Common Questions on Prevention of Aggression in Fur-Babies

Puppy Behaviour, last updated 14th, Oct 2020, DogSpot

We love all things dog. In our endeavour to bring education to pet parents, we collaborated with Founder of HappyTails Pune, Canine Behaviourist and Training expert Meera Thosar. In conversation with Cherian MJ, Winner of India Grooming Show 2019, she spoke about the ways to prevent aggression in dogs and how dogs need to be understood as dogs and not humanised. Read on more insights.

We bring our dogs into our family and they soon become a big part of our lives. However, we as humans often, quiet mistakenly, treat our dogs as humans.  While we have domesticated dogs to a great exent, most of their social understanding remains the same. It is the mis-alignment of this behaviour that can cause dogs to become aggresive. To ensure the best and happiest dog, make sure you speak his/her language and follow a few of their social rules. 

Common questions regarding dog behaviour and preventing aggression

1. People refer to their dogs as their fur babies now. What is the difference between a fur baby and the dog? 

There is no harm in giving love to animals but the day we start treating them as a human that is where the problem starts. You should treat them as a family member and not as a human being. There have particular needs, being a different species and we should respect that. 

2. What do we understand by a pack animal? 

A pack leader is someone who has the capacity to maintain the balance in the ranks and keep the harmony intact. They also have the ability to solve an issue if there is any. 

3. What about cuddling, pampering, comforting and kissing dogs? 

We have humanised our dogs to such a great extent. All these are human behaviour but it’s not the same case with dogs. For example, hugging in humans is a symbol of affection wherever in dogs it is a sign of showing dominance. 

4. How do dogs express dominance and submission? 

There are a lot of ways in which dogs talk through their body language. If the dog is more confident approaching other dogs, bullying other dogs around, nagging other dogs, mounting the dogs that are showing signs of submission, it is a dominant dog.

When it comes to dominance the dog will go and stand  next to the dog with his tail wagging. They are more confident in this case. 

5. If someone is trying to hug their dog and show love and the dog comes over to them while they are in a prone position, will that be termed submission? 

Yes, this is submission. At times it is difficult to tell who is dominant in this. If a human child is pushing himself over the dog, the dog may show the same signs. If the dog is overconfident and extra friendly and the child moves back, then it’s a sign of dominance by the child also. Certain dogs are really good at studying the body language and act accordingly. 

6. How much cuddling and kissing is okay? And how do we deal with that? 

You have to accept the dog’s choice as well. If the dog is not comfortable and happy when you are cuddling, it is best to avoid it. 

7. What are the points that we need to keep in mind when we get a puppy home? 

Ask yourself 100 times “why do you need a dog?” Because getting a dog is a big commitment. Then find a good source to get your puppy. Be a responsible pet owner. 8 weeks and plus is the ideal age when you should get a puppy home. 

Once the puppy is home, start things gradually and be ready with your own rule book that you will follow for another 10-12 years to come. You can’t change the rules as per your convenience.

8. Please explain play biting

There is no such thing called play biting. A bite is a bite and I believe the dog shouldn’t under any circumstances put their teeth on the human skin. Even in the teething stage you have to teach them that it is not okay for them to bite you. Stop the dog in the beginning itself. 

9. What is the best way to socialise a large breed dog puppy who is dominant and protective in nature like a Rottweiler, Mastiff etc. Is there a particular age when it is best to teach them to be social?

Early socialisation plays an important role. You must start it gradually right from the beginning. You can start by simply just going out till the gate for about five to ten minutes. The idea behind socialising is to help them learn to cope up with changes in the environment. 

10. Why do puppies and even some older dogs exhibit urinary inconsistencies when they see someone? Is it a sign of nervousness or anxiety? 

It is a typical sign of excitement and submission. The puppies might not know how to control their emotions and greet the person and thus these things happen.  You can avoid this by making sure that when you greet the puppy, you should not get too hyper and excited. It could also happen due to fear or anxiety. 

When you return home, make sure you do not get over excited. Control your emotions, as every time you might not walk-in to your house with free hands or you might be unwell. In such cases when your dog jumps on you, it will lead to more chaos. It can lead to aggression in the long run. 

11. Do dogs suffer from separation anxiety? 

Dogs don’t have separation anxiety. Right from their birth, their mother teaches them to stay by themselves. The mother only goes to them when they are at risk. We, the pet parents, have taught them active separate anxiety. 

12. If the puppy is in a crate at home and starts whining during the day, what should we do or not do in such a case?

You should only go to them when they have become silent. If you run to them as soon as they start whining, then you are reinforcing a behaviour pattern which the puppies know will get you back to them. Don’t go to a barking or a whining dog. 

13. Does separation anxiety lead to aggression? 

Aggression is a vast topic. A lot of factors as involved. Aggression is not limited to only biting. Anxiety can be a fearful or nervous aggression case. 

14. With the lockdown, my dog doesn’t see many people around and whenever she hears anyone going up and down, she tries to go to them. Is it normal?

If your dog is going after people it means your door is open. So shut the door. If you feel this behaviour is unpleasant, try working on it right now. Make sure when someone comes in, your dog is sitting in the other corner. You can teach the dog a place command. Don’t allow your dog to run after people. 

15. Tell us about the guilty looks that our dogs are famous for. 

There is no guilt feeling in dogs. It is because of the unpleasant expressions on our faces which makes them do it. The dog reads that the human is not happy. The dog doesn’t know that you are mad at them; they just react to you being sad or mad. They have no connection to the behaviour for which you are yelling on them. 

They might have done something a few hours ago and you scold them later. They will not remember it. You must react to the problem then and there only for them to understand what they have done. 

16. What about dogs doing something right in front of you for which he has been scolded before and they automatically relate to it and feel guilty? 

If you catch the dog then and there and scold them, then they can relate to it. There is no guilt, but they can relate to your anger. You must make sure to catch them within five seconds when they do something wrong. 

17. How does crate training relate to a balanced dog? 

Crate training doesn’t mean that you have to put your dog in a cage. Your dog is already caged in your house as your dog only goes out for his walk and rest of the time he is locked up in the house. When dogs tend to do destructive activities, it is merely out of boredom or to get your attention.  It’s always better to give the dog their own place if you don’t want to crate them. Teach them how to stay nicely at home without the crate as well.  

Crate training doesn’t mean that you have to put them in it for 24 hours. When you have a young puppy of about three months, the maximum they can stay in a crate is for 2 hours or so. During the day, with all the activities, the dog will need to come out once in 2-3 hours. It is also a great idea to give him toilet training. 

18. There are homes with many dogs where you find a lot of male aggression when a female dog is in the house. Is there a way to control it? 

The owner must be very proactive in training their dogs. Also don’t get a second dog so that your first dog has company. I prefer to keep a safe age difference between two dogs. If you get two similar age puppies even if they are from the same litter, they will grow together and try to show their hierarchy. If the dogs are poorly raised, they will develop behavioural issues.

You must see that the dogs are well raised and trained at the same time. A lot of times  this happens because dogs tend to engage in rough games between themselves. The dogs feel it’s the time to show who is more powerful.  When a female is in her heat it triggers the fight more frequently. 

19. My dog keeps running away from the home whenever she finds the door open. We take her for walks thrice a day and give her a lot of exercise too. She listens to us inside the house but not outside. Why is she doing this? 

You must learn how to improve your relationship with the dog. Teach her how to play with you. You must show them why you are more interesting than everything else. Learn what things interest her. Learn to teach her things in a playful way rather than disciplining her. 

20. My Rottweiler is generally friendly with all dogs, but he has been showing aggression towards one specific dog. What type of aggression is this and how to solve it?

You need to have a trainer on board. As soon as you see that something is going wrong, start working with him indoors on it and then gradually start working on it outdoors. You can always divert his attention, change the direction.  Don’t wait for it to turn into an ugly fight. There is no way to make them friends that will not happen. 

21. Is it possible that a calm happy female puppy shows aggression? Can there be a total change in her behaviour and personality even if nothing actually has happened? Do I need to be vigilant all along? 

If there is a sudden change in her behaviour, the first thing to see is whether she is in some kind of pain. It could be due to some medical cause. Always rule out the medical cause first. 

22. Why are small breeds getting so aggressive and what causes it? 

Toy breeds are easy to lift. A lot of people lift the dog and keep on cuddling them to a level when the dog starts feeling uncomfortable and ends up growling. People tend to find this behaviour cute, but the dog is telling you that they do not like it. When you ignore all these signs the dog will tend to bite to run away from it. 

23. There is a rage syndrome in Cocker Spaniels. Why do people say that the ones golden in color are very aggressive?

All the breeds have a purpose. Cocker Spaniels are gun dogs. They love to retrieve things from humans and if they don’t have any work except going out for a few walks, all these things tend to happen out of frustration. At some point of time, the dogs also start to enjoy that stressful environment where they are controlling their humans. 

25. Some dogs attack people when they enter the room, especially when the dog is sleeping- there is a sudden burst of anger. Why does that happen?

Learn to respect a sleeping animal. You can’t just go and disturb them just because you want to cuddle them. If you try to kiss or cuddle them when they are sleeping, it is their natural reflex to attack. If some dogs attack without being touched also it could be because of fear or because they are territorial.

Crate training is the best option and if that is not possible then always wake up the dog before you enter the room. Start talking before approaching the door so that they know someone is coming. 

26. Can you talk about hand shyness in small dogs? 

This is because of size. Being a small dog and us being very big in comparison to them. If we lean over them, they tend to get uncomfortable. Always approach the dogs from a safe distance. If the dogs are showing signs, they are not comfortable then give them space

Hand shyness could also be because the breeders haven’t handled them well as puppies. They are only raised in their cages and barely handled. They come to your house with a lot of fear already. One of the best ways to get rid of this is by not hugging them and  handling them  with your hands stretched out.

You can stand at an arm’s length and brush them. This takes away the hand shyness. If small dogs are lifted a lot and they are not comfortable with it, this can also lead to hand shyness. 

27. If I have someone visiting me at my house, what do I tell my guest how to deal with my puppy? 

It is best to teach both to ignore each other. You must give the puppy some space. In their own time they will come and greet the new person. If they feel comfortable, they will approach the guest. Don’t force your puppy to go and meet people.  Allow your puppy to approach the guest. It’s the puppy’s choice to come and meet the guest. 

28. How should breeders raise puppies till they go to their new home?

Don’t raise puppies to generate money. Raise puppies to give them a safe and secure life. Start training them from day one. Handling the puppy every day is important. The breeder plays a very important role. Evaluate your options; ask if you can see the mother and other puppies in the litter. See how they are kept. If your breeder is hesitant then don’t go for that breeder. Always be careful. 

29. Do you recommend pens for puppies? 

Pens have a much larger place than a crate and are open from the roof. If you want to keep your puppy in a pen, then there should be two different surfaces within it if you are using it to toilet train them. The puppy should learn to differentiate between them.

The pen is basically their playing and resting area so if the puppy is already toilet – trained, do not use the pen for it. The smaller the pen the better it is to avoid accidents. 

30. Is it a good idea to use a pen to stop the puppy from destroying things in the house? 

You must train the puppy to not destroy the articles in the house. The more you stop your puppy from doing things when they run out of the pen; they will still destroy the household stuff. Pen is not used to confine them all day. You must teach them to live peacefully when they are left alone. Physical restriction is not training. 

Dogspot.in went live with Meera Thosar, Canine behaviourist, Training expert and founder of HappyTails, Pune. Meera has over 15 years of experience. Her journey in the pet industry started as a trainer in 2006 and since then she has trained over 700 dogs. She is an expert in Practical Training Exercises and Concepts, Explosives' Detection, Hearing and Guide Dog Handling, Competitive Obedience Training and Tracking. Facilitator in outdoor education & telepathic animal & nature communication. She has made immense progress in the field of communication. She shared with us some of the most evolving learnings in this field.

In conversation with Cherian MJ, Winner of India Grooming Show, 2019, he is an enthusiastic Cocker Spaniel breeder and groomer. He recently started his own blog @casagoldcockers where he interacts and shares his knowledge about pet grooming and grooming products.

We hope we answered all your queries regarding the topic. In case you have any further questions about the topic, please feel free to leave it in the comments below. An expert will be happy to guide you! 

Transcribed by: Srishti Bhatia

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