The Truth Behind Dog Agression

March 30, 2017
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No dog is born aggressive, it is simply the owner or situation the dog grew up in that made it that way.  The term “aggression” refers to a wide variety of behaviors that occur for a multitude of reasons in various circumstances. Virtually all wild animals are aggressive when guarding their territories, defending their offspring and protecting themselves and their meals. Species that live in groups, including people, wolves, lions and dogs also use aggression and the threat of aggression to keep the peace and to negotiate social interactions. To say that a dog is “aggressive” can mean a whole host of things. Aggression encompasses a range of behaviors that usually begins with warnings and can culminate in an attack but what actually causes aggression in dogs? What are the roots of of their behavioral issues? There are many reasons why dogs become aggressive, starting with the most notorious dog breed in the world, The pitbull terrier and then on to aggression in certain dog breeds followed by fear aggression and dog on dog aggression.

The pit bull’s reputation

Dogs are easily dubbed man’s best friend, but their is a dark side to these marvelous pets. According to dogsbite, In 2016, 30 people in the USA were killed by dogs and 12 of those dogs were pit bulls, while the remaining were either mixed with the pitbull breed or an entirely different breed altogether.  No dog breed in the world is more feared, and misunderstood, than the American Pit Bull Terrier. A powerful and muscular dog by nature, the pit bull’s imposing appearance has resulted in the entire breed being vilified as one of the most dangerous in the world. The sad truth behind this classification is that mankind is responsible for much of the woe and misinformation that surrounds this loyal breed of dog. Much of what is known by the public today regarding the pit bull comes from the nightly news and reports of dog fighting rings throughout the country. In reality, the pit bull is a breed with a long history that begins across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom. Ironically, the country responsible for the pit bull breed Americans know today has since banned the breed.


One thing nobody can argue with is the Pit Bull Terrier has a bad reputation. When someone says the name “Pit Bull,” most people either think of a vicious dog or are aware that others think of them that way. There is no other breed that stirs up so much emotion. They are idolized, feared, respected, hated and loved intensely by different types of people. There are groups that have been successful at banning them. Some insurance companies will not insure you if you own one, apartments will not let you live there if you own one and some areas will confiscate and kill a dog if they think it even remotely looks like one. This mentality relates to a powerful quote by Chief Dan George “If you talk to the animals they will talk to you, and you will know each other. If you don't talk with them, you will not know them and what you do not know you fear and what one fears they destroy” people and countries that fear pit bulls have destroyed the breed, countries such as england have killed any breed that resembles the pit bull terrier and banned anyone from owning one. but what is the reason behind the fear? What actions in the past have demonized the pitbull terrier?


Pit Bulls have become status symbols by many criminals and it appears to be politically incorrect to admit that it is not the breed of dog, but the type of people who own the dog, who affect that dog’s temperament. Study up on natural dog behavior and you will find that a dog's temperament is a direct result of his owner’s ability to understand him and give him what he instinctually needs as a canine animal. From drug dealers to dog fighters, the Pit Bull Terrier is a victim of criminals who mistreat it starting at a young age. They grab the puppies by the scruff of the neck and roughly face them up with other puppies. They teach them and encourage them to bark, growl, protect and attack. This type of dog owner rarely gets their dog neutered and they keep the dog chained, as they want the dog to be aggressive. According to the American Humane Association approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered. Approximately 25% of fatal dog attacks involved chained dogs.despite a dog’s aggressive posture or stance when it is in “attack mode”  all dogs have a prey drive, and often a person or an animal that appears to be running away in a quick and fearful way mimics prey running from a hunter.


Pit Bulls have been used to hunt large game such as boars, bears, and occasionally coyotes and cougars. Kids are often bitten by pit bulls, and other hunting breeds because when a kid perceives something as a threat they run and scream, just like a prey animal would, triggering that dog or other dogs around to pursue a chase and tackle the prey. According to  the American Temperament Test Society It is estimated that around 25% of dogs in shelters are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, while the number can be closer to 60% in shelters in big cities. Sadly many shelters across the country do not adopt out pit bulls at all, they are euthanized (killed) immediately upon arrival even if they are newborn puppies. Roughly 200 pit bulls a day are euthanised in Los angeles, california alone. While  pitbulls in shelters that appear aggressive and might have a bite history, it is actually Fear aggression is the most common cause of dog bites.

Fear- aggressive dogs

“For many fear-aggressive dogs, it is a lack of adequate dog exercise that is the root of the dog problem behavior. Dog exercise burns the dog's excess energy and helps maintain the dog's healthy state of mind. This is important because, in order to talk to the mind, you need to remove the energy from the body.”- Cesar Millan.  Dogs that don't get enough exercise tend to get anxious and they exhibit behaviors such as pacing back and forth, or chewing on inappropriate stuff while other dogs might constantly bark or howl while others might try to escape the confines or its enclosed area. Some dog breeds such as the greyhound, german shepherd, husky, and labrador need more exercise than a chihuahua or a basset hound. High energy level dogs can become destructive when their needs are not met.

When a person with an excited energy or personal comes to a dog and invades their personal space, the dog will often bite to try and get the person or threat away from them. Now take a dog that is already anxious from lack of exercise put them in that situation and that can result in a serious injury. dogs who have been abused or neglected tend to be very fearful, and often a person or even another dog coming towards them can be perceived as a threat, if the dog is cornered, usually a growl followed by a quick bite is how the dog will react. If one doesn't want to be bit by a dog, it’s best to let the dog approach you on its own terms, let it sniff you, move slowly, no sudden movements, do not attempt to pet the dog, petting may trigger a fear response, take deep calming breaths, it will relax you thus relaxing the dog as well.


Dog on dog aggression

Dog fights are scary and can result in fatal injuries to both the human and the dogs involved. With dog on dog aggression, your dogs are asking you to step up as the pack leader. Animals select pack leaders because they instinctually know who is strong and who can best lead them.  According to animal expert and dog lover Jackie Robinson, pack leader is concerned for the pack, not for himself. His natural instincts are protection and direction for the entire pack. It’s an unselfish role and an instinctual role. And in return, the pack completely trusts the pack leader.  Cesar Millan's dog psychology expert and animal trainer believes that you need to earn your dogs’ trust, loyalty, and respect before the dogs will look to you as their leader, and you do this by giving them rules, boundaries, and limitations. People who spoil their dogs, and have no rules or boundaries with their dog will not become a pack leader. Dog’s who think they are the leader of there pack will often exhibit behaviors such as pushing you around physically, nipping and barking when you are doing some sort of activity, male dogs will often mark (pee) on objects inside or outside and will often hump there  human or other dogs.


If you are not in control of your dog and their is a confrontation with another dog, your dog will instinctively protect you,and that can result in a dog fight. People panic during dog fights, the mistakes they make are reaching towards the heads of the dogs while they are fighting, when a dog is fighting, it is unaware of its surroundings and if your hand is near their mouth or head,k they might bite, thinking it's part of the other dog. Another Mistake people make is pulling the collars of the dogs, and that can lead to the dogs ripping each other's skin as they are pulled away or it could result in the dog turning on you. The best way to stop a dog fight is actually to first, Keep calm, and don’t scream and shout at the dogs. Second, evaluate the situation, you want to keep yourself safe and avoid being bitten. Third go gets two leashes, allow the fight to continue while you do this, than focus on one dog. Dogs almost always lock onto one another (bite and hold on) so while they are doing that, walk up to one and loop the leash around the leash around the dog’s hips, then slowly back away and drag the dog to a fence or a secure object that you can tie the dog too. Than repeat the process with the second dog and get the dogs a safe distance from each other. From their, it is best to separate the dogs into separate rooms or kennels, and avoid letting them come into contact with each other until they appear to be relaxed and tired.  Once your dogs see you as their pack leader, the dog on dog aggression will stop as they stop fighting for dominance because you will be their calm-assertive pack leader.

Red zone dogs

It is important to understand that red zone dogs are usually extremely frustrated dogs.  A red zone dog is a dog that is completely out of control and is in need of intense rehabilitation. To control a powerful breed, you need to master the position of pack leader. The sheer size and strength of a pit bull, Mastiff, Cane Corso, Rottweiler, or any other large dog can quickly transform a frustrated and dominant animal into a serious threat. You must gain control of the situation and dog behavior before it escalates. As mentioned earlier, Cesar Millan in a dog psychology expert and owns his very own dog rehabilitation center, and he even has a TV show where he claims that he “rehabilitates dogs and trains people. Cesar has worked with countless red zone dogs and has almost always found that one of the roots to the dogs behaviour is the owners. “When dealing with red zone dogs, I start by working with the owners, explaining how to establish themselves as the pack leader and to understand the animal in their dog. This is a crucial part of rehabilitating your dog and overcoming dog problems: changing your behavior. If you revert to your old ways, so will your dog.” Cesar Millan.


Dogs are not perfect, infact that are often a reflection of your energy, and your behaviour. But one thing that every dog does have is the ability to love unconditionally, no matter how deranged or damaged you are. Racism in the USA still exists, and it not only towards human races, it is also towards certain dog breeds, especially the Pit bull terrier, however hopefully after reading this informative essay you have a better understanding of this demonized dog breed as well as a better understanding of the roots of dog aggression and the role we humans play in it as well. In my personal opinion and experience, I believe no dog is ever”too far gone” or non rehabilitatable, I believe that every dog deserves a chance at being rehabilitated and every dog on this earth deserves a loving home and a peaceful and pain free life.


Works Cited
"2015 U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities." DogsBite - Some Dogs Don't Let Go. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

"Dog Aggression | How to Handle Biting, Anger, and Aggression in Dogs." WebMD. WebMD. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

"A Dogs Social Instincts." Singapore Travel Guide. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

"The Truth behind the Pit Bull Terrier." The Truth behind the Pit Bull Terrier. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

"Understanding Dog Aggression." Cesar's Way. 30 Nov. 2015. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Gendr1am Follow. "Pit Bull Terriers." LinkedIn SlideShare. 07 Nov. 2012. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

"A Short History of Demonizing Dogs." A Short History of Demonizing Dogs. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

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