Most common complain by dog owners about their dogs is over aggression. Although I have already talked a bulk about dog aggression in this blog viz... Why Dogs Become Aggressive, Understanding Dog Attacks and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Dogs, yet here's another post on similar topic - "Dog Aggression" - a little different though - "Is Your Dog Showing Aggression Towards Animals?".
Dogs within a pack or external to a specific pack may show a wide range of behavior when they come across other dogs. A very recent study on dogs' aggression towards other dogs shows that such behavior is triggered by several underlying stimulants, including the following:
- Competition for ranking
- Fear or traumatic experience
- Acquired behavior
Territorial Aggression in Dogs
There are many instances of dogs showing aggression towards other animals that treads into their territory. Apart of pedigreed dogs, mongrels in the wild exhibits territoriality. Territorial or Possessive aggression in dogs is normal and commonly seen in moderate to little above moderate degree in breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Bull Mastiff, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Giant Schnauzer and Weimaraners. Overtly territorial dogs can be potentially dangerous. Over territoriality is, however, a type of behavioral problem. Territorial aggression may root from sexual maturation, especially in males and lack of early socialization or conditioning to situations and presence of other animals.
Dogs showing aggression towards other dogs in the same house may be an indication of hierarchy problem. Canine dominance instinct demands them naturally forming a social hierarchical structure within their pack, with the most dominant specimen as the alpha canine member of the pack. The presence of two or more dominant dogs can lead to a fight for ranking.
Note: In the context of ranking it is strongly suggested not breaking the dominance hierarchy when there is a pack of more than one dog. The correct way is to reinforce the dominance instinct of the more dominant dog. The best way to reinforce the dominance instinct of a actual dominant dog involves a series of systematic exercises, without breaking the natural hierarchical format. Once that is done correctly all members in the pack will understand the hierarchy and identify the most dominant dog as the actual alpha member. This will help to maintain pack peace.
A related read in this context: Why does a clash occur in a pack
Traumatic Experience in The Past
Past traumatic experience due to attack(s) by other dogs or cats is another very common reason for many dogs turning aggressive towards other animals. Such aggression begins with fear, and eventually turn out to be potentially dangerous aggressive behavior towards the specific species, making it difficult for the dog to live together in a pack or to go out to meet other animals. Such social aggression are, at times, difficult to be corrected, because such behavior persists even after the handlers strategic intervention. Such aggression may be exhibited towards a specific species - the species with which the particular dog had a traumatic encounter in the past.
Acquired behavior: Commonly found in dogs living in a pack. If the alpha member of the pack shows any habitual behavior (desirable or undesirable), the puppies or other omega specimens living together with the dog adopts the behavior. An incorrectly socialized alpha dog can have an innate ability to influence the behavioral change in his or her pack members. Hence, it is important that you, as the dog owner need to positively control the environment for the entire pack in which you want the omega dogs or a puppy to be in. In case your alpha dog's bad behaviors are influencing the habit of your puppy or omega dog then it is important to keep the dog with undesirable behavior separate from the rest of the pack members.
Good read on socialization: Checklist For Socializing Your Puppy
- Positively reinforcing the dominance instinct of the most dominant dog does not mean ignoring or neglecting the omega member. Do not give the omega less than alpha, just last.
- Never Reward or stimulate aggressive behavior in your dog
- Best way is to resist this behavior immediately after your dog shows aggression with a "sharp No" and "firm Jerk"
- Next time it is best to ignore such an undesirable behavior
- Hold the leash short and firmly when passing by other dogs, keeping calm and ignoring with no prior command with an intention to check such situations beforehand
- Regular contact with other animals will help the dog to strengthen social confidence
Special Tips: Inadvertent Reinforcement includes rewarding the dog for stopping a behavior (i.e. Barking at a other dogs in the park) that is not desirable by his human pack mates. In this process the dog learns to use that particular behavior (Barking) to get the reward; not at the other dogs. This way the trainer can inadvertently reward the undesirable behavior to redirect the behavior towards a different thing from the thing that is not wanted.