Dog/Human Aggression

DOG_HUMAN_AGGRESSION_FeaturedDog-to-human aggression can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially when there is an extensive history of aggressive behavior. Dog bites account for a large number of hospital admissions each year and cost insurance companies millions in claims. While most dogs live in harmony with their families, dogs of all breeds and breed mixes have the capacity to bite.

Contrary to a frequently-repeated myth, bites seldom occur 'out of the blue' and are usually the result of a perfect storm of environment and circumstance.

Most dogs would rather practice avoidance than bite, but some will resort to biting if they feel threatened and the threat does not retreat even when a subtle or overt warning has been given.


Why are dogs aggressive towards people?
Even though dogs have become valued members of the family, many of them do nothing more than lie on the couch all day. Fewer dogs with jobs means more bored animals who suffer stress and anxiety as a result. Stress and anxiety are leading causes of aggressive behavior.

Most dogs receive no formal training, but of those that are taken to class and are trained using punitive, out-dated methods, an increase in negative behavior is often the result.

A 2009 study in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior concludes that confrontational training methods practiced by many trainers and handlers in the United States and Britain are a contributing factor to dog bites. According to the study's lead author, Meghan Herron, DVM, "Many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them, or intimidating them with physical manipulation such as alpha rolls [holding dogs on their back], do little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses."

 

The Effect of Puppy Mills & Irresponsible Breeders
Other contributing factors to the dog bite problem include poor breeding practices that are utilized by the puppy mill industry and back yard breeders. Puppy farmers care little for the dogs they breed as long as they make money, churning out puppies with no attempt to breed for good temperament or to socialize them with humans and other animals. Lack of socialization causes fear and insecurity, which is a leading cause of aggressive behavior.

Irresponsible people who use their large breed dogs for protection and intimidation without adequately socializing them are responsible for the greatest number of incidences. Neglect, abuse, and punitive handling are also leading causes of dog bites.

 

Genetics & Medical Issues Can Cause Aggression
Some dogs are aggressive towards people even when they have been raised properly and trained appropriately. The behavior can be exacerbated by poor health or pain somewhere in the body.

Genetics is sometimes a contributing factor as well as neurological difficulties that cause emotional instability. Some dogs are highly sensitive and react very quickly, generalizing their fear from one person to all people.


What should I do if my dog has bitten someone?

If your dog is reactive and/or aggressive towards people or has bitten a person, the first thing to do is effective management. Manage your dog’s environment to keep people safe.

  • If you are having guests over, keep the dog contained in either a locked room or behind a baby gate.
  • Tell your guests not to approach.
  • If your dog is a low bite risk and would rather practice avoidance than bite, give him a safe place to go to when he needs it, and tell people to ignore him. Guests can take pressure off your dog by not approaching or trying to have any physical contact, even if he comes over to them.
  • If he relaxes in their presence, some contact might be appropriate, but nervous dogs do not always like being touched and a friendly 'hello' with no physical contact will suffice.
  • Pay particular attention to children and do not let them chase, tease or touch the dog. Don’t let them run around or scream, as this can cause fear in your dog, or might illicit his chase instinct. Learn more about dog and child safety.

How can I encourage my dog to accept people coming into my home?
Some dogs will become more accepting of people if good things always come from them such as toys or food.

  • Throwing food in front of your dog allows him to see where the food is coming from while still keeping distance – the same can be done with a toy.
  • If your dog is more accepting, then a treat from the hand might work. Always be aware of his comfort levels and watch for signals that he might be uncomfortable.


Is there a cure for aggressive behavior?

Dog to human aggression is very serious, and poses a liability for dog owners and the general public. Effectively managing your dog is crucial, and hiring a qualified, humane trainer will go a long way in helping to modify the behavior.

There is no 'cure' for aggression. Training can help you better predict behavior in certain situations but behavior is never guaranteed in dogs, just like in humans, because moods and environmental factors play a large part and change daily.

That being said, positive training can change the way your dog perceives what threatens or scares him and make him more confident around new people.


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  • S.C.

    The only action you Can take is saying you won't come over. The dog should remain locked up while you are there. If they bring it out, just leave. That will get the message through. They need to call in a behaviorist (not just a trainer). Has the dog ever had Any kind of training? It deserves a chance. It is saying its afraid of something?! Good luck.

  • Deborah L. Andrew

    WE ADOPTED A FEMALE CHIHUAHUA FROM OUR LOCAL SHELTER WHEN SHE WAS 7 WKS OLD. WE FOUND OUT THAT 1 OF HER LITTER MATES WAS ADOPTED AND THEN RETURNED TO THE SHELTER 8 MONTHS LATER. IT WAS DETERMINED THAT HE WAS VERY NEGLECTED AND WAS KEPT IN A CRATE IN HIS OWN URINE AND FECES AND HE WAS ALSO VERY UNDERWEIGHT. WE ADOPTED HIM AND BROUGHT HIM HOME AND STARTED HIM ON REGULAR MEALS, GOING OUTSIDE TO GO POTTY AND SOCIALIZING HIM WITH OUR OTHER DOGS--A 12 YR OLD YORKIE MALE, 7 YR OLD BEAGLE FEMALE AND HIS SISTER HAZEL. HE HAD A FEW HEALTH ISSUES TO GET THRU BUT SEEMED TO SETTLE IN JUST FINE. HE HAS BEEN WITH US FOR 8 MONTHS NOW AND HE AND HIS SISTER HAZEL ARE 18 MONTHS OLD NOW. ABOUT 2 MONTHS AGO WE NOTICED HE WAS GETTING SNARLY AND GROWLING AND SHOWING HIS TEETH WITH THE OTHER 3 DOGS. THEN A COUPLE OF WKS AGO HE STARTED DOING THE SAME THING TO MY HUSBAND AND NOW TO ME. 99.9% OF THE TIME HE IS LOVING AND FRIENDLY BUT THEN OUT OF THE BLUE HE WILL TURN AND ACT LIKE HE'S GONNA TAKE A CHUNK OUT OF YOU. LOOKING FOR ADVICE. MOST OF THE TIME THIS HAPPENS WHEN HE'S IN OUR LAP SO WE REMOVE HIM FROM OUR LAP, PUTTING HIM ON THE FLOOR, OR USE A SPRAY BOTTLE WITH WATER AND GIVE IT A SQUIRT AND A FIRM "NO" WITHOUT YELLING AT HIM.

  • nix

    I am not a professional in any sense of the word but have you noticed if the behavior happens when a particular toy is close? Or are sudden movements made right before the teeth baring? My issue is my dog not trusting other humans and one piece of advice is fear from fast movement (example- quickly putting a piece of hair behind your ear when your hand was lying on your lap- not a great example but hopefully helps explain a unexpected fast movement that humans don't think twice about)? I saw no one commented and wanted to give suggestions of what to look for (see if you can connect the reaction of your pup to an action made however innocent). Hope that helps, best of luck! X

  • Dog bite studies have indicated that, in the majority of bite incidents, the victim knew the dog that bit them (be that the family's own dog, or the dog of a friend, neighbor, etc.). Something to think about.

  • Surely research into inherent dog aggression must be made. After trawling the Internet & asking various dog Trainers & Behaviourists, it seems very little is known about this! If a puppy is born from parents who both suffer aggression, would it not be predisposed in its DNA!

  • Pat k

    I would suggest not allowing him in your lap at all. He is claiming YOU as his property. Think of it as resource guarding since that appears to be what he's doing. Teach him that he should be on the floor, even if you need to leave a leash in him (while you are in the same room) and GENTLY lead him off of the couch.

  • Pat k

    Shih Tzu's typically do better with older children. First off, NEVER allow a child to put his/her face in ir near a dogs face. That's asking for trouble. Secondly, dog do give warning signs. It may not recognized by you unless you learn how to read a dogs body language. Thirdly, its NOT worth a wait and see.Your parents should have the dog checked out by a vet to rule out any medical issues. Then they need to seek a behaviorist. They also need to realize that biting is not acceptable. People's safety must ALWAYS come before a dog. If they are nit willing to put the dog in a LOCKED room, then don't go over there. Instead, if they want to visit may be they should go to your house. ANYTIME a person goes to a doctor or hospital for a dog bite, LAW says that it must be reported . If it continues, the health department nay order the dog destroyed. You are not a bad person for feeling the way you do. You are a GOOD parent for wanting to protect your kids!

  • Amber

    My son (3) his dog is starting to get to protive what do I do . They grew up together had her since a puppy

  • Amber

    What to do when dog is protovie over child starting to be to much .

  • Laura Chapman

    hi our dog is now 4 jack Russell cross we currently work full time we have had him from a pup, he has always had a dog walker to break up he's day which he has always loved. he has had the same dog walker for over a year we have a stair gate to block him in areas of our house but he like to get at the top of stairs were he has turned against the dog walker he was going for her so she left him alone and didn't walk him she come back two days later to do her general walk and he has bitten her this time? she was shocked and upset he done this and again didn't walk him. we have agreed to stop the walks as this isn't ok we have arranged for her to come over when we are home to see how he is with her.
    this is very concerning due to I'm now pregnant and about to have our first baby, home life for our dog will be changing and not sure how he will handle this. this isn't the first time he's been aggressive ?? please help we love him so much and just wont him to get over this.
    thank you

  • Sunnie

    Hi, I hope you can shed some light on some issues I am having with my Patterdale Terrier. We have had Wellington for about 2 months now from Dog's Trust, where he had been for around a year, maybe 18 months. He was a stray and, although they have said that he is 3 years+ old, we believe he is more like 2- 3 years in light of his temperament and other behaviours.
    At the moment, we have him wear an Adaptil collar, which helps keep his anxiety down and therefore certain aggressive behaviour he exhibits, therefore allowing us to continue to train him through positive reinforcement and rewards.
    My partner and I have found the following problems recently: when he knows he may be shut away during our working day in either the kitchen/ hallway (for a maximum of 3.5 hours maximum always) he will stop dead still and not move, sometimes in the middle of the road. I believe this is due to anxiety and stress but no amount of reassurance and patience has been able to change this habit so far (this is very difficult, knowing that we need to get back to work after lunch-times) and he will not allow us to leave after getting him into the house, scuttling from one door to the next to bar our exit.
    Last night, whilst my partner was out, I decided to get an early night and allowed Wellington to sleep in the room with me, knowing that he would feel anxious being left downstairs. He continually wakes himself up barking, and persists with that barking for a while (maybe 10 mins) after having done so (not just last night), but he also becomes incredibly aggressive, baring his teeth and looking like a wild animal (nothing behind the eyes) growling and snarling with an intent to attack. This was incredibly scary for me last night, I have not screamed so loudly and high-pitched since I was 10 years old!
    We have made some excellent progress with him with his training, he gets walked for approximately 3 hours a day and has plenty of training and play time (at least an hour a day on top of his walks/ runs). This kind of behaviour is very distressing as it seems to shatter the trust we have built with him each time. I am in desperate need of advice. I hope you can help me.

  • Su Pape

    Havee you heard of rage syndrome?

  • Rachel

    I have a 1 year old Jack Russell which I've had since he was a pup, He has had some behavioural problems since the beginning but we felt sure through training we could stop these traits, such as biting and acting aggressively towards us (e.g going for feet as they walk past). I feel his behaviour is a dominance issue; if he wants something he is not allowed or equally doesn't want something we give him he growls/bites. He Is good with other dogs and with basic commands (sit, stay, fetch) and is a quick learner. I went to a behaviourist, we discussed in length about his behaviour and she gave us a number of tips to put in place. I feel he has progress in some areas. However his biting and acting aggressive towards us is becoming more frequent. Any advice will be appreciated. Rachel.

  • Miss Cellany

    Probably because they're around the dog most of the time so they're more likely to be there when the dog gets aggressive. Also a family member is likely to put themselves between the dog and anyone the dog is trying to attack so they're risking getting a redirected bite. In addition anyone that hits their dog to "discipline" it is asking for the dog to retaliate one day.

  • Miss Cellany

    Can't your parents just lock the dog away when the kids visit? Surely it doesn't require the death of the dog - such a small dog is easy to separate away from the rest of the house with baby gates etc.

  • TammyKaye

    I rescued 2 female English mastiff puppies from a backyard breeder who kept them outdoors in a shed. The parents were on site and seemed appropriately socialized. I chose the 2 sisters who didn't seem shy or overly excited, as far as puppies go. They were raised with my older male rescued bull mastiff who has an outstanding temperment. These three were exposed to my toddler grandchildren, lawn mowers and friends and family coming and going. Now my 2 girls are able to walk over our chain link fence and will try to bite strangers. I am at my wits end. HELP !!!

  • HerrDeutschland

    It is an issue purposely avoided by the all-positive crowd because attempting to fix it properly would mean admitting that punishment is valid and effective. This would shatter too many fragile souls that somehow prefer not to live in the real world.

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