Dog Aggression. As trainers, we hear this term every day speaking with clients.
As always, you have GENETIC and ENVIRONMENTAL factors.
GENETIC is a part of your dog. Many breeds are predisposed to DA, and management techniques can be used. However, you will always live with your dog knowing they may be liable to hurt another living dog.
ENVIRONMENTAL is learned or lack of learning.
How do we tell what is genetic and what is environmental? A trained professional (such as Two Wheels Four Paws) comes in to show you the difference. In short, Genetic Issues do not show progress while Environmental boasts improvement.
MANAGING ENVIRONMENTAL ‘DOG AGGRESSION’
Many people are misinformed when it comes to the social structure of a group of domestic canines. There is no Alpha, no Beta. These are not wolves, these are dogs raised to work with humans after 30,000 years of domestication. Heck, humans made erect ear, long muzzled, double coated 110 pound wild beasts into short haired smushy faced 20 pound pugs! That is a lot of time to lose “traditional” social hierarchy we observe from wolves. Insinuating wolves and Dogs are the same is like saying Grass and Corn are the same. Yes they came from the same roots, but are vastly different in type. Dogs delegate a separate response to their interpersonal interactions with other dogs.
When dogs speak with each other, they have their own ways of conveying emotion. They communicate physically first using body language, which includes violent altercation, and for the majority of dogs this is a normal way to settle their more serious social issues. We have spoken of The Critical Socialization period in puppies- up to 16 weeks. If a puppy was taken from it’s litter, especially pre-8 weeks, they are not going to know how to speak dog very well. Even if the mother dog has ceased nursing, they learn from their litter how to speak, and even their mother correcting them. If your breeder has an excellent mothering female, who teaches her puppies up to say, 8-12 weeks. Showing them how to speak, play, even end interactions (by appropriately escalating pressure until a bite to stop it). It's all very important. However, if the puppy was taken too young, has a lenient or uncaring mother, or was always the roughest pup of the bunch with no consequence, you get a socially stunted dog. As that pup grows, he goes from a 12 pound terror to a 75lb monster who jumps other dogs or begins fights. If this dog has a good scrap, the issue will generally solve itself.
Living in a Multi-Dog Household can be rewarding, exciting, and full of great times. However, adding an additional dog can totally wreck a social group. Say you have a great group of 3, and add a wild pup with no stop. Suddenly your other dogs are exhibiting serious stress behaviors, humping, attacking other dogs, not eating, not sleeping, etc. You’re enjoying a movie when suddenly a dog fight breaks out. The young pup has finally made the stressy middle aged dog snap. What is your first reaction? Break it up before anyone gets hurt? WRONG. That puppy needs consequence for his actions. Let him get bit. Unless you have a dog who doesn’t know how to stop (genetic dog aggression) - you will be doing even more damage to your social situation. If you pull the two apart, you are drive building. Since each dog didn’t get their desired result, next time they see each other they will remember that unfinished altercation. Now, if they had fought and the middle age dog said his piece, and made the puppy realize their annoying behavior was unacceptable. The puppy will remember that before trying that behavior with that dog again.
In our home, we let our dogs scrap. They get punctures. They tell each other how they feel. The photo I used is from today. Boden was a dick, and was bitten on the face. I guarantee he thinks about being a dick now before he acts.
If you do not think you can handle an altercation in your home, there are options. You can seriously monitor and manage your group through training (recommended first!), crate and rotate life (second recommendation), or rehome your disruptive family member.
Breed plays a role just as important as personality. Talk to professional breeders about their breeds attributes, even if you have found a shelter pup in need. While they are all dogs and all “speak” the same language, not every breed does so in the same manner.
When considering another dog, ask yourself if any of the above options are in your budget or lifestyle.