Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Help with Dog's Aggression Towards Other Dogs

Best friends Sindi and Ginger just chillin'.


By Sindi Somers
April/May 2010 issue of San Diego Pets magazine

Many people have contacted me seeking help with their dog’s aggression towards other dogs. In response, I am sharing an excerpt from a recent energy reading and animal communication session. It is important to evaluate each situation individually, since every dog is unique. However, the information obtained during my time with this lovely Escondido couple and their sweet dog Emma, can help give insight into the cause of aggression in some dogs.

KIM: Why is Emma aggressive towards other dogs? Especially with new dogs, it seems like one minute she is okay and the next she is not.

SINDI: In relation to a new dog, I see her natural canine instinct kicks in. She goes into the process of determining who will be where in the hierarchy, as if in a pack in the wild. It is almost as if she becomes a different dog.

I also see her protectiveness, especially towards you Kim. It stimulates competition within her. Competing to keep what is hers. Mommy is mine. She wants to get this message across. Don’t mess with what is mine. This aggressive behavior is an outward expression of her power. She is learning about her power as she experiences it. She is trying things out as she learns and grows as a being. Because she is getting attention for her aggression, she continues this behavior. She does not know she isn’t supposed to do this.

What behavior would you prefer from Emma?

CHRIS: Calm and not so aggressive.

SINDI: In communicating with Emma about her protectiveness, it is clear that it is fear based and survival oriented. Emma is afraid. She does not want anything to happen to either of you. She gets caught up in her desire to protect and uses aggression as a protection.

CHRIS: Even when we are not in danger?

SINDI: Yes. Even when you are not afraid, she reacts when something approaches her territory. She is very aware of energy and space. She sees both of you as part of her territory to protect. She is being proactive. She is determined to make sure nothing messes with her territory. She knows she has a good thing going! Emma believes she is doing her job. The most challenging part for her to overcome is the protectiveness, again especially of you Kim.

I have some basic training techniques to help teach Emma an alternate behavior to her aggression. Since Emma likes food, working with treats will make her easier to train. Using a clicker or verbal “marker”, such as “yesjust prior to giving Emma a treat will add additional reinforcement for the desired calm behavior. It will be important to discontinue reinforcing the aggressive behavior. If you say, no, stop, get excited or give the unwanted behavior any type of attention you are, unintentionally reinforcing it.

Just as Emma is being proactive in protecting her “territory”, you must also be proactive and reach her before she goes into an aggressive mode. Be prepared by having treats readily available at all times. High value treats, praise, affection and favorite toys are all rewards to give before she reacts. Continue to reward Emma as a distraction and to encourage her calmness until the source of potential aggression is gone. Your timing is essential. If you miss an opportunity, don’t worry, but do not reward. Try again next time. Reward calm, non-aggressive behavior only. Whether or not another dog is present, you can reward Emma when she is calm and further reinforce the desired state of being. You will be able to fade out the rewards, as calmness becomes Emma’s default behavior.

Because aggression can be a dangerous situation for dogs and people, I suggest avoiding getting too close to other dogs during Emma’s learning process. Keeping a safe distance will also help you to remain calmer and make it easier to ignore the aggression, if it occurs.

KIM: I am worried about my energy. I am afraid that Emma is going to hurt another dog so I have my mom take her to puppy socialization class. I know if I am there I am going to worry she is going to react to the other dogs.

SINDI: Great awareness! Yes! Animals definitely tune into our energy and emotions. If we are fearful and put out the thought and energy that aggression is going to happen, it most certainly will! Good for you for finding another option as you work on your part of this healing process. It is NEVER just about our pet. We need to change our behaviors, energy and responses if we expect our pets to do the same.

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