Aggression in Dogs: Why does it happen and what can we do to prevent it.
Fighting in dogs can be a difficult issue to talk about. When it happens, it is often traumatic for both owners and their beloved pets. Dogs and people can be severely injured and the event can be stressful for months afterwards causing a change in behaviour in the dogs involved, due to trauma.
It is important to understand that aggression is a part of the normal behavioural response of all dogs. People and pet owners decide whether the intensity and frequency of the aggression and the situation in which it occurs are acceptable.
So why do they occur?
Dogs are a social species. They use a range of signals to communicate with each other and humans. They may show aggression when protecting resources valuable to them such as their owner, themselves, their puppies, food or their territory. Dogs will generally try to avoid aggressive encounters, but if the perceived threat continues the aggression may escalate and a physical encounter may occur.
Some dogs, particularly those breeds that have been bred over centuries for fighting, may fail to show warning behaviours before an aggressive encounter. They may also fail to stop their aggressive behaviour when the victim retreats. Such dogs require extra care and control from their handlers to reduce the chances of aggression resulting in injuries to people and other animals. Government policy has banned selected breeds deemed dangerous. Unfortunately, dog bites involving people and other animals continue to occur.
It is important to remember that any dog can show aggression that can result in a bite. An individual’s tendency to bite depends on breeding and temperament, early experience, socialisation, training, physical health and the behaviour of the other dog involved.
The RSPCA believes that a prevention strategy for dog attacks must contain the following key elements:
Registration and microchipping of all dogs,
Control of unrestrained and free-roaming animals
Provisions for the control of menacing dogs
Desexing of non-breeding dogs
Education of the public, and particularly children, in dog behaviour and bite prevention.
Training of owners and dogs
Socialisation with people and other animals.
In the Illawarra and Gerringong, we are lucky to have so many dog friendly areas! We have a fantastic dog owning community who love getting out and about with our pets. We have fabulous dog friendly off leash areas and beaches where we can enjoy our pets and they can enjoy each other.
Learning about dog behaviour and reading dog body language is vital in order to educate and understand our own pet dogs and also understand other dogs we and our pets might encounter while out walking in the community. Understand that aggressive signals such as barking are a way of anxious dogs saying ‘I don’t like that don’t come any further’. Dogs with anxious temperaments may struggle interacting with larger dogs and we need to respect that and keep our distance if they are on a leash and showing signs of distress or aggression.
This is also true for dogs that are not good at socialising with other dogs and are kept on a lead when out with their owner. Dogs that are walked off leash need to have good recall behaviour so we can keep them safe.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. Dogs may get out of their yard or have an encounter that results in a bite.
Dog bites need immediate attention. Puncture wounds from sharp teeth often need cleaning, antibiotics and pain relief medications. They may also need surgery under anaesthesia to clean painful wounds, suture and debride damaged skin.
If you have any concerns of questions regarding dog behaviour or dog fights, please don't hesitate to contact us at Albion Park and Gerringong Veterinary Hospitals.
AP - 02 4256 3638
GG - 02 4234 1317