Historically and erroneously described as dominance aggression, this type of aggression is not motivated by the dog's interest in being dominant or “leader of the pack”, but by being in a conflict situation where he cannot find a quick solution to the problem.
A dog suffering from conflict aggression does not show fear in his body language. He does not tuck his tail between his rear legs, point his ears back, or look away avoiding direct eye contact.
In this situation, the dog shows fighting body language, with the body forward, ears pricked, tail in the air, erection of hair on the dorsal region, and wrinkles on the muzzle showing the teeth. Dogs in this state of mind can be dangerous, especially medium, and large breeds.
The two main triggers that lead a dog to behave this way are: frustration, or when being threatened or disciplined.
Frustration can happen when the dog has an obvious action that he intends to perform, such as stealing a piece of bread from the table and someone puts himself between him and his goal, causing frustration for not achieving what he wanted.
Dogs that feel threatened by a certain action against them, such as correction with unreasonable physical force or excessively negative restraint for procedures such as nail clipping or ear cleaning, may also react aggressively, not knowing how to deal with this conflict. As previously stated, these dogs are not afraid, they just cannot deal with conflict within scenarios they are not prepared to deal with. The best way to treat or even prevent these situations is by practicing something that should be mandatory for every dog, basic obedience training.
Basic obedience isn't just about teaching your dog to sit down or stay. All of this is important, no doubt, but teaching your dog to be physically touched, is a basic and fundamental part of building a dog's temperament.
In my years working in veterinary hospitals, it was always part of my basic obedience program, a technique I called BODY MANIPULATION. Dogs are taught to accept being touched and allow a professional to inspect the most sensitive areas of the body. They are ears, eyes, mouth, paws, nails, tail, and the genital and anal region. All this without restraint and associated with rewards. I wrote a post about that in the past.
In the early 2010's, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Sea World in Orlando and was invited backstage to observe dolphin and orca trainers. From a very young age, the animals are taught to put themselves in certain positions and accept being touched to be examined and even undergo blood collection without needing to be sedated or restrained. Through associating snacks, trainers can perform all procedures positively and efficiently.
The same goes for dogs. To know more about BODY MANIPULATION, check it out my previous post!
Marco Magiolo is a bestselling author, trainer, and speaker. Connect with Marco on social media and subscribe to future newsletters and updates.