Dogs are creatures of survival. They find what works and they keep doing it. Their behaviors don’t change, they simply adapt. If they are heading in a direction of aggression, they will continue in that direction until it stops working. Dogs are masters of opportunity and will use this skill to push any behaviors that are not put into check.
That being said, I’d like to focus on this issue for this post. If a dog attacks another dog, and then does it again, it is NO LONGER an ISOLATED incident. If a dog attacks, bites or shows aggression on more than one occasion, it is an issue. I can’t tell you how many calls I get and how many clients that hire me after their dog has gone nearly off the deep end. People always think it was just an “incident.” Often times these incidents stem from improper integration into a home, an owner who does not show the dog the structure it (the dog) needs, or improper socialization on a leash. Whatever the reason is not important, what I’d like to stress is that the behavior will not right itself on its own.
If a dog shows even the slightest signs of aggression, and please understand that there is a difference between dominance and aggression, it is something that should be addressed. A dog should understand that his decisions are based on choices that you allow him to make. It is not up to my dog if he can or can not meet a dog, that choice is up to me. Depending how he acts, he may or may not meet another dog. Furthermore, I will determine what dogs my dog meets and which ones he doesn’t meet. My dog follows my lead and because of that he enjoys great amounts of freedom. He understands by following my rules and his good behavior he gets to do lots of fun things: he meets lots of friends, gets to run around on the beach, doesn’t have to live in a crate in the house, and much much more.
Before a dog has the opportunity to make a mistake, it is important that the human has put some basic structure down. If the dog doesn’t listen, he doesn’t get freedom. When the dog listens to basic commands, he can meet people. Once my dog understands what NO means, he can start to see the world through a wider scope. I don’t want a dog that will jump up on people and I say “NO,” and he doesn’t understand what that means. I don’t introduce a dog to another dog, let alone a pack until I know he is balanced and will fit into the pack – and also to be certain that it is a balanced pack that I am introducing my dog into. Any dog I introduce my dog to is one I feel somewhat safe about. Throwing your dog out there to meet another random dog is stupid and dangerous to your best friend.
All of these things take time, but they are worth the effort. Once the initial work is done, you must continue to do your homework, because as I stated at the start of this post, dogs are masters of opportunity. They will look for an opening or a weakness to exploit. That is the key to their survival in the wild. However, when they live under our roofs we can take that survival drive out of them and allow them to function as calm – cool members of society.
If your dog acts out once or twice it is important to address the situation. I can promise you from experience that their wrongs will not right themselves. Their aggression and/or bad behaviors will not go away.