It’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Although huskies are not aggressive by nature, it does not mean that under the right circumstances that they won’t bite. Bites can happen for a number of reasons and the most common reason that bites occur is due to dog aggression. When a dog is afraid and does not know what to expect from his environment or does not understand what is expected from him, he will quite often default to aggressive behaviour that may, or may no, end in a dog bite. From the dog’s perspective , “I am afraid. I will get YOU before you have a chance to get me.”
The Key To Keeping Safe From Aggressive Dog Bites
The key to being safe from an aggressive dog attack is understanding why the dog might be acting aggressively and being able to accurately interpret the body language coming from the dog. Dogs are always communicating how they are feeling so we need never feel like we are caught off guard by their behaviours. Education and information is the answer for keeping people safe from aggressive attacks and bites.
What Is Dog Aggression?
Aggressive dog behaviour is both the most common and the most serious behaviour problem that can show up in dogs. It is the number one reason why dogs are given up for re-homing and it is also the number one reason that dogs are returned to shelters and other dog rescue organizations.
Aggression can be defined as an adapted effort to establish control (physical or mental) over a vital resource or situation that cannot be controlled (from the dog’s perspective) through another means. It is a rather generalized term used to cover a wide range of behaviours beginning with a mild behaviour like issuing a warning bark, growl, or snarl and ending with a full on lunging attack with a skin puncturing bite.
Behaviour displayed by aggressive dogs include:
- Rigid postures, erect ears and tail, piloerection of hair (raising of the hackles).
- Growls, snarls or deep chesty barks.
- Lunges with or without bites.
- Bites ranging from snaps, nips, to skin puncturing bites.
- Mouthing to control a person and their movements.
- Muzzle punch (driving the muzzle into a person’s body.
- Repeated bites with or without shaking of a body part.
How Aggression Is Triggered in Dogs
Recognizing and understanding the triggers to aggression is the best way for people to keep themselves safe from an aggressive attack. Learn to recognize the signs of these different triggers to aggressive behaviours.
Aggression and bites can be triggered in a number of ways:
- Fear Related Aggression – The dog will try to move away from the situation and will bite if he feels trapped or cornered. It is not safe to corner a fearful dog.
- Inter-dog Aggression – This issue is related to the workings of the social hierarchies of dogs. Aggression between dogs occurs when neither dog is willing to defer to the other. Tensions escalate and explode into physical altercations. Without proper and sufficient interventions, repeated occurrences with escalations in frequency and intensity of these interactions can be expected.
- Pain Related Aggression – A dog who is in pain from injury, illness, or from age related arthritis will often respond to humans or other dogs with aggression and retaliatory bites. Small children touching or accidentally falling on these dogs or high energy young dogs climbing on them may cause a dog that is in pain to deliver an offensive bite.
- Play Aggression- A dog bite can happen during or just after very excited play. An overly aroused dog can become aggressive to both humans and other animals. This kind of aggression usually stems from a lack of early and appropriate socialization, removal from the mother and siblings too early, or a lack of appropriate bite inhibition training. To avoid triggering an aggressive attack or bite, avoid rough housing with a newly re-homed dog until you have been able to fully assess their behaviours.
- Possession Aggression (resource guarding) – This occurs when the dog perceives (can be real or imagined) a threat to its food or other valued objects. He will guard his property by standing over it, barking, growling, snarling, snapping , and by lunging to try and drive away the source of the perceived threat.
- Sex Related Aggression – Intact male dogs will vie for the attention of females in heat and females will still compete for access to a male. Intact male dogs can fight with other male dogs (especially living in the same household) even if no female dogs are present. Also, females living together in the same household may compete to establish social ranking. The most common time for sex related aggression to emerge is in dogs aged one to three years old.
- Predatory Aggression- When a dog aggressively stalks or stares intently at other any moving object, is a signal that an attack or bite is very likely to happen. Though this is not considered to be a true social aggression, the outcome of this behaviour is still likely to be a delivered bite. Careful supervision is a must for these dogs and all stalking behaviours must be modified and redirected.
- Protection Aggression-This type of aggression occurs in dogs that guard or protect people or other members of his social group from anything perceived as a “threat”. Sometimes the act of “guarding” a person has nothing to with protecting them from danger as much as it does as conveying the message that the person is considered to be the dog’s property. This kind of resource guarding can be modified through a combination of counter conditioning to change the dog’s opinion of the perceived threat and then operant conditioning to teach the dog a new behaviour to practice where this person is concerned.
- Redirected Aggression-A redirected bite occurs when a bite that is intended for someone or something else becomes redirected at a target that happens to be within striking range. A bite or attack is a common occurrence when a person tries to intervene in dog on dog aggression. It can also happen when someone enters a space where two dogs are in a heightened state of aggression. To avoid getting bitten, never grab fighting or aggressive dogs by the collar and never place your hands near their face or mouths. Instead, use an object like a broom or stick to intervene and separate them. If you absolutely must physically separate two fighting dogs, try grabbing the back legs of the primary attacking dog and pulling him away from the other dog. At the same time as you are pulling the dog away, attempt to turn and flip the dog over onto its back. You can also try break up the fight by using a blast of water from a hose, using dog pepper spray, or even throwing a blanket over one of the dogs.
- Territorial Aggression-This aggressive behaviour occurs when a dog is protecting its house, yard, fence, crate, etc.. The already aggressive dog can often be made more aggressive by the addition of a fence or other confinement of a territory. Unless this behaviour is modified, the dog’s territory will continue to “expand” to include new areas, people, and other dogs also. Do not allow territorial dogs to freely guard their territory. Use counter conditioning to convince him that having someone approach his “territory” brings pleasant things with it ( a yummy high value treat).
- Status Related Aggression-This kind of aggression happens within the social group of a dog. Conflict develops from the failure of one of the group members to submit to another member. This aggressive behaviour worsens with the addition of punishment or physical force as this only adds tension too an already tense relationship. Always strive to neutralize these kinds of interactions. Redirect the inappropriate or offending behaviours and reward the appropriate submitting behaviours.
Most common times for Status Related Aggression to occur:
• Feeding time.
• New dogs or people entering into their space.
• or when getting ready to move from one location to another i.e.: leaving the house to go to the car.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2: Strategies For Breaking the Cycle of Aggression.
As always, we encourage you to ask questions, comment, or share your stories about his topic. When we share our stories, we might just be helping someone who is struggling with their dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.