Nervous Aggressive Behaviour

This is usually the result of a dog that has had insufficient socialisation in its formative months and years, and/or a negative event with another dog. This can happen on a number of occasions, leading to an even more fearful dog as time progresses. Some dogs seem to have a demeanour that attract other dogs, and for some of those dogs to attack it.

I suspect that dogs attack a fear-based output from some fearful dogs, and this then leads to a more ingrained behaviour on the attacked dog's part. The dog can then adopt an 'offence is the best form of defence' approach. Once the dog learns that such behaviour results in other dogs moving away with an owner that naturally wouldn't want to become involved, the dog learns the value of such behaviour and perpetuates it more and more with great effect.

Fear based aggression is (as I see it) a relatively modern phenomenon, and reflects back upon our more insular lifestyles and lack of time available to pay proper attention to the socialisation process. With less and less time to address areas of training and socialisation, the strain is showing in our dog population.

It is not unusual to see figures quoted that 80-90% of dog to dog aggression is a fear based behaviour. I can well believe these figures, and they are borne out in my own experience in dog behaviour practice.

I have for some time described fear based aggression as being 'virus-like' in the way it can pass from one dog to another, with each newly attacked dog going on to become sensitised (depending on the dog's nature, prior socialisation and owner's level of control) and then displaying similar behaviour towards other dogs.

A few owners with young pups fall into the trap of not giving full and correct control when in the park and are unable to recall the dog before allowing it to run freely in the local park. This is rather like throwing the dog in at the deep end, with a number of other dogs near by that are unknown on a behavioural level, and may pass this 'virus' onto the young dog. So in essence, before you let your young dog run freely, do be certain that you're able to effectively recall it at any time. A food treat, whistle, long line or all at once may make all the difference and keep your dog safe from catching the 'virus'.

Developing a sound leader based relationship; a strong recall combined with a long line is certainly far preferable than the practices of many unthinking (albeit well intended) new dog owners that simply allow the dog to run freely from day one to only find that the dog is beginning to show aggressive behaviour and will not return to the owner.

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