Discovering Aggression Within Dogs

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The highest incidence of dominance aggression occurs in intact males, followed, in decreasing order of frequency, by castrated males, spayed females and unsprayed females.
English Springer spaniels, Lhaso apsos, cocker spaniels, Doberman pinschers, and toy poodle and terrier breeds have been reported to have a higher incidence of this type of aggression, but it can occur in any breed of dog.
Dogs may become aggressive towards their owners if they perceive that their dominance is being challenged or that there is a threat to a "critical resource" such as food, a resting place, a prized object, a favored person, or anything else that is important to them.
Owners seek professional advice about dominance aggression more often than about any other type of canine aggression.
The intensity of dominance aggression ranges from mild to severe.
Dominance aggression develops around the time a dog reaches social maturity, which is about two years of age.
Treatment involves life-long management using a combination of therapeutic techniques.
Dominance aggression has its roots in the social organization of wolves, the closest wild relatives of domestic dogs.
Wolves live in social groups called packs.
Within the pack there is a social hierarchy in which each individual animal knows its rank in relation to every other animal.
The dominant individuals have a priority to the critical resources of food, water, and resting places.
Dynamic, rather than rigid, the hierarchy is maintained through a complex communication system using signals of dominance and submission; thus, the social relationships within a pack of wolves are quite complex.
One of the functions of the hierarchy is to reduce aggression within the pack.
When the hierarchy is stable, overt aggression is minimized.
Presumably, domestic dogs manifest dominance aggression when they perceive that the hierarchy within the household is unstable.
Important step in diagnosis requires looking at the components of the animal's behavior while it is acting aggressively.
Dogs exhibiting dominance aggression often, but not always, assume a dominant posture, such as an erect or stiff body position, with erect ears and tail, raised hackles, and a direct stare.
Depending on the intensity of the aggressive display, there can be snarling, growling, lunging, snapping, and biting.
However, a significant number of dogs with dominance aggression do not exhibit this classical dominance posture and instead, some may exhibit a fear posture or, more commonly, a posture that includes varying degrees of both dominance and fear.
The intensity of dominance aggression ranges from mild to severe.
Dominance aggression develops around the time a dog reaches social maturity, which is about two years of age.
Treatment involves life-long management using a combination of therapeutic techniques.
This behavioral problem, which is common among canines, can pose a safety threat to humans.
Children that live in households with dogs that have dominance aggression are at greatest risk for serious or fatal injury.
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