Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Understanding Dog Aggression

Not every dog who gets attacked by another will end up being an abuser. Why do some dogs get past the incident and others become abusers?

Last year Stormy, one of the street dogs living in my neighborhood in Puerto Rico, was attacked and almost killed. The most obvious change in his behavior is a perpetually low tail carriage. His relationship with other dogs in the neighborhood is pretty much the same as before.

Last year Shaker, the shining star of my day care, was attacked. He became an abuser; why?

Shaker was less than a year old at the time of the attack. He gave his attacker signals that he didn’t want a fight, he was sorry. The attack continued. In the aftermath the young dog doubted his language skills. If I go belly up licking my lips to say I’m sorry, the other dog is supposed to forgive me and not hurt me.

When we are young and naïve, we think that everybody plays by the rules. Youngsters are just learning the rules. Shaker’s attacker violated the rules as Shaker thought he knew them. Think that our behavior controls the behavior of others more than it does is like little kids thinking.

This causes the reactive or acute phase of dysfunction. The dog is scared, doesn’t know what the rules are any more. This is when the dog will lash out unpredictably.

If this makes sense so far, we’ll discuss the chronic phase in which the abused becomes the abuser. Thanks, Cheryl, for telling me you didn’t understand. Any questions?

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