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Canine Aggression

Resolving Canine Behaviour Problems

DOG AGGRESSION ISSUE?

Scroll down to examine twelve forms of canine aggression with corresponding treatments.

For information regarding issues unrelated to aggression click here.


Arousal Related Aggression

Description:

Bark, growl, or bite directed to person or animal. Occurs when dog is confronted with stimulating circumstances.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management, habituation, and/or counter conditioning. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Possessive Aggression

Description:

Bark, growl, bite directed to animals or humans. Occurs when person or animal approaches dog in possession of food, toys, owners, or objects.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management, habituation, and/or counter conditioning. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Predatory Aggression

Description:

Chase or bite directed to animals or humans. Often preceded by stalking; elicited by arousal esp. quickly moving stimuli.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management, habituation and/or counter conditioning , possibly punishment. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Protective Aggression or Territorial Aggression

Description:

Bark, growl, bite directed to animals or humans. Occurs when person or animal approaches area (home, room, yard) owners, or other animals.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management, habituation and/or counter conditioning. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Fear Aggression

Description:

Bark, growl, bite directed to animals or humans (strangers or family); facial and body postures indicative of fear (i.e. ears back, tail down, crouch). Occurs as dog is approached or reached for (especially when cornered), threatened, or punished.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management, desensitization and/or counter conditioning. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Inter-Male Aggression

Description:

Bark, growl, bite directed to other male dogs; sometimes dominant and/or fear postures exhibited. Occurs when another male dog is observed at a distance, approached; often in competitive or arousing situations.

Treatment:

Treatment may involve management, castration, habituation and/or counter conditioning, or medication. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Inter-Female Aggression

Description:

Bark, growl, bite directed to other female dogs; sometimes dominant and/or fear postures exhibited. Occurs when another female dog is observed at a distance, approached; often in competitive or arousing situations.

Treatment:

Treatment may involve management, spay, habituation and/or counter conditioning, or medication. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Pain Elicited Aggression

Description:

Growl, bite directed to humans. Occurs when person attempts to groom, medicate, or manipulate painful areas.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management (avoiding eliciting pain), habituation and/or counter conditioning, and treating cause of pain. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Punishment Elicited Aggression

Description:

Bark, growl, or bite directed to humans. Occurs when a dog is exposed to aversive stimuli or conditioned aversive stimuli.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management (avoiding punishment or conditioned punisher), as well as habituation and/or counter conditioning. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Maternal Aggression

Description:

Bark, growl, or bite directed to animals or humans. Occurs when individuals approach puppies, puppy surrogates, and nesting areas.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management (avoiding elicitation), as well as habituation and/or counter conditioning. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Redirected Aggression

Description:

Growl or bite directed to person, animal, or object other than that which evoked the initial aggression. Occurs during interference while dog is threatened or fighting.

Treatment:

Treatment involves management (avoiding aggressive situations); habituation and/or counter conditioning. Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Dominance Aggression

Description:

Bark, growl, bite directed to family members; often very friendly to strangers. Dog assumes dominance posture (stare, stand over, etc); resists submissive postures (roll over or push, pet, groom, etc); guards objects or areas in home, threatens at passageways; disturbed while sleeping or resting; may not be aggressive to all members of the family; punishment escalates aggression. More common with males. Usually develops at about 1-3 years; may occur earlier.

Treatment:

Treatment may involve management (temporary avoidance of eliciting stimuli), castration, medication, counter conditioning and/or habituation. Punishment should be avoided! Animal Behaviorist Dorothy Litwin BA Hon. offers housecalls and telephone consultations across Canada for canine and feline behaviour problems. Click here for information.

Terms:

Habituation: A process whereby reactivity is reduced through gradual, controlled, and purposeful exposure to various stimuli

Counter Conditioning: A process whereby inappropriate responses are replaced with new and desired responses

Systematic Desensitization: A gradual and progressive form of habituation often combined with counter conditioning.


Note: Most of this information originally appeared in Symposium on Animal Behaviour, in Voith VL, Borchelt PL (eds): The Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, vol. 12, no 4. Philadelphia, WB Saunders Co, 1982. Modifications have been made.


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