'Not only is punishment risky, but it also fails to teach the dog an acceptable alternate behaviour. The dog does not learn what to do the next time he is in the same situation. He only learns to fear the situation.' Emma Parsons, Click to Calm p73

Friday, 15 July 2011

Brenda Aloff - ‘Aggression in Dogs.’ (Introduction and Section 1.)

INTRODUCTION: A Positive Approach

‘This book is based on the notion that many dogs display aggression because they are “uneducated.” This is a dog who, for whatever reason, never learned how to communicate in an appropriate and effective manner to humans and/or other dogs.’ (p21)

SECTION I: Understanding and Managing Aggression In Dogs: A Positive Approach

1: Aggression - The Most Misunderstood Survival Trait

‘[...] aggression is an adaptation that dogs use to aid them in the “Survival of the Fittest” game. It is used as a means to gain control over important resources or to gain personal space. Aggression is one of many social behaviours dogs use to communicate information to other dogs, humans, and any other species with which they come into contact.’ (p25)

2: Is Dog Aggression Ever OK?

‘All dogs are a combination of desired and undesired traits, just as you and I are.’ (p26)

‘The Terriers, as a group, are well known among aficionados to have a tendency toward being “dog hot.”’ (p26)

‘By contrast, inappropriate aggression occurs when there is no actual threat to the animal, and the animal’s past experience should have established the situation as non-threatening.’ (p27)

3: Canine Social Systems

‘To the scientist and ethologist, dominance is defined as: priority access to a preferred resource. It doesn’t necessarily describe an attitude, belief or approach an animal has. Using dominance as the “reason” your dog does not come when you call it or doesn’t sit when you request a sit is excuse-making.’ (p30)

‘The process of Rank Ordering [in packs of (wild) dogs] . . . is indicative of an individual’s need at that point in time. The Rank Order within a social group or pack is dynamic (ever changing) and highly dependent on context.’ (p30)

‘Dogs do not start out “bilingual.” This is a skill we must help them develop, as we develop our own skills for understanding dog language.’ (p33)

‘Dogs “negotiate” all the time, using their own native language, including assertive and yielding behaviours.’ (p33)

‘Dogs developed assertive and aggressive behaviours to assure their success as social, family-oriented, pack animals. In addition, several other factors are known to influence aggression in dogs. These include:
- Learned Behaviour
- Genetics
- Hormones
- Social Development Periods
- Stress and Fear
- Physiological Factors
- Resiliency and Trauma’ (p34)

4: Factors That Influence Aggressive Behaviour

‘Dogs are very flexible, inventive creatures, discarding, adding and changing behaviour as required.’ (p34)

[In explaining aggression from learned behaviour:] ‘There are also mis-associations that occur. The dog starts out friendly to other dogs and humans, and so whenever he sees another dog or person on the sidewalk, he rushes to meet them. The owner, not liking to be dragged down the street, punishes the dog with a good hard collar correction on a choke chain or a tug on the pinch collar. The dog, whose behaviour is making perfect sense to him, does not associate the punishment with his natural greeting behaviour, but instead begins to see approaching dogs or humans as a predictor of punishment. Therefore, the dog begins to become defensive at the sight of another person or dog.’ (p35)

‘What might be normal behaviour for one breed could possibly be classified as abnormal in another.’ (p35)

‘Not only is there a vast array of traits and characteristics and personalities between breeds, but within a specific breed as well. Any breed, after all, is made up of individuals who will display a range of characteristics.’ (p36)

‘Hormones can play a significant role in aggression. Testosterone, for instance, acts as a type of behaviour modulator that makes reactions more intense. The intact male dog will react more quickly to stimuli, with more intensity and for a longer duration. . . . Intact bitches who are living together and coming into heat may be inspired by the change in their estrogen and progesterone levels to begin quite nasty displays and fights. I have also found that spayed bitches may become very reactive around each other if you have a bitch that is intact and coming into heat. Amongst experienced dog people bitch fights are infamous.’ (p36)

‘According to Scott & Fuller (1965) in their Bar Harbor, Maine, Studies, dogs go through critical development periods during the first 20 weeks of life:
- Weeks 3-8: learn to interact dog-to-dog.
- Weeks 5-12: learn to interact with humans.
- Weeks 10-20: learn by exploring novel environments.’ (p37)

‘By the time a puppy is seven weeks old he should have been exposed to the following situations (and any others you can think of):
- Been in 7 different locations . . .
- Eaten from 7 different kinds of containers
- Met AT LEAST 7 different people (including safe, gentle children)
- Ridden AT LEAST 7 miles in a car (or more)
- Been in a crate at least 7 times (more is better!)
- Played with 7 different kinds of toys
- Been exposed to AT LEAST 7 different contexts: for example, had their picture taken, exposed to learning simple behaviours like Sit, etc.
- Been played with or taken somewhere alone, without mom or littermates, 7 different times’ (p38)

‘Stress stems directly from an inability to cope with whatever the current situation may be. For myriad reasons, the dog lacks the skills to contend with whatever the existing circumstances are. Aggression is merely a symptom indicating how stressed the dog is being made by the environment.’ (p40)

‘If flight is not an option, the fearful dog enters into a defensive mode, where aggression becomes a viable tool for the dog.’ (p40)

‘Think of the brain as being divided into two sections. [. . .] The Limbic system is where the primitive reactions reside – strong, overwhelming emotions such as fear, lust, grief and rage are initiated and centered here. Think about this as being the Lizard-Brain. Then you have the polar opposite – the Fre-Frontal Cortex, where higher-order learning and thoughtful action take place. This is the Einstein-Brain.’ (p40-41)

‘Brittle dogs do not “rebound” well. That is, once stressed, the recovery time is slow. Other dogs are very resilient and can tolerate a lot of frustration and provocative stimuli without becoming aggressive or fearful.’ (p41)

5: How Dogs Learn To Avoid Aggression

‘Normal dogs with adequate early experiences, including opportunities to interact with dogs and humans, understand and use signals that allow them to avoid aggressive behaviour. These signals are your canine's natural language and dogs are very intuitive about it. By contrast, dogs who lack early experience, are not well educated, or have experienced trauma may have “lost” their nature language, or, more accurately, no longer believes that language “works.”’ (p43)


Ci Da said...

I'd forgotten I'd bookmarked it -- it was way down at the bottom of a rather lengthy blog list. I've since moved it up closer to the top so I can remember to check it more often.

Good work with Lola. It sounds like you two will be just fine. And all the things you're learning along the way will be hugely valuable in the future.

Bailey Be Good! said...

I agree especially with the negotiating part -- I'm constantly negotiating with Nala... and she negotiates with me! ;)

Woofs & hugs,

~Bailey (Yep, I'm a girl!)