SECTION 3: Pathways of Aggression
15: Classification *
'Labels are detrimental to modifying behaviour if you use them to characterize the animal or allow them to limit your thinking. Labels can follow an individual long after they have outlived their usefulness. Labels themselves do not solve a problem and may cloud the real issues. [...] Classifying behaviour can serve a purpose, as long as those classifications are used thoughtfully and accurately and are not overused. If the classification is used as a short way to describe observable behaviour, then it may expedite your thinking and note-taking.' (p93)
'Vacuum Activity is a response in the absence of the stimulus that usually produces it. If the animal does not have a response or coping mechanism for a particular context, a "vacuum" is created. The dog will "fill" this vacuum with an activity that is often inappropriate. Aggression is one of those responses a dog may fall back on if he is stressed or frustrated and does not have a previously conditioned behaviour to fill the void.' (p94)
'One aspect of classifying behaviour involves determining whether the dog is "normal" or "abnormal" [...] A general definition of "normal" is a spectrum of behaviour that is exhibited by the vast majority of dogs, or at least by most dogs of a given breed (normal for that breed). More specifically, a normal dog has behaviours that are within the range of typical dogs and also has a typical ability to learn new behaviours and habituate to new environments. Normal dogs, by virtue of both their genetics and their socialization, are, most importantly, chemically normal . . . though they may have some undesirable behaviours, they will be able to learn new, better behaviours at a reasonable rate.' (p94)
Classifications of Aggression:
'- Developmental Stages - Lack of Socialization, Interspecies
- Developmental Stages - Lack of Socialization, Intraspecies
- Excessive Breed Tendencies, or Lack of These
- Human Selection for Aggression in Dogs
- Control Conflict Aggression
- Dog-to-Dog Aggression . . .
- Fear Aggression
- Idiopathic Aggression
- Learned Aggression
- Maternal Aggression
- Pain-Related Aggression
- Play Aggression
- Possessive Aggression
- Possessive Aggression - Food Related
- Predatory Aggression
- Protective Aggression
- Redirected Aggression
- Territorial Aggression' (p96)
'Lack of Socialization - Intraspecies
Lack of experience with a dog's own species leads to fearful behaviour and, possibly, defensive aggression directed toward its own species in a general, blanket manner [...] This is commonly seen in dogs who are removed from their mother and littermates at 2 to 6 weeks of age.' (p96-97)
'Lack of Socialization - Interspecies
Lack of experience with a wide variety of humans leaves many dogs fearful (therefore opening the door for aggression) toward humans wearing hats, walking with crutches, or even of different races than they have been exposed to. For some animals, any human that they do not know well is suspect and is treated with extreme caution or fear. [...] For these dogs, any human, other than those well-known, is immediately considered a threat, as is any body language people exhibit that the dog is not familiar with.
This category has the easy solution: education should provide the "fix," provided the dog is able to habituate (has normal adaptive behaviour).' (p97)
'Excessive Breed Tendencies, or Lack of These
Excessive breeding created dogs who were bred for a specific original purpose. . . . The highest percentage of purebred dogs will fall in a middle range for these traits. Because of genetic variation, however, there are individuals who possess either a lack of these breed-specific traits or excessive breed tendencies. [...]
Because your dog is of a particular breed is NOT a valid reason for dangerous behaviour. . . . People who use the breed as an excuse for lack of socialization and lack of education for their dog are a major source of dog problems.' (p97-98)
'Human Selection for Aggression in Dogs
Some breeds have been specifically selected for high intensity, frequency, and duration of aggression with low thresholds for stimulation of defensive or guarding behaviours.
These traits also occur in breeding programs where the owners carelessly bred undesirable-temperamented dogs because they have desirable physical traits.' (p98)
'Control Conflict Aggression
[...] The animal who discretely fits into this category is indeed abnormal. These animals are obsessive about rank order, and seem to think of almost nothing else. . . . The dogs classified under this heading are constantly on the lookout for some "slight" to their authority or status - control freaks to the nth degree - and are ready to do battle over it each and every time. Their immediate response to most social situations is to use aggression or assertive behaviour . . . to maintain status. [...] This behaviour stems from a dog being maladaptive and insecure and who is struggling to cope with this innate insecurity.' (p99)
This classification depends on the intensity of the aggressive behaviour and the context in which it occurs. It is normal for dogs to bite if they are extremely frightened. However, some dogs have suc a low threshold for fear that they become defensive and bite even when the threat is negligible or non-existent.
Fear-based aggression is often accompanied by urination and defecation while the dog is behaving in a defensive manner.' (p101)
Idiopathic means "for no reason." [...]
- Extreme force and violence.
- Extremely unpredictable. . . .
- May attack humans, dogs or inanimate objects.
- Usually does not show aggressive tendencies at other times.
- May look confused with glazed eyes (sympathetic nervous system response) just prior to attack.
- 1-3 years of age.
There is documented prevalence in English Springer Spaniels, American Cocker Spaniels and St. Bernards.' (p102)
[...] Dog-to-Dog aAggression is a very generalized category to designate dogs who are socially not just inept, but who are actively "looking for" trouble with other dogs. Aggression is a consistent response to other dogs,a nd this dog will use aggression, ignoring signals from other dogs. This aggression occurs in absence of threat behaviour from the other dog; in fact, the other dog may be socially appropriate in every way, and this dog will still use aggression.' (p102-103)
As soon as an animal learns that aggression leads to a successful outcome, aggression is readily accessed. [...] When using learned aggression as one classification, 99% of the time there is an additional classification used to describe the specific triggers: Fear aggression, Possessive aggression, etc.' (p103)
Hormonal changes or inherited temperament tendencies may cause a new mother to launch intense attacks on strangers (dog or human) who approach her puppies.' (p103)
These dogs react to EVERY new situation, location or object with behaviour that ranges from cautious to terrified. The dog will exhibit intense avoidance behaviours, verging on and sometimes extending into panic. It is as if these dogs have no "rebound" or ability to adapt to anything unfamiliar to them. This is definitely an abnormality because the lack of ability to habituate is at the root of this classification. . . . Dogs unable to habituate are clearly maladaptive in some way.' (p104)
Grading pain in an animal who cannot speak is difficult at best. Some animals are incredibly stoical and some just the opposite . . . pain is variable and subjective, not just among different individuals, but even within the same animal. [...]
Any animal who is injured may become defensive or bite if you attempt to approach, especially if you are manipulating her body and it increases the pain. . . . Some animals show aggression when they anticipate pain.' (p104-105)
These dogs begin interacting with others by exhibiting obvious play behaviours. However, once a certain threshold of stimulation is exceeded, the dog's behaviour begins to escalate rapidly into intense threatening actions. [...]
To fall into this category, the dog must consistently display an intent to harm in circumstances where normally dogs would display play behaviours without losing sight of the fact that it is "play." . . . Aggression may also be directed toward humans who are playing with the dog, once certain stimulation thresholds have been exceeded in the dog.' (p105-106)
[...] The dog will actively and consistently use agonistic display and confrontational behaviour to obtain or retain a valued object is. The resource importance is:
- defined by the dog
- not related to status issues.' (p106)
'Possessive Aggression - Food Related
These dogs typically guard a food bowl (which may generalize into guarding the location where the food bowl is kept) or special food treats such as pig ears.' (p107)
Hunting is normal behaviour for dogs. Selective breeding has given us a wide array of predatory behaviours. [...]
For dogs who are to be used for any original purpose (excepting breeds like the toy, non-sporting and drafting breeds), a high degree of predatory behaviour specific to that breed is desirable. . . . Predation can be expressed in a variety of ways: chasing bikes or joggers, chasing a ball, and carrying a fuzzy toy are all forms of predation. [...]
Because dogs are domestic animals, selecting human children or adults as targets for predation by exhibiting stalking or other predatory-type behaviours is abnormal. . . . [This refers to] dogs who are seriously looking at toddlers or infants as "wounded" because of the way they are moving and are intensely honing in on them. It appears as though, in the face of certain stimuli, the dog is unable to distinguish the difference between inappropriate and appropriate prey and unable to exert control over his behaviour. [...]
Predatory aggression is quiet aggression, not the normal snarling, growling kind of stuff that is preceded by stiff-legged posturing. Prey behaviours can include intense stares, quiet approaches, body-lowering, tail-twitching, salivating, stalking. Dogs in prey move will silently and quickly approach their target. One fierce, very hard, full-mouth bite accompanied by shaking the selected target is a common indicator of predatory behaviour. The dog is focused so intently on his prey that interrupting the behaviour is extremely difficult. [...]
Predatory Drift can occur dog-to-dog. In this case, under normal circumstances, the dogs would coexist just fine, but certain stimuli trigger a limbic response where one dog begins to see the other dog as prey. This is prevalent in the terrier breeds and is also seen in herding breeds, particularly the herding/guarding types, such as Malinois or GSD's.' (p107-108)
A third-party approach will provoke an aggressive response, even though the approaching party is clearly not threatening. This would be a consistent response to third-party approaches or at least a predominant response. [...]
Often people don't even realize that the dog is exhibiting subtle guarding behaviours, and so they don't do anything about it until the dog, taking the person's non-reactive as permission, begins to exhibit more intense displays.' (p109-111)
Redirected aggression is aggression that is consistently displayed toward a third party when the dog is interrupted or prevented from directing the agonistic behaviour toward the original target. The dog, when excited or aroused, no matter the original cause, will turn and "unload" the aggression onto the closest or most available target.' (p111)
Establishing and defending territory are basic behaviours in the majority of species. A boundary (determined by the dog) will be actively defended against all parties that the dog decides are intruders. [...]
Territorial aggression in particular becomes a problem for dogs who are unsupervised and allowed to practice the behaviour frequently unchecked by their humans. This also becomes a problem for dogs who take the job overly seriously when people are entering territory, such as through your front door.' (p112)
16: Stuff That Drives Your Dog Crazy
'Entrapment transpires when you ask for or encourage the dog to behave in a certain way, and then the behaviour is punished when it does occur.' (p116)
'Frustration results when the dog is prevented from fulfilling a desire or accomplishing a purpose. Frustration causes a dog to become aroused and over-reactive. Extreme frustration may certainly result in the aggression being redirected from the original source or arousal to whatever or whomever is next to the dog at the time.' (p116)
'All dogs get "fired up" over something. These are two components to observe when you are evaluating high states of arousal:
- Some dogs become aroused very easily (reactive under low stimuli).
- Some dogs have extremely slow recovery - they take a long time to return to a calm, rational state.' (p117)
'Conflict can occur in varying degrees and, of course, not all permutations of conflict will cause an organism to behave in a maladaptive way.' (p119)
'A dos displays active defensive behaviour because he doesn't think he has any choice. Once this occurs a few times (or, in some instances, there is one-trial learning) the response becomes habit - the behaviour the dog accesses FIRST when presented with a particular stimulus.' (p120)
* - There is a lot more information (such as topographies of certain forms of aggression) in the book.