french bulldog

Levels Of Aggression

Measuring the levels of aggression in dogs

From barking and biting to chewing and lunging, aggression in dogs is expressed through a variety of behaviours.

Although unpleasant to see these levels of aggression in dogs it is a natural behaviour of group animals, used to develop both the hierarchy and pecking order of the group, as well as to provide self-defence in times of threat or danger.

barking dog

As responsible dog owners, we want to stop dog aggression and prevent it from getting out of control. In order to do this, we must first distinguish between low and high levels of aggressive dog behaviour and understand how to deal with each.

Aggressive low-level behaviours are usually used first in all but very threatening situations. They can often be seen when unfamiliar dogs meet for the first time. The dogs assume a stiff standpoint, keeping their heads and tails up and their ears pointed. They attempt to make themselves look as immense as possible by raising their hackles and standing as tall as they can.

One of the dogs will typically back down, and further levels of aggression will not be displayed. A spade female will usually back down first, followed by a neutered male, then an intact female. Last to back down will be an entire male. The size of the dog is often irrelevant in this hierarchy, unless the level of aggression escalates.

When interacting with humans, this low-level of aggressive behaviour is evident when the dog is jumping up at, pushing the human, or growling. With smaller dogs and puppies this behaviour is often seen as cute, but it can become serious and even dangerous, so it is imperative to curb this aggression in dogs as soon as it manifests.

Low level aggressive behaviours include:

  • Staring
  • Growling
  • Aggressive posture
  • Non compliance to commands
  • Nudging and using their body weight
  • Jumping up on people or animals to intimidate

Higher level aggressive behaviours have gone beyond warnings to actual physical contact and biting or attempting to bite. These are serious situations, and the dog should be immediately isolated until it can be retrained.

Aggression is a normal behaviour of dogs. It is important for the owner to be able to control the dog’s aggression. Through early socialisation and a positive understanding of the dog-owner relationship, the animal will not show aggression. However, if aggression does become a problem, it is important to deal with the issue immediately. Re-training using positive methods works much better than punishment and professional 121 Consultation should be sort.

Neutering a dog will control the hormonal causes of aggression, but not all aggression is hormonally caused. Spaying and neutering dogs does not guarantee that they will become placid and calm.

Breeds that are bred as watch dogs or herding animals will need specific training on being non-aggressive. Some dogs are not good with other animals or dogs, just like some breeds are less tolerant of children.

The low-level aggressive behaviours will escalate to higher levels of aggression, if the dog does not see itself as being dominant.

These behaviours include:

  • Snarling and snapping or showing of teeth
  • Biting
  • Jumping up and barking in an aggressive manner
  • Nipping at heels or legs

It is important to understand the natural aggressive tendencies of the dog that you are considering bringing into your home, making sure you get a good match for you and your family.

 
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