Previously I talked about the three most common types of Dog Aggression; Dominant Aggressive, Territorial, and Predatory. In this article, I will discuss the different motivations for Offensively Aggressive, Defensively Aggressive, and Fearful Aggressive dogs and how to recognise your husky’s body language in each of these classifications of Aggressive Dog.
These classifications are categorised as Aggressive, but the motivation for these dogs to be aggressive is very different. When you know and understand what drives these dogs to be aggressive, you can also better gauge your chances of being bitten by any of these aggressive dogs.
As this is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, those of us who work in the field of training and dogs hope that by presenting information on being able to read the body language of dogs, better understanding the motivation that causes these dogs to be aggressive, and to bite, we can help prevent dog bites from ever even happening in the first place.
The Offensively Aggressive Dog
An Offensively Aggressive Dog will feel both anger and confidence in conjunction with being aggressive. Their aggression stems from being overly confident and is the opposite of a Defensively Aggressive Dog. That means that these dogs are the most likely to launch an offensive attack on a person or animal, and the combination of anger and confidence could make the nature of the attack particularly intense, with an increased chance of repeated puncture bites being levelled at their target. These dogs are at a very high risk of biting a human.
Offensively Aggressive Dog Postures and Behaviours
- The dog’s eyes have a fixed gaze on the target.
- Head is held high, ears up and pointed forward.
- Tail is raised, erect, and extremely rigid. Tail may stiffly wag (flagging).
- Hackles will be raised most likely down the complete length of the back.
- Growls, snarls, or barks in a loud, low threatening tone.
- Weight will be balanced over the front legs to ready the dog to be able to spring forward into action
- The launched biting attack will most likely be repeated and unrelenting.
The solution to fixing this issue is similar to working with many of the other dominance based aggressions. You must rebalance the relationship and take back control of these dogs by stepping up and displaying strong leadership skills.
The Defensively Aggressive Dog (Fearful Biters)
These dogs are very uncertain and tentative in their actions. For example, the Defensively Aggressive Dog prefers not to engage in a physical altercation unless he feels he must. These dogs would like it if the person or other dog would back off and go away. But at the same time, this dog will be ready to defend himself should it become necessary. Because these dogs are a combination of angry, afraid, and aggressive, they adopt a combination of behaviours of Fearful and Offensive dog body language.
Defensively Aggressive Dog Behaviours and Postures
- The dog stands tall and erect to look as large as possible with his weight distributed evenly over all the legs.
- Head is erect, ears are erect, and slightly pointed forward.
- Tail is held up, erect, and rigid.
- Snarls, growls, and barks (bark is slightly higher pitched than the Offensively Aggressive Dog bark).
- Hackles are standing up.
Whether these dogs attack or not will be dependent upon their proximity to the target. The closer he stands to his target the more likely it is that he will launch an attack.
Predicting whether a Defensively Aggressive Dog will bite or retreat is challenging to do. What these dogs choose to do seems to depend on the level of threat they fear and how much confidence they feel at the time. Since their behaviours hinge on several variables, these dogs should be viewed as highly unpredictable and a danger to bite.
These dogs will be the dogs that are most likely missing critical socialisation skills or are particularly bad at reading and taking cues from their environment. They do not know what to expect from their environment nor what their environment expects from them so they default to aggressive behaviours and possibly biting situations.
These dogs need to be given skills to be able to better understand and handle the stressors of new situations. When these dogs are given obedience training and consistency in their lives, they become confident dogs. Confident dogs do not feel the need to drive people away and they do not need to be defensively biting humans.
The Fearful Or Scared Dog
Would you be able to recognise fearful body language in a dog?
Fearful or scared dogs try to physically shrink down to the ground in an effort to convey that they are not a threat. These dogs are terrified of being attacked; if given a choice, they do not wish to attack anyone. The chances of getting bitten by a fearful dog are slim unless the dog feels trapped and desperate and the target is close to them. The Fearful or Scared dog is most likely to snap, muzzle punch, or deliver one quick bite and then try to find the nearest escape route.
Postures and Behaviours of the Fearful or Scared Dog
- The back is hunched or arched with the tail tucked between its legs, the head slung low, and ears flattened against the skull.
- The body may lean body over to one side in case they need to recoil from an attack.
- The dog may roll over and offer the underbelly as a sign as submission.
- Usually frightened dogs will not make or keep eye contact with you because an unbroken gaze is considered to be an issued challenge.
- May show whale eye (dog’s head faces forward but eyes are averted to the side causing the whites of the eyes to be seen).
- Dog may blink often, yawn, or lip lick excessively.
- The muscles in the body whole body are very tense.
- The dog may submissively urinate or may void entire contents of bowels or bladder.
Most fear-biting dogs were genetically born shy. It is highly unusual for a shy puppy to be born from gregarious, confident parents. Therefore, one must do everything possible to build up these dogs’ confidence. Do this with verbal praise, petting and treats, and obedience training. If a shy dog comes to you of its own free will, it will not bite unless a sudden movement or loud sound is made. Obedience training benefits dogs that are not too shy to go to class.
Obvious Signs of Fear in Dogs
- Body crouched low, tail tucked, ears down and pinned back against head.
- One paw lifted off the ground.
- Pupils dilated.
- Loss of bladder or contents of bowels.
Less Obvious Signs of Fear In Dogs
- Tries to constantly flee.
- Tries to hide under and beyond objects.
- Always averts gaze, won’t hold eye contact with you, or displays “whale eye”.
- Excessive panting and increased respiration.
- Sweaty paws.
- Reluctance or refusal to take food or water.
- Carries head low.
- Excessive licking of lips, yawning, or blinking.
Rescued dogs or unsocialized dogs can display fear related behaviours around
- Over sensitivity to touch or restraint.
- Annoyance at being disturbed or prevented from doing something.
- Or a generalized low tolerance for frustration.
You can safely assume that you need to be extra cautious around rescued dogs and dogs that are missing socialisation. These dogs do not have the confidence or the experience to know how to handle new or stressful situations so these dogs are at a higher risk of being aggressive or to strike out with a bite.
To change the dog’s fearful behaviours, behaviour modification is used to change how the dog feels about a scary situation by forming new, more pleasant associations with each formerly fear-inducing case.
A recent issue of Veterinary Practice News mentions studies on aggression in dogs that responded to supplementation with 5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP and to 5-HTP given in conjunction with a low-protein diet. This amino acid derivative of tryptophan is essential in the production of serotonin in the brain. Brain serotonin levels have been linked to mood, aggression and obsessive-compulsive behaviour in humans, dogs and primates. Neutraceutical grade 5-HTP is available at health food stores. A dose was not given.
As this week is Dog Bite Prevention Week, tomorrow’s timely topic is, Dog Bites, How to Prevent Them and How to With Dogs Who Bite. This will then conclude our series on Aggression and Dog Bites in Huskies.
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.