Dog Trainer Sarah Hodgson has recently lectured on the types of aggression found in dogs and how that aggression can and should be addressed by the owners when they first get their new puppy. Sarah identified the two most common types of aggression. Self-Protective and Territorial. Self Protective Aggression – This arises in situations where dogs show aggression towards strangers who approach their personal space either while out walking away or while inside the home. It is described as more fear based and self serving then territorial aggression. Sarah states that this fearful, reactive behaviour can develop early on when for example a well intentioned admirer approaches a young dog in a manner the dog takes as being predatory. As the dog matures he will adopt a more self-protective stance. These reactions in puppies are often missed until it is too late. Sarah feels the owners should learn how to "listen" to their dog's behaviour. Territorial Aggression – A dog will feel safe and protected in their home. They will have familiar areas outside this home which they considered their territory where they will also feel safe. They will be alert to any activity surrounding this territory and will bark and "patrol" this area. Sarah's view is that owners who shout at the their dogs for doing this will be seen by the dog as barking with them, backing up his actions. Likewise if owners grab or chase at their dog when he goes for another dog they will heighten his awareness to the alarm and repeat this behaviour, normally at an increased intensity. Sarah believes that they way forward is for dog owners to learn themselves. For them to understand that their dog is a thinking, feeling creature who will react in a relatively predictable way due to their genetics and what they pick up from the humans they encounter. She recommends owners assume the role of an authority figure and teach the dog human language as you would a foreign student. After that make every effort to expose and link positive reactions (through rewards in the form of food, toys and praise) to difficult situations. The dog should not mature thinking that the behaviour is acceptable or warranted. If they believe that the correct reaction to unpredictable noise or people is panic and aggression and that strangers are dangerous they will react accordingly. They will believe that the more extreme their reaction the safer they will be. What they should believe is that they have a reassuring authority figure who will help them deal with the situation. This will make them more relaxed and well mannered.
Dog trainer advises owners take early responsibilty for aggression in their pets