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Monday, Jan. 12th 2015

Dog on Dog Aggression — What to do?


Winter comes every year. This means cold weather, hibernation in the house and furry four legged friends who become ignored, at least from the exercise and stimulation point of view. It happens every year and each year we find ourselves wondering why our pooches tend to act out during the winter months!
Acting out can come in all sorts of behaviors, but this article is going to cover one of the really nasty ones — Dog on Dog Aggression, which can, even in some cases, extend to people, and it all begins with too much energy and no real outlet for that energy when stressed or aroused.
Dog on Dog Aggression — How it Happens

Those of you that have followed my blog or have done training with me have heard me talking about dogs and their hydraulic tanks. This is a way to describe the energy tank that all dogs have inside themselves. The real issue is what happens when that tank fills up it goes BOOM, and all that energy starts filling up the next tank, till it fills up and goes BOOM. This pattern continues until the pressure (stimulus) slows or stops.
Think of it this way, your two dogs hear the doorbell and rush the front door barking and being crazy wondering who could be at the front door. You being busy preparing for the holidays, cooking food, wrapping presents, and many other festive things. You take too long getting to the door and well the “barking” tank becomes over filled. The excess pressure that has built up and has to go somewhere. It goes to the “over-stimulation” tank. At this point the barking becomes high pitched whining and even some growling. Finally as the “over-stimulation” tank reaches critical mass it bleeds over to the ‘aggression” tank!
It is at this point that Dog A turns around to their house mate (Dog B) and attacks! Not out of anger, meanness or even true aggression, rather out of the fact the dog’s over-stimulation and arousal has reached a point of no return and the dog lashes out at whomever is closest. Matters can be made worse in this scenario if a human tries to break up the fight in the heat of the moment or is that thing that is closest to the dog. Because if done incorrectly now a human being can get bitten while trying to separate or just because they were standing next to the dog.
Unfortunately, many folks will now believe they have an aggressive dog. A dog who will be aggressive, not only with other dogs but also with people, instead of understanding that the lack of exercise plus the over-stimulation has created a situation where the dog has bitten another dog or person.
So Just What Can We Do? 

Well #1, no matter what the weather — exercise your dogs and wear them out! That does not mean you personally have to get out in the cold weather (but it won’t kill you either, within reason). You could call a dog walker, doggy daycare or even go to the dog park! You could even take your dog for daily walks in big box pet retail establishments that allow dogs! The options are there you just have to get up off the couch and pick one.
A word of caution — not all dogs can handle a dog park, other dogs or being in public, so if you are not sure please call a trainer and get some help. The last thing I want from this article is the creation of other “bad” situations while trying to prevent one.

Instead, the take away from this article is to understand that dogs and people have a tendency to “stack” stressors. Once they reach a breaking point, the dog will lash out at whatever is closest! You as the human have the responsibility to start creating a list of things that stress out or over-stimulate your dog and keep the list handy (in your head) so that you can see these stressors as they start to affect your dog’s behaviors. Here are just a few common stressors that can affect dogs.

Front Doors after the doorbell
Windows, when they see the mailperson or someone walking their dog
Simply being on leash and not being able to get to what they want
Other dogs or people who are over-stimulated
Loud noises (vehicles, thunderstorms, or other unexpected noises)
Make A List 

This list could go on forever and include: men, kids, vacuum cleaner, hats, even beards! It could also include the differences in stress: over-stimulation versus arousal and fear, which are all somewhat different and can be dealt with in many different ways.
Over-stimulation may be just one small piece of the puzzle. To assume the only issue is exercise and lack of it during the winter months may is not a good idea.  This is why the list is important. But trust me it is one piece of the puzzle and can help.
But as with all instances of aggression the first and foremost thing to remember is to call a professional for help! After all that is why trainers are here to help. Happy New Years and get out there and wear out those dogs!
Mike Deathe is an avid pet lover who found his passion as a dog trainer. Since 2008 he has trained thousands of pet parents on how to live with their companion animals. He writes the Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S) dog blog. Deathe has authored several books including; The Book of Pee and Poop, Forever Home — Dog 101 and How to be a Better Shelter Volunteer and The 5 Steps to the Perfect Pet.  Follow Deathe’s blog at @http://muttzmembers.blogspot.com/ or the website @ www.kissdogtraining.com.

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