Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Canine Aggression Normal?

"Fear, aggression or the threat of aggression is corner stone of canine society. At night when the interlopers come; there are horrible fights."
Is aggression really a corner stone? Is aggression normal or abnormal behavior? What is the definition of "canine aggression"? Is it unprovoked attack, defense of ones resources, protection of young, defense of ones own body? Is aggression the same thing done out of fear verses other things? Is there normal aggression and abnormal aggression? The word aggression to me leaves so much to be desired because I think the definition is way too big. Aggressive behaviors can be as different as a human serial killer (abnormal right?) and a human defending themselves from an attack (normal response right?) I really have a problem with the word aggressive. Too many dogs are labeled with this word with all of it's negative stigma in tow. We try to rectify this in behavioral medicine by labeling the aggression... fear aggression, dominance aggression, territorial aggression, dog aggression, ect. Most dog's "aggressive" behaviors tend to be a product of environment (my own opinion). Some dogs seem to have more "aggressive" tendencies from the beginning. But is that really so? Or are they a product of their environment in their early life. Competition for food among a litter of puppies is thought to increase resource guarding behaviors. Puppies raised as "singletons" have less bite inhibition and other control problems if not socialized with other puppies. What they learn in the first weeks of life is amazing to me. This subject is so big. I have so many questions. It seems the more I read the more questions I have.

Dog aggression is a huge subject. Let's start with what I mean by fear, aggression or the threat of aggression is corner stone of canine society.

I believe the Dr. Temple Grandin is right; fear is a strong emotion in dogs. That she is right about them thinking in pictures.

Is aggression normal? I think our history would prove it to be so. Remember in science things go from the simple to complex, so these baser behaviors did not originate in the human species. I don't care who says so.

When the law of nature is the only one in place, the stronger gets the resource. If a smaller dog is eating, the larger dog will take the food away. That's aggression or the threat of aggression. That is perfectly normal behavior. We don't like that, so we teach our dogs to behave like good civilized canines.

Blondie now looks at me and wags her tail when she has finished her food and she wants to go take her daughters food; before she delivered painful bites to Bonita to make her be more afraid of being bit than starving. Ugly, yes and a normal behavior for a being with limited resources.

I feed dogs where ever I go on the island, sometimes I see dogs eat side by side. More often I see the smaller wait until the larger is done to approach the food. That has to be hard for a hungry dog.

It's a good possibility that the adults terrorize the youngsters the way Blondie has Bonita, so they don't have to fight when they are adults.

It's a given that boys of any species will fight for sex, we'll call that normal.

An interloper comes into the territory; if he wants your spot you fight or relinquish your spot. The interloper isn't a bad aggressive dog. He is just a dog without a spot.

It sounds like aggression over resources is a normal behavior; it is absolutely a product of environment.

For a dog skilled in its own language/culture there is no other reason to fight. Dogs that cannot win the fight will walk away from food, sex and their spot.

Fear aggression is only experienced by dogs unskilled in their language/culture. I am afraid, so I bite is very dysfunctional.

Territory aggression dogs come by it naturally, but again if they are skilled in their language they work it out. The dogs lacking social skills act out. I think breeding plays a sizable role as well.

Dominance aggression is the other very dysfunctional behavior, again breeding plays a role. The point of being dominant is to have the resources; not to get into fights.

The confidant dominant dog that wants what another dog has will stand over the dog with tail wagging. The lower ranked dog will give it up. The dog with no social skills growls and slobbers then gets into a fight.

Keep having questions, the more we question, the more we understand.

1 comment:

  1. "The confidant dominant dog that wants what another dog has will stand over the dog with tail wagging. The lower ranked dog will give it up. The dog with no social skills growls and slobbers then gets into a fight"

    This is so interesting to me!!! Is this in your eyes always a "dominant" gesture? My little Hemi does this all the time when she wants what someone else has. Everyone that witnesses it thinks she is quite the annoying dog because the other dog after being beat in the face by her tail for a while will get up and leave the "prize". I'm not sure if she has ever done it to her mother who is definately the boss around these parts. I will start paying attention. Very interesting and not something any "dog" person has ever interpreted that way, but makes absolute perfect sense.

    Thanks Pat for entertaining my recent questioning mind. I wonder a lot about aggression. Recently there has been a trend in golden retriever "show" people to claim how friendly and perfect their goldens are. They have a close friend of mine worried that his dog had an abnormal temperment because he growled at another male dog. These people claim their dogs never growl or posture and their males could run with any other intact male without a second thought. This seems like abnormal behavior to me. What do you think?