Aggression between owner & dog

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Aggression between Owner and Dog

I find it absolutely fascinating to watch the interaction between our dogs and the cats. They are a completely different species with different innate behavioural patterns sharing the same living area which can have its share of difficulties. Just as cultural differences exist between people, there are also strong cultural differences between dogs and humans which can easily lead to a confused situation. They need to learn about each other’s likes and dislikes in order to arrive at a better understanding between

Polo’s play- bows scare the cats. The cat runs and she chases and lands into trouble all the time for chasing them. The cat’s head bumps and body rubbing attempts in return scares Polo and she avoids contact by jumping away which brings out aggressive behaviour from the cat who takes a swipe at her if she gets too near again. Polo is dead scared of Coco but is tolerated by Sparky and Harriette.

Quanto, on the other hand ignores the cats as if they do not exist and the majority of the cats will not venture too close to him. Juno again is loved by nearly all the cats. On entering a room they invariably will make a beeline to rub against her in greeting and we often will find a cat sleeping very close to her on the same bed.

At my club I spend much time in getting dogs and owners to bond before real training can take place. Dogs dislike head patting just as much as humans dislike being patted on the head. Yet, it is one of the first things people do when they meet a dog.  When they call their dogs, owners invariably, stand upright and lean forward and stare at the dog, resulting in the dog interpreting it as a dominant, aggressive posture resulting in a slow return and the dog not sitting close to the owner. Sit down or try running in the opposite direction and see how fast your dog comes to you!

When humans put their arms around someone they regard it as a sign of affection and assume that their dogs think the same. The dog interprets hugging as, “Why are you pinning me down?” If you really want a kiss from your dog, you need to offer him your cheek and he is likely to oblige. Never kiss face to face and stand a chance of being bitten. There are many stories of people being bitten when the bend down to caress an “adorable” puppy. Only humans and primates  lip kiss.

When a dog meets another dog the lower- ranking dog will soon start grovelling on their belly, roll over exposing their vulnerable areas and start licking the superior dog. This submissive act avoids a fight. Once the new relationship is clearly defined, there is usually no further trouble.

Dogs use body postures to communicate behaviour such as mood and intention. They indicate this with head, ear and tail positions and hair patterns and may bark, growl, whine or whimper. We all know the signs of aggression: Body upright, weight on front foot, ears pricked forward, tail above the back – possibly wagging – and hair standing up on the neck and shoulders.

When a dog lives with humans, it needs to find its place in the hierarchy of the human pack. If there is confusion over this, problems can arise and the dog may challenge its human family to regain its social standing.

Confused relationship between owner and dog is not uncommon. Owners often report that, “My dog growls at me and wants to bite me.” If you feel frightened when this happens then it is serious and you should not wait before getting professional help.

Dominance aggression is a bad form of aggression that is often directed at members of a family that the dog wants to control. It could be directed at a house help, one of the children or sometimes only the female members of that household. It could take the form of refusing to get off the sofa or bed or it could be a case of guarding the entrance to a room, guarding their food or refusing to get out of the car.

In one case the family and dog were watching TV and when the little girl returned from the bathroom
the dog growled at her and tried to prevent her from re-joining the group.

One usually will find that these are genetically, dominant male dogs and that other dogs from the same litter will display similarly inherited behaviour tendencies.

Demoting a dog that has reached social maturity (18 – 36 mths) can be trying. They will bite anyone trying to forcibly remove them. These dogs are put on a very strict behaviour-modification programme and anti-anxiety medication for protection of the family members from physical harm. Children particularly are at risk. Professional help is essential.

If a dog does not sense strong leadership it will begin to test the limits to see what they can get away with, and over time assume leadership which they then will defend with aggression. A dog that does not like people does not live long. Sooner or later they get put down.

To prevent aggression between owner and dog, the owner need to learn to behave in such a way that the dog can begin to understand where he fits into the family setup. Under control of all family members! If your child arrives while you are playing with the dog, immediately leave the dog and attend to the child so that the dog can get the message that the child is more important than he is. Children should be taught how to feed dogs safely.

What can be done to prevent aggression between owner and dog?

Voice control and demanding attention are the most powerful tools you have over your dogs. When arriving home, don’t look at them, speak to them, just walk away and ignore their existence for a while until you are ready to call them and greet them.
Dogs need to learn that only by complying with your commands will they get what they want. There is no need to shout at a dog or for it to be physically corrected to get compliance.

Dogs should not be encouraged as puppies to get onto the sofa or bed. Bad habits are hard to break. Rather concentrate
on teaching only good habits
. When dogs begin to make a habit of occupying a bed or sofa, they should be fitted with a short leash which the owner can use to “Pop” the dog off if the verbal command was not obeyed.

All dogs must attend obedience training classes at a club unless you yourself are a dog trainer or have good training experience. Socialising with other dogs is very important. At my club all dogs are expected to at least pass the Canine Good Citizen bronze test before promotion to a higher class. Training is an on-going activity which last a lifetime.

Loving your dog is not a sign of weakness. You can love your dog but only after he has complied with your command to, “Come” or “Sit” etc. otherwise he may interpret you as of lower rank and react with aggression. Do read “Control of your Dogand achieve a reliable sit as a first step to gaining full control of your dog. If I tell my dog to “Sit”, he cannot go walkabout and interfere with other dogs or fight.

Take charge of feeding.
Dogs need to come and sit at a respectable distance and watch their food being prepared by their leader. Make them wait until they are completely calm before being fed. No panting. Make them work for their food. Quanto must first; “Sit” then “Stand” followed by a “Down” etc. before permission to eat is given. Polo sits and “Watch me” while I recite “Good dog 1…2…3” etc. before the “OK” is given.

We have a 10 minute rule:
Food that was left uneaten for that time gets picked up, covered and kept for the next meal time. Dogs should be left in peace to eat but if you want to see if they will allow you to take it away, lift their bowl up vertically otherwise the dog will follow the dish and may try to prevent you from controlling his food.

Toys used in training or for playing belong to you and are never left for the dog to destroy. They are taken away at the end of each session or if the dog does not want to obey a command, like “Sit” you end the game by walking away with the toy for a while before returning for another session.

Leaders go first: I go first through a door or a narrow opening. Make use of your legs and hips and squeeze the dog out of the way so that he has to follow you. If you remember to do it consistently for a while you will soon find the dogs beginning to move behind as you approach a door. At the club we take the dogs into the parking area where they are led between parked cars. Their owners force them, using legs and hips, into a following position as they move up and down the narrow spaces between cars.

Regular, submissive, obedience exercises that include many sits and downs as well as stays should be part of the training routine. I have never come across any of the dogs at the club that can do a 10 minute down stay with their owners out of sight that displayed any owner aggression.

Remember that A Trained Dog is a Good Dog.




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