April Magazines 2018 89014 - Page 39

Petpourri Dominant or Aggressive Behavior? The Importance of Knowing the Difference By Cathy Brooks W HEN IT COMES TO DOGS AND DOG BEHAVIOR, A NUMBER OF WORDS are thrown about far too liberally and in most cases, entirely inaccurately. I’m talking about the words dominance and aggression. Dominance is innate to all dogs, regardless of breed. How it manifests is a combination of breed/breed mix as well as an individual dog’s person- ality. Aggression, on the other hand, is a socialized behavior that comes either from circumstance or training and can, in almost all cases, be addressed and resolved with intervention. Understanding your pet’s behavior, as well as their predisposition based on breeding, is an important step for not only socializing your animal, but making sure you choose the right pet for your lifestyle. Aggression in Dogs Aggression is a socialized, behavioral manifestation generally based on some experience a dog has had. Sometimes the experience is environmental (a dog that’s abused, lives on the street and has to fend for itself and/or goes through a trauma) and sometimes that experience is taught (dogs that are bred for their extreme dominance and then taught that attacking is the right answer and, in some cases, given the taste for blood to make them more vicious). Occasionally you will encounter a dog that is just inherently “off”, but this is quite rare. Although dogs aren’t, by nature, “aggressive” (a troubling and dangerous misconception, especially when people incorrectly deduce that certain breeds like Pit Bulls are innately aggressive), they can exhibit aggressive behaviors when pushed. Because they have an innate need to understand their place in the group (a.k.a. “pack”), if that placement is unclear, the dog will get uncomfortable. When put into a situation that is uncomfortable and pushed to their extreme, dogs pull out the only tool they have in their toolbox…their teeth. So “aggression”, rather than a constant state for a dog, can be a manifestation of that dog’s underlying discomfort–either based on fear or an overt need to try and be in control. The Dominant Dog April/May 2018 Dominance, on the other hand, is a constant state for any and all dogs, but not a fixed one. Every dog has dominant traits. Every one of them. From the smallest of teacup Chihuahuas to the most giant of Mastiff breeds, every dog has within it some innate sense of dominance. This is because in a dog’s world there is no direct peer parity. There is no, “I’m exactly