When people say that they have an aggressive dog, they refer to it as if it was one nebulous generalized condition. But the truth is, there are a number of types of aggression that can occur in dogs.
The most common forms of aggression are Dominant, Territorial, and Predatory Aggression. Some dogs also show Fearful and Possessive Aggression. And some dogs can have more than one type of aggression. It becomes very important to recognize the differences so that you can know the best method of working with your Husky’s particular type of aggression also to be able to evaluate and recognize the potential for receiving a bite.
Sometimes dogs come into our lives already exhibiting signs of aggression, while other times, owners unwittingly create and foster the developing aggression in their dogs. Regardless of why the aggression exists, owners must recognise the signs of aggression and understand why it exists in their dogs. Without this knowledge and understanding, the owner has no idea how to begin helping their dog.
Interpreting Communication Signals From Your Dog
Dogs commonly send the following signals with aggressive tendencies. It’s important for you to understand your husky’s body language. Recognise and understand the different postures and behaviours so that you will be able to accurately predict a possible biting situation and select the correct fix for your dog’s problem.
Classification of Aggression Types
The Dominant Aggressive Dog
Dominant dogs display and employ behaviours to influence and control people and other animals in their environment. They will be the dogs who will be most likely to mount other dogs and humans. Dominant Aggressive dogs are overly protective of their possessions and status so that these are the dogs that are most likely to be resource guarders.
These dogs will most likely not be very compliant to issued cues and will push back against any control imposed on them by humans. They will often display overtly pushy or obnoxious behaviours such as growling, snapping , or even biting to get their way. If the dog feels powerful and influential and the human or another dog display what they interpret to be submissive behaviours, a dominant dog will not hesitate to use disciplinary behaviours to get his way.
To a dominant dog, aggression is a viable means to control their environment. This means that the chances of receiving a bite from a Dominant Aggressive dog is extremely high. Never place yourself within striking range of dominant dog’s mouth.
The First Signs of Aggression
Dominant aggression usually shows itself very early on in a dogs life, from as young as a couple of months old. The pup may growl when you get too close to its food bowl or try to take a toy off of him.
If this behaviour isn’t corrected quickly, then its very likely to get worse as the dog gets older. They will eventually try to rule the house.
Don’t make excuses for your puppy, many owners say “oh he’s just a puppy”, but that’s exactly the point, if he’s only a pup and already showing signs of aggression, then it’s even more important to nip it in the bud. It’s highly unlikely that he will grow out of it without corrective behaviour.
The best case scenario is that the owner will have to deal with the issue when the dog gets older, but it will be much more difficult. The worst case scenario is that these dogs end up in shelters and are very difficult to re-home, often end up being put to sleep.
Postures and Behaviours of the Dominant Aggressive Dog
- The dog stands very tall and erect almost as if he was standing on tips of his toes in an effort to look as large and menacing as possible.
- He stands very rigidly so that he can move and react in an instant should he need to.
- He may be leaning forward slightly with his weight over his front legs to be ready to lunge forward in an attack.
- He may position himself leaning in and standing over top of a person or another dog as a sign of dominance.
- Tail is held erect, rigid, or possible quivering slightly at the tip.
- Head is carried erectly, ears erect and pointing slightly forward.
- Eyes with fixed gaze, unblinking
- Fur may be standing up in a line from the nape of the neck to down to the base of the tail.
- The dog may emit a growl through a closed mouth.
You have to be the leader, although that doesn’t mean being aggressive with your dog, fighting aggression with aggression isn’t useful. If you’re unable to correct these behaviours alone, then obedience school or seeking out a dog behaviourist will be a big help.
First and foremost you need to change the dynamics of the household by learning and adopting strong leadership skills. Do not play games where the dog can win. When you feed the dog make it wait until you release him to eat. Do not let dominant dogs make their choices about how and when they comply to your commands.
If you must, purchase a muzzle to take away a dog’s opportunity to dominate by biting. Often neutering a male dog can help deal with aggression as it lowers the levels of testosterone. And finally, up your dog’s exercise quota. A tired dog is much less likely to be reactive or dominant because it has had its energy reserves drained.
Territorially Aggressive Dogs
Fiercely guarding their home is a common characteristic of some dogs. As puppies grow, unless they are otherwise shown, they begin to regard the yard, the home, and their possessions as their personal property. Territorial aggression why the mailman or the meter reader bitten.
Some dogs readily learn to differentiate between welcome guests and intruders but others do not. They are very good at sensing your attitude toward strangers so if you are fearful, these dogs know it and will reflect that same attitude.
The postures and behaviours of Territorially Aggressive dogs are similar to that of the Dominant Aggressive dog.
Show strong leadership skills so the dog defaults to you for instruction when a stranger approaches. Socialize your Husky early and well so it is confident when meeting new people. Let your friends or willing strangers take the dog on short walks on a leash so he gets used to being around other people.
The most important thing you can do to keep your dog from becoming Territorially Aggressive is make it clear to the dog that he owns nothing. You own everything and you allow the dog to have these items. When there are no possessions to win or lose, there is less reason for the dog to be Territorially Aggressive.
Many working dog breeds have a problem in this area. Huskies and Malamutes both tend to have a strong prey drive so that means that the sight and sound of young children playing and moving or other smaller animals moving quickly may be irresistible to your Snow Dog. This is also what drives many Huskies to hurl themselves into a group of other dogs that are playing with each other. The instinct to do so is just too overwhelming to resist.
That means that your Snow Dog will always need direct supervision when it comes to this natural reactivity. These dogs must be shown how to behave in a different way or they will assume that there is no problem with their current behaviour.
Obedience training by every member of the family must be practiced, especially by those family members that the dog views as being ranked beneath them. These dogs are basically all lovely dogs, they just have a very strong natural urge to boss, dominate, or trap what they view to be “prey”.
This behaviour must always be corrected or the dog will assume that you are allowing it to continue. A sharp reprimand and a “no” is usually sufficient.
Tomorrow we talk about the other three kinds of Aggression, Offensive, Defensive, and Fearful .
As always, we welcome your questions, comments and stories regarding this issue. When we tell our stories we may well be helping someone who is struggling with their dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time