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So you think your dog is aggressive...

Discussion in 'Training & Behavior' started by K9 Love, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. K9 Love

    K9 Love Good Dog

    Animal aggression and human aggression are two completely separate areas of dog behaviour. This thread is about possible human aggression and/or aggressive tendencies towards humans. For information on dog aggression, which is very common and accepted within bully breeds, please see the following links. :)





    A lot of people throw the term "aggressive" around rather loosely. This can be extremely dangerous, especially with all of the negative media attention bully breeds receive as well as breed fanciers strong opinion based on breed standards that American Pit Bull Terriers, or pit bull mixes should never exhibit any type of "aggression" towards humans.

    I'll try my best to give a quick run down of different signs/displays of aggression and a very general; What you should do now.

    Escalated Aggression:

    Sound of body and mind dogs do not go straight for the bite. A dog that gives no warning or indication of a bite is likely a dog with serious medical issues that cannot be remedied with any amount of dedication or application of training methods. Many people assume their dog has given no warning, though when examined further, it truly has given many. The warnings have just been completely disregarded or handled inappropriately. The term escalated aggression refers to the escalation of signs that a dog will display before reaching the climax, which is the bite.

    1. Body posturing. This should actually have a number of sub-categories, but to keep this as short as possible I've just listed the first few that come to mind, individual dogs may use a combination of a number of these signals depending on the situation; lip/nose licking, ears back, hackles raised, cowering or hunching, becoming very still, deliberately turning their head away from you etc.

    2. Growling. Pretty cut and dry.

    3. Air snap. Most trainers separate an air snap from an actual bite, because air snapping is something dogs do as an absolute last threat to a bite. If a dog means to make contact, they will. If they haven't, consider it your final warning from them.

    4. Grabbing, nipping, biting. This ranges because individual dogs have different understandings of bite inhibition depending on their owners experience and knowledge with dogs. One or possibly two bites in quick succession.

    5. Multiple bites, attacking. There are only a few situations where a dog would do this IMO, less being trained to do so. Extreme fear and/or pain, human is making the pain worse (or the dog thinks it is, its the same) a life or death situation in the dogs eyes, or the dog is genetically unsound.

    My dog bit me/someone/a child!

    If your dog has bitten someone, the most important thing of all is safety. Whether it was a grab, a nip or a bite drawing blood (but not serious injury). This means keeping the dog safely contained at ALL TIMES. Either crated and leashed for potty breaks or in a back room.

    If the dog has seriously injured someone, the kindest, most responsible thing to do is humanely euthanize. The risks of human life and safety is more important than an animals. It's that simple.

    There are many behaviourial issues where a dog will nip, grab or bite, that IMO can often be resolved with a determined owner with the right resources. Many involved in bully breeds will say a bully biting a human is NEVER acceptable, while I personally, do not agree, it is a worthy opinion coming from those so involved in the breed.

    Here is a list of some issues that if not addressed in early stages can lead to escalated aggression, resulting in a nip, grab or bite that could leave punctures. For arguments sake, IMO, these are not attacks due to their nature, rather from the dogs' perspective an escalated form of communication when the human often fails to see the warning signs leading up to the bite.

    These are all issues that can absolutely lead to a serious bite if not addressed appropriately!

    Puppy mouthing/biting/nipping; An issue that most often can easily be resolved with patience and the right methods put to use
    Resource guarding; Dog guards food, people, toys, furniture, areas of the home etc
    Fear; Dog is afraid of a specific situation, or individual and is placed in a situation where they cannot escape, warning signs are ignored (body posturing, growling, teeth snarling etc) and the dog ultimately resorts to his last form of communication, biting to get its point across
    Excitement/Redirected Aggression; Sometimes when dogs are supremely excited or reactive, humans get in the way and we suffer the consequences. Ex) dog is barking and growling through the fence at another dog, human grabs the dogs collar to stop it from barking, dog turns around and bites owner, while this is a form of aggression, it is not necessarily human aggression
    *Above link is applicable, conditioning/counter conditioning can be very effective in managing dogs who get excited and redirect

    There are plenty of other situations that IMO can be resolved with some knowledge, education and the right trainer/behaviourist. Those are just some of the most common.

    There are some cases where the behaviour is so out of the norm for a dog that a medical examination is in order. There are many medical conditions that are known to cause unpredictable aggression, as well as conditions that are so painful it's not uncommon for a dog to lash out aggressively. If you can't find a "reason" for your dog's behaviour (examples mentioned in bullets) and it's a puzzling situation, a vet visit to rule out any possible health issues is a good place to start.

    My dog is growling and showing it's teeth at me!

    When is your dog growling at you? What are you doing? Is there any common denominator?

    Growling is a how a dog says; I don't like this, I don't like what you're doing, I'm uncomfortable, I'm scared.

    Try to figure out what it is your dog is uncomfortable with, and avoid that situation if possible until you can contact a reputable trainer/behaviourist to assist you on what to do from here.

    What can a trainer or behaviourist do to help?

    A trainer or behaviourist can help in determining whether your dog's behavioural issues can be managed or "fixed" with training. Some dogs will always be a liability and they can help you decide whether you can handle the commitment required to be a responsible owner for a dog that may always be a risk.

    They can help you work through training issues like resource guarding, mouthing, reactivity and much more!

    Ultimately, some dogs are just not wired right and even in the hands of the most experienced, most knowledgeable owner, can never be trusted. Though these dogs are rare IMO, they are out there, and the safest thing for everyone involved is to euthanize.

    Whenever children are involved, if you suspect your dog may have any type of behaviourial issue that could lead to the aggression escalating to a bite, a medical condition that could be causing aggression or that your dog is genetically unsound, do not allow the dog to be loose around children. EVER. Things happen very quickly and many members can attest to this.

    Safety is always first and if that means crating the dog for two weeks and leashed potty breaks until you can get to the vet, trainer/behaviourst, than that is what you do.

    Here is a link to help find a reputable trainer/behaviourist in your area, you can also post your area and members can provide information too. :)

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2012
  2. Jazzy

    Jazzy GRCH Dog


    I think this is "sticky" worthy!

    Something else to consider...all dogs have a bite threshold; some have higher thresholds than others; but it really depends more on the individual dog, it's environment and level of training, than it does on breed, imo.

    This explanation comes from the "dogscouts" website"

    and I think it's helpful in explaining the way various factors can be involved culminating in a bite:

    Aggression triggers are cumulative; they can pile up and reach a breaking point. Think​
    of aggression triggers as points (assigned only as an example below). The more stress the dog feels because of the situation or thing, the higher the point value. And your dog’s “threshold†numbers might be higher or lower depending on how quick he/she is to give warning signals or bite.
    (10 points) If the dog is fairly stressed by the presence of a small child (this might not be enough to push him to the bite threshold if it’s the only stressor present.)
    (5 points) If you add another factor, like a noisy room, which makes the dog less relaxed. (This might put the dog closer to a bite, because he may be provoked to growl at 15 points.)
    (12 points) When you throw in something else that excites or worries your dog, like the presence of a valued resource (toy/ bone/ treats, etc.) his worry level is now at 27.
    If the dog’s “snapping†point is 25, all these stress factors combined make him snap when the kid approaches. But unless you look at all the factors stressing your dog, you might not understand why he snapped at the kid when in the past he’s been fine with children. All you need is one more thing to get the dog stressed to the point of a bite.
    If he happens to be on a tight leash, held by a nervous owner (8 stress points), this dog is suddenly at his bite threshold of 35 points (10 + 5 + 12 + 8). A dog that normally would not be provoked to bite under any ONE of these bothersome “triggers†is suddenly sending someone to the hospital because everything kept adding up (rawbone, in a noisy room, on a tight leash, with a child approaching). It helps to know your dog and what worries, excites, or triggers stress or aggression. And if you see a
    potentially explosive scenario developing, get yourselves out of there.

    Also a good reference for bite threshold:

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2012
  3. destinoscelgo

    destinoscelgo Good Dog

    Good post!
  4. K9 Love

    K9 Love Good Dog

    Excellent info Jazzy! I didn't even think to get into bite thresholds. Great explanation and description! :D

    Also, thought this might be helpful for those that have been referred here after starting their own thread.

    These are some basic questions that can be filled out and posted on your own thread to better help members answer your questions and concerns:

    1. Age of dog.
    2. How long it has been in your care/you've known it.
    3. Any specific triggers that you are aware of (ex. food guarding) and how the dog normally reacts to being exposed to those triggers.
    4. How long have you noticed this behaviour.
    5. What have you been doing at the time of the incidents, and have you been doing anything to help prevent them with training, avoidance etc.
  5. omgrobyn

    omgrobyn GRCH Dog

    Yay!!:party4: Good sticky!
  6. KateNLeo

    KateNLeo Big Dog

    You are my hero, K9!! Thank you for the link to trainers. There is one close-by me!! I'm so happy!
  7. _unoriginal

    _unoriginal Cow Dog

    OH! I see you added something in there... NICE! It's perfect. You do good work! :)
  8. Cofla

    Cofla Big Dog

    Thanks Jazzy for the link to DSC, very helpful, I just have read a lot of the articles an I'm going to buy a couple of the sugested books.
    I have already read Dog Sense , BAT by Grisha Steward (I think that's her name).
    Working hard on my dog selective /reactive Kimba.

  9. TanyaMarie

    TanyaMarie Puppy

    This is something I worry about with my Lola. Granted, she's only 4 months old now, I'm having a hard timetrying to get her to stop biting me. I'm not talking nipping, I'm talking about her jumping up at me to bite me and then grabbing a hold of my shirt and pulling. I've tried yelling "ouch", smacking a magazine loudly on a hard surface to scare her off, looking her in the face and yelling "no", I've tried giving her a toy to bite instead. The other day, I just reacted and I'm ashamed to admit, I hit her. :(Not hard enough to scare her, but I did hit her. I don't want my puppy to ever be scared of me, I just want her to stop biting. She will be spayed in a month or so, and I will begin obedience classes for her in another couple of weeks. Do you think these things will help with the biting?
  10. zeuss

    zeuss Puppy

    Today for the first time my dogs got aggressive during play and it stopped being play. They are brothers 4 months old and I am worried that one is getting more and more aggressive, what do I do to stop this?
  11. omgrobyn

    omgrobyn GRCH Dog

    Sounds like an unruly puppy to me. There's nothing wrong with a firm smack on the butt and a loud, firm NO when a pup crosses the line.

    Sent from my HTC-PG762 using Tapatalk 2
  12. omgrobyn

    omgrobyn GRCH Dog

    You keep them separate from one another.

    Sent from my HTC-PG762 using Tapatalk 2
  13. dlm112

    dlm112 Puppy

    Our pitts are 2 yo....they all sleep in the same room in their own beds sometimes they climb in together. We have had them since they were 7 wks old. I think the trigger that i noticed is that if my daughters BeBe is reacting to someone walking by or a cat (we have a tall wood fence) she goes to the fence barks tries to look under it, she does not like one of the dogs that walk by ...so if she is barking and going to the fence and my mia tries to go with her she air snaps or snips at her with a bark. They have had 2 similiar fights which required tubes and i was present at both and we could not get them apart. This last time i had to drag both by their collars while they were attached to get one in the house. it is devastating to watch. i just dont know how to avoid the situation. i have been letting them out together for awhile but as soon as mine wants to play i bring one in. we have been taking them on more walks, and if i see the other dog walking by ahead of time i bring one in or both, same with the cat. Bebe just reacts to mia if she tries to go after the same thing she is....
  14. klikins101

    klikins101 Puppy

    When Aristotle was about the same age he was a nipper, not a biter, but it still hurt! What I did that worked was I got a spray bottle and filled it was a mixture of water and some vinegar. That worked well for me and he stopped nipping. It also helps to catch it before it starts. If your doing something and you know she might try and go after you stop her dead in her tracks before hand. Hope that helps!
  15. TanyaMarie

    TanyaMarie Puppy

    I will DEFINITELY try that! I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the advice! :)
  16. Natty<3

    Natty<3 Puppy

    there is one thing I disagree with but it is decent
  17. Sky86

    Sky86 Puppy

    So my question is, my puppy is 7 1/2 weeks old and I've had him since 4 weeks. He is usually very calm, can get nippy while playing and whatnot, but sometimes with no warning he becomes snarly, growly, and just plain aggressive. (Like he wants to bite your face off aggressive.) I have tried putting toys in his mouth, yelling NO in his face, putting pennies in a cup and shaking them, pinning him down until he relaxes but none of it seems to work. My dad is a dog trainer, and I've been around dogs my whole life so I feel like I would be aware of the warning signs, but when he gets into that mood it's really all of a sudden. Does anybody have an idea of what I can do or what might be causing this?
  18. Kamdon

    Kamdon GRCH Dog

    You're running around the forum giving other members of this board advice and you don't know how to handle a simple nipping problem? You judge others for cropping and you think that dominance theory works?.......wow.......

    Your best bet is to watch Cesar Millan and go from there
  19. Ali132

    Ali132 Good Dog

    Duddde you know she would go do that if she doesn't already think he's a god
  20. Jazzy

    Jazzy GRCH Dog

    You can start by stopping the things in bold above which are serving the purpose of getting him more wound up.

    Stay calm, relaxed and relatively quiet yourself. Withdraw attention for a few seconds, turn your back on him, give him a time out in his crate - he very well may be over tired and need a nap - baby dog and all.

    Continue to work on bite inhibition- page 63. As you had him since 4 weeks of age and he missed out on some bite inhibition w/ his litter; I would definitely use Jean's techniques for teaching inhibition and a soft mouth vs. simply focusing on not biting at all - just my thoughts on that particular topic.

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