the responsibility of the dog owner to keep the
family dog under control.?
?Dogs and cats are territorial animals. This means that they "stake
out a claim" to a particular space, area or object. They let other
people and animals know about their claim by marking it with a variety
of methods and at many levels of intensity. For example, a dog may
bark to drive away what he perceives as intruders to his territory. A
cat may mark a valued object by rubbing it with her face.
Some pets may go to the extreme of urinating or defecating to mark a
particular area as their own. Urine-marking is not a house soiling
problem, but is a territorial behavior. Therefore, to resolve the
problem, you need to address the underlying reasons for your pet's
need to mark his territory in this way.?
Phobias & Anxiety
?A fear is classified as a phobia when it is out of proportion to
the danger of the real situation. Phobias generally become worse, not
better, with repeated exposures. Dogs with mild noise phobia may look
anxious during thunderstorms, tremble, hide under the bed or in the
bathtub, and be afraid to go out of doors for hours after the storm
has passed. If your dog suffers mildly, the best you can do is train
him to go to a certain place in the house where he feels comfortable;
some dogs like to go into an open crate, some like the bathtub or
?Phobias can develop from a single experience (one event learning) or
from continued exposure to the fearful stimulus. Although some dogs
react with a mild fear response of panting and pacing, others get
extremely agitated and may become destructive or panicked. These dogs
are experiencing a phobic response to the stimulus. These phobias may
develop because of an inherent sensitivity to the stimulus (i.e. a
genetic predisposition) or exposure to a highly traumatic experience
associated with the stimulus (e.g. a carport collapsing on the pet in
?In the case of thunderstorm or noise phobias, behavior modification
also requires that the dog not be rewarded for fearful or anxious
responses. Clients should not say it is OK to the dog while it is
shaking and drooling. Petting should also be discouraged, as it is a
reward. Otherwise the dog is being rewarded for being anxious. The
owners should either leave the dog alone as long as their pet is not
putting itself at risk for injury or they can also sit and stay
quietly by the dog. Quiet association may provide some security
without accidentally rewarding the dog. They can also apply gentle
pressure either with an arm or their body, on the dog. Pressure can
decrease arousal. There should be no petting.?
?Phobias are an illusive problem for many pet owners. Noise phobia can
be experienced weekly when trash trucks collect the garbage, during
the New Year celebration, around the Fourth of July fireworks, in
response to gunshots, loud engines or emergency sirens and more
frequently in response to thunderstorms.?
?Puppies go thorough a critical period of socialization between
eight and 16 weeks of age. During this period of time they mature very
rapidly. If isolated from external stimuli and not exposed to the
outside world, they can grow up to be fearful adult dogs.
Litters of puppies raised in an isolated location such as a barn, a
garage or an isolated dog kennel often have little exposure to humans
except those feeding them. If puppies never leave their confined,
isolated quarters where they have been raised, they may never
experience any external stimuli such as automobiles, strangers, loud
noises or children running and playing.
Poorly socialized puppies can also result when they have been raised
in the wild by an abandoned, female dog. If these puppies are
fortunate enough to be discovered by a human and receive handling
while still very young, they have a better chance to trust humans and
be less fearful. If they receive no human handling before they are 16
weeks of age, they may grow up to be very fearful adult dogs that are
not acceptable family pets.?
?What one thing will ensure the development of a calm, confident dog
unlikely to jump, bark, bite, spook or become aggressive around other
dogs or people? Daily socialization to a wide variety of human
infants, toddlers, pre-teens, adolescents, adults, as well as many
other pups and friendly adult dogs.
Pups exposed at a young age, on a daily basis, to a wide variety of
new situations, children, adults, friendly dogs and other pups are
much less likely to react fearfully, bark, aggress or bite later in
Adult Dog Socialization
?Dog bites range from painless nips to fatal maulings and account
for up to 5% of all hospital emergency room visits. Although dogs may
bite for a variety of reasons, bite statistics show that unsterilzed
dogs are up to 3 times more likely to bite than those which have been
spayed or neutered. Lack of socialization, improper training,
excitement and fear can all contribute to a dog attack.?
?The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal
agency which monitors and controls human diseases, estimates over 4.7
million people are bitten per year. This is approximately 2 percent of
the U.S. population. Ten to twenty people die each year from injuries
resulting from dog bites. Most of these victims are children.
In addition to physical injuries, people, especially children, can be
emotionally scarred as well. It is sad, indeed, when a person who has
suffered a dog bite can no longer feel comfortable around animals, and
may in fact, be terrified of them. Such people lose a wonderful aspect
of their lives and a chance to have a meaningful human-animal bond.?
?ANY DOG WILL BITE GIVEN THE RIGHT OR WRONG CIRCUMSTANCES ! If a
small child falls on your adult dog and sticks a finger in the dog's
eye, you should not be surprised if the dog bites. If you do a good
job teaching your puppy bite inhibition, you should get a grab and
release without damage. If you don't, you may get a hard bite with
Why Dogs Bite
Watch and listen for the warnings a dog will give you to let you know
when he is upset. If his ears are laid back against his head, or his
legs are very stiff, he is probably warning you that he feels
threatened and will protect himself if he must. If the hair on his
back is standing up, that?s another warning. If a dog is growling or
barking with his teeth showing, it means he is ready to bite. A dog's
warning signs mean that you?re doing something he doesn't like, so
stop doing it!?
?Biting and mouthing is common in young puppies and dogs especially in
play and while teething. It's up to you to teach your puppy or dog
what is acceptable and what is not.
Biting dogs are generally loving, sweet, adorable, affectionate and
wonderful 99% of the time. Only 1% of the time does something specific
happen that makes the dog bite. This article will discuss the causes
of biting and what you can do to prevent your dog from biting.?
?Puppies tend to nip a lot in play, and their pointy little milk teeth
can easily puncture skin. Aside from the pain factor, a nipping puppy
that does not learn to curb this behaviour will often grow into a dog
that uses his mouth for rough play. While the intention is benign, the
damage can be great, and a dog bite, is a dog bite according to the
law. By starting young, you can easily teach your puppy or young adult
that mouthing is just not acceptable.?
Lunging, Pulling, Chasing
?Dogs tend to pull ahead and lunge forward for a number of reasons.
Dogs that are particularly exploratory, playful, or investigative
pull the owners down the street as they investigate their environment
or are attracted to appealing stimuli (e.g. children, other dogs). As
you pull backwards in an attempt to restrain your dog, he/she resists
further by pulling forward even harder, since most dogs tend to pull
?Humans (particularly in industrialised societies) have modified
their living environment to be unnaturally noisy. Not only have we
surrounded ourselves with noisy devices, we have also modified our pet
dogs so that they make more noise.
Hart and Hart have argued that the barking of dogs is a genetically
acquired behaviour that serves to warn pack associates (including
people) about intruders.1 The inference of this opinion is that
barking in dogs is a natural characteristic.?
?Dogs who bark when left alone fit several profiles. Separation
anxiety sufferers are tightly bonded to their guardians, and act as
though their world has ended when they are apart. These dogs may also
eliminate around the home, frantically chew on human possessions, and
dig, chew or propel themselves through doors or windows.?
?Barking is a perfectly natural canine behavior. Birds sing; frogs
croak; and a dog barks, whines and howls. If you have a dog, you
better expect some barking, whining or howling. It is unrealistic and
unfair to think you can train your dog to stop barking altogether.
However, you, your neighbors and your dog will all be much happier if
the barking is under control.
Dogs who are socially isolated or confined for long periods without
supervised exercise need some outlet for their pent-up energy. A dog
who is left alone all day is likely to take up barking as a hobby
because no one is there to control him. In no time at all, barking
becomes an enjoyable habit. And for many dogs, once they start
barking, they tend to continue barking for the sheer fun of it.?
?Like spoiled children, the over-indulged dog is not happier. Dogs
and children need limits and structure in order to have security and
good self esteem.
The little princess at right gets everything she needs and more, and
she appreciates every thing she gets. She is confident but not pushy,
eager to please, eager to work, and loves to show off!
Her family adores her. Visitors who meet her, love her!
She is pampered, but not spoiled!!?
Spoiled Dog Cartoons
?Consider Grandmother Rosie and her Toy Poodle, Cocoa.
Cocoa arrived long after Rosie's children had grown up and left home.
Rosie knitted lots of little sweaters and hats for Cocoa to keep him
warm and stylish. She kept a mixture of Coke Syrup and Pepto Bismol on
hand to settle Cocoa's nervous stomach. And dog food could never cross
his lips, so Grandma cooked fresh chicken for Cocoa every night before
sitting down to her own dinner.
We had to spell out "c-o-o-k-i-e" and "P-e-p-t-o B-i-s-m-o-l" around
the dog so he wouldn't get over-excited. And Grandpa Henry was
obsessed with keeping Cocoa clean. This was one poodle who never had
tear stains under his eyes, and whose little "tushy" was immaculate.?
Other Useful Sites:
Rescue Dog Behavior
Page of links to canine problem behavior:
Why Can?t a Dog be More Like a Dog?
High Energy Dogs
Dogs Who Dig
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dog behavior problems
dog biting + behavior
dog barking + behavior
Spoiled dog syndrome
canine behavior problems