“This is a dangerous dog. It may look cute, but it went to 5 different groomers before
the owners found someone who trains Schutzhund dogs that understood dominant dogs”
My heart has been quite torn this week. I was in search of adopting another Shih Tzu. I thought it would be best to adopt a rescue dog. They need love . I’ve been on my search for a while and met this cute Shih Tzu. The more I looked at him I realized he must be a Lhasa Apso mix. He was bigger than my other Shih Tzus. He seemed to really like me but the foster-mother told me the reason he hasn’t been adopt was because of his temper , aggression and he bites. I thought not this sweet dog. I told her I have a history of adopting some difficult dogs and have been patient enough with them and able to train them . And they eventually became great pets. I told her its important they get along with my pets. She said he’s great with other pets. Well long story short, he was quite aggressive with two of my pets and even the house bully pet was scared of him. Then we came back from a 2.5 mile walk and he seemed in great spirits. I was feeding all of the dogs treats. I was told just to pet him on the head until he’s comfortable with you. I went to pet him on the head to say ” you’re a sweet boy and we will make it through this transition.” He lounged at me and growled and tried to bite me several times in a 5 minute period. I was recounting in my head to see what mistake I made. And it took me 20 minutes to get him off my bed. I told him let’s go to the garage and he followed. I left him there for 20 minutes to calm down. Brought him back and remembered my teachings in keeping him calm. It worked for a while but it happened several more times and his moods were too unpredictable for me. I was also concerned because his behavior had started to have a “pack mentality ” effect in my home. I can’t have that in my home. After much contemplation, I talked with the rescue organization and they too were afraid he will eventually bite and that it would be best to bring him back and work with a behaviorist on a longer term. I felt so guilty and like I failed him. They assured me he wouldn’t be euthanized which gave me some comfort . I met with the counselor and several people there and they went through the steps they would take and felt confident he would eventually get better and get adopted. I’ve been depressed about it but thought this was best. And it made me think when is the time to give up on an aggressive dog as a pet owner. It led me to recognize there are types of aggression and steps to take.
Over aggressiveness in dogs has a number of different causes that all get traced back to 2 main issues : poor breeding or poor socializing.
An over aggressive dog does not just rear its ugly head one day and become a monster. Throughout its life it has displayed warning signs that it’s not a normal friendly pet. As a youngster it may have acted like a timid animal that wanted nothing to do with strangers or strange places. Or it could have slowly developed into a bully after growling at people who came near its toys or food dish.
We can’t really blame the average pet owner for missing many of the early warning signs. If someone has never raised a dog before, he has enough problems teaching a puppy not to pee on the floor or to come when called. But this same pet owner still has the responsibility to recognize and deal with their adult dog that becomes overly aggressive at inappropriate times.
There are 4 main areas of dog aggression :
Prey or Predatorial Aggression
Many people think it’s cute when a young puppy growls and snaps at fingers that get to close to the food bowl or toys. They laugh and show their friends how tough this little pup is going to be when it grows up.
What they don’t understand is that this dog is showing the early signs of dominance. The truth is that this pup is probably going to grow up to be aggressive to family members in addition to strangers. Early growling can easily develop into an adult that tries to take control of the house.
The first thing that needs to happen when trying to get control of a dominant dog is to have his pack order changed. He needs to be moved to the bottom of the list in terms of pack order. This is done by controlling every aspect of the dog’s life. Dominant dogs do not sleep on the bed or in the bedroom. The best place to sleep goes to the pack leader. Dominant dogs never eat from the table. In fact, they are crated during meal time and are always fed “after dinner,” (lower pack members always eat last).
With basic obedience training, the dominant dog is on his way in curbing his behavior .
Territorial aggression can be seen as a form of dominance. The dog learns to look at the yard, the car or the house as his. The truly dominant dog may even think he needs to make a statement over who owns what, but in most cases the territorial dog is going to defend his property from strangers.
The perfect example of territorial aggression is demonstrated towards the mailman or meter reader. People think it’s the uniform that sets the dogs off towards the friendly letter carrier. That is not the case. What in effect happens is, the mailman approaches and the dog barks. The mailman deposits the mail and leaves. In the dog’s eyes the person left because he (the dog) barked at them. So through repetition he learns that if he barks at these people they will leave. Some dogs learn that if they bark very aggressively people will leave faster.
Controlling territorial aggression begins with establishing yourself as the pack leader. Not allowing the dog to look at the back yard as “his back yard” is the first step. Some people think that leaving the dog in the back yard during the day is good for the dog. It’s not. Getting training is the next step in controlling the territorial aggression dog.
We have all heard the term “fear biter.” These types of dogs want nothing to do with strange people or strange places. They learn that if a stranger tries to approach and they show a little tooth and growl the stranger will back away and leave them alone. This behavior manifests itself into a dog that will try and bite someone it doesn’t know the minute that person turns its back on them. Fear biters prefer to bite from the rear as this presents much less of a threat to them than a frontal attack. So a fear biter is a learned response from a dog with very bad nerves.
Fear biters are almost always dogs that have weak temperaments and poor nerves. They are a product of bad breeding. Many people mistakenly confuse fear biters as dogs that have been abused at an early age. How often have you heard someone say “I got my dog from the shelter and it was really abused by someone before I got it. That’s why it acts the way that is does.”? The fact is that most of these dogs ended up in the pound or shelter because of the bad temperament they had to begin with. They were not made shy, they were born shy.
With that said, there are dogs that have bad temperaments as a result of poor environments – which basically means poor socializing.
There are a few things that people can try before making the decision to put a dog down or before they give it away:
A) Set up training to build up confidence and security
B) If you are unlucky enough to already own a fearful shy pup the main solution begins with socializing the dog. Take it everywhere you go. Make sure to control its environment to the extent that you do not place it in a situation where it is extremely afraid.
C) Obedience training and socializing are the best solutions for most shy dogs.
Prey or Predatorial Aggression
Some breeds of dogs are more prone to prey aggression than others. Your herding breeds have a great deal of prey drive. They will instinctively chase something that moves. This can be disastrous if it’s an untrained dog that decides its prey is a running child.
Once again the most effective thing to control this form of aggression is obedience training with the emphasis being placed on the recall and the down. Some dogs in high prey may respond better to the “down command,” while others may respond better to the “recall.” The bottom line is you need to be able to stop your dog if he is chasing after someone or something.
If all dogs were well socialized and had gone through basic obedience lessons (either at home or in classes) there would be a lot less problems with dominant and over aggressive dogs. A little bit of education on the handlers part also goes a long way towards producing an animal that is not a danger to society.