Aggression is one of the most dangerous and misunderstood of all dog behaviour. It is also the leading reason why so many dogs end up in shelters or are euthanised each year. But aggression can be prevented if you start early socialisation and basic obedience training for your dog. However, aggression can be controlled at a later stage as well.
Watch out for…
If your dog shows aggressive tendencies — usually displayed through growling, bared teeth, biting and lunging — you need to determine the root of the problem.
There are many reasons a dog may become aggressive, and the solutions to each are unique. Therefore, it is important to pay close attention to your dog’s environment, when he behaves aggressively, to determine the most appropriate course of action. A dog may become aggressive for any of the following reasons:
• Dominance: Normally displayed towards other dogs, your pooch might become aggressive towards humans if he views them as part of his pack. He is actually trying to establish himself as the ‘Alpha’ dog or pack leader.
• Territory: Many dogs consider their homes and families their possessions and will defend them vigorously if they feel they are being threatened.
• Fear: Fear will trigger the “fight or flight” response pre-programmed into all living beings. If he cannot flee, he will fight.
• Predatory: Hunters by nature, dogs with a high hunting instinct may view children, cats, and small dogs as prey.
• Redirected: A dog which cannot assert his aggression on the trigger of fear, protectiveness, or anger may take it out on a nearby dog or human.
• Medical: A female dog’s maternal instinct may trigger aggression when she is nursing, pregnant, or in heat.
• Sudden aggression: Medical causes such as hypothyroidism and brain tumours can trigger sudden aggressive behaviour. If your dog suddenly becomes aggressive, consult your veterinarian immediately.
A training tune-up…
Fear and dominance are the two most common causes of aggression. Consistent positive training will do wonders for dogs in these situations:
• Training the dominant dog: With the dominant dog, you must assert yourself as the ‘Alpha’ in the pack, having control over everything in his life. He must understand the need to ask for permission. Food, treats, walks, toys and affection are all under your careful control. Make your dog sit before being given any of these items, and praise him tremendously when he behaves. He will quickly understand he must mind his manners to get what he wants.
• Training for the fearful dog: If fear is your dog’s trigger, slowly and carefully desensitise him by exposing him to his fear in small increments. Reward him with a treat or toy and praise him when his behaviour warrants it. Gradually increase his exposure to the stimulus and he will learn not to lash out. Avoid crowded places; always keep your dog on a leash. Don’t let others tease your dog, and slowly introduce new people to him both at home and in public until he readily learns to accept strangers.
• Feeding alone: At feeding time, ensure your dog has his own bowl and does not feel that he has to compete for food. If necessary, feed him in a separate room.
• Spaying/neutering: Spaying or neutering your dog can eliminate hormonal fluctuations that could trigger aggression.
With patience and training, the aggressive dog can be reprogrammed to make him your loving and well-behaved companion. Since aggression is a serious behaviour issue that is difficult to overcome, enlisting the assistance of a skilled dog trainer is recommended.
The writer is an avid dog lover
Q. My Lab is 8 months old and is eating everything - from grass to stones to droppings of other animals to mud. What can be done to stop this behaviour? Also, we are giving her vitamin tablets and deworming her every month as advised by the vet. We want to neuter her. What would be the best age to do it?
— Nikita Mumbai
A. Most chewing behaviour is seen in young puppies due to their strong desire to explore. This type of behaviour may start after a change in the dog’s routine or as a result of boredom. Often the dog does not know what it can and cannot chew unless they are shown or told. Prevent access to unacceptable chew items. Exercise and play with your dog regularly to alleviate excess energy and provide positive interaction. Reward your dog with praise for chewing on appropriate items.
Get some toys. Teach him simple commands like sit, go, stand, eat etc. Neutering can be done as early as 4-6 months without any adverse affects. However, contact your vet for the right decision.
— Dr Umesh Kallahalli is a well renowned vet
Let the odour go
No matter how much we scrub, shampoo and house-train our furry friends, we simply cannot escape pet hair strewn over the sofa and a distinct smell in the house that screams ‘POOCH’. While dog lovers hardly mind it, it may deter some guests from visiting you. Here’s how to keep your home clean and odour-free.
Try your best to keep pets away from carpeted rooms as carpets tend to soak in odours. If this does not seem like a practical option, keep your rugs rolled up and lay them out only at specific occasions. Wall-to-wall carpets need daily vacuum cleaning when you have pets around. Sprinkle some baking soda, leave it overnight and vacuum clean it the next day – this will help neutralise carpet odours.
Choose pooch-friendly furniture
Velvety upholstery attracts hair, dandruff and smell. When you have dogs indoors, switch over to easy-to-wipe surfaces like leather or rexene. These materials do not soak in drool or odours and since they are not as cosy as cloth or velvet, your pet is not very likely to perch on them regularly. Moreover, you can easily clean them using a duster and a deodourising spray. Also, don’t forget to provide your pooch with a chewing toy so that he does not attempt to gnaw on furniture. You can consider rubbing quinine or neem oil on wooden furniture to deter him from chewing on it.
Bed and linen care
If you happen to allow your pet on the bed, choose a smooth fabric like glazed cotton or thick satin for bed sheets. These are easier to dust off and will suffer lesser damage as compared to fancy, embroidered covers. Opt for low-maintenance fabrics that do not require expensive dry-cleaning or specialised laundry services. Get your bed sheets/covers washed frequently. You can also add baking soda to your regular detergent for fresh smelling clothes.
Be swift with the mop
If you happen to encounter an ‘accident’ like poop, vomit or pee, don’t let the mess sit around for long. Scoop it up pronto and wipe the place with a floor-cleaning liquid or vinegar before the stench begins to spread.
Create your pet’s own space
Place your pet’s bedding at a location where he has some privacy. A daily dusting/cleaning/brushing of his bedding is a must. Also you can put his bedding in the sun for sometime. Ensure that you wash his bedding at least once a week.
Never let your pooch roam around the house right after a bath. Dry him/her up with a hair-dryer along with a mild deodorising spray/powder
- By Shuchi Kalra