Can You Train Away Aggression?
Aggression is a sign of fear and/or extreme frustration resulting in an emotional state. Aversive consequences, those that are intended to scare or hurt a dog will NOT teach the animal that you don’t like their behavior. To resolve the issue of aggression, you must treat the underlying emotional condition of the animal. Yes! Dogs feel pain, joy, sadness fear and all the emotions that you would expect of a sentiment being. They just don’t have the words to share their emotions with you. You must observe their body language.
It can be difficult at first to understand that fear can present as aggression. A snarly, snapping, growling, or barking dog may not seem fearful to the untrained eye. It might just seem scary or vengeful. In order to understand the roots of aggression you have to understand that dogs are social animals who use their eyes, teeth, mouth & posture to communicate & resolve issues between other dogs. When they are uncertain or afraid their options are limited; they can’t use words or emojis.
When A Dog is Scared or Afraid they have THREE OPTIONS:
- Dogs can avoid conflict by leaving the area (and many dogs do this). Basically they create distance between themselves and the “scary thing” by running away.
- Dogs may freeze and wait for the situation to change or somebody else to make a move. If presented with a frozen-fearful dog, move slowly, avoid eye-contact, but do NOT turn around! Back away slowly and quietly.
- If unable to escape (fences, leashes, window, walls) the dog may choose to make the other dog or person choose to leave (creating distance) by displaying aggressively.
Snarling, Growling, Barking, Lunging, Snapping and Stiff Staring can look really bad, but the dog is attempting to resolve the conflict without risking injury to them or the others in their social network because pack animals need each other. Punishing these communications is not going to make the aggression go away. It will likely make the animal more afraid and therefore more dangerous.