5 common types of uncontrolled aggression
Dominance - Play - Possessive - Protective - Fear
Non-case specific - generalized information - this subject can be explained but not treated through generalized writings.
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A pack (family) social structure in nature is akin to a true monarchy with each member earning his or her position and no two positions being equal. In other words, one is either above or below, NOT equal to any other member of the pack (family). Dominance within a natural pack is normally established early and before the participants are old enough to seriously hurt each other. When a dog is placed in our society (a home environment) this dominance understanding is not normally addressed or established in the beginning and as with a human child that is allowed (or forced thru no clear leadership) to take over and run the environment, the dog will grow up exerting it's own will. It must be remembered that if a dog has no clear lead (good parenting) then he or she must become the leader. There must be a leader (monarchy species / instinct). Dominance attitudes, including aggression, can show up in an animal as early as four weeks of age. Although neutering/spaying should be done as soon as possible, this action alone will not stop dominance aggression (not hormone related). This attitude can occur in any breed and size does not matter, however, it does seem to be true that more males display this behavior than females. Signs of this behavioral misuse of power are clear and will shows up in many areas of interaction. The first clue is the overall stance and attitude with family members . This attitude will appear very "bully" like and any slow or non effective attempt to "correct" will cause this animal to "talk back, push authority, and get worse". Even at 8 weeks of age a test of wills can occur whenever the dog wants something including attention, toys, food, etc... In cases where dominance and/or dominance aggression appears in a very young animal it can sometimes be thought by humans to be cute, funny or even ego empowering and is many times consciously or unconsciously approved of or encouraged by our immediate responsive actions.
Play aggression can be dangerous even if un-intended. This behavior is usually linked to dominant temperaments and as with dominance aggression should be dealt with as the behavior appears. In nature (natural pack) a pup would learn to inhibit it's bite while playing at a very early age. The hard biting would not be tolerated by older and superior members of the pack (especially his or her very own mom) and should not be tolerated or allowed by us human pack members. This is another behavioral action that seems to be commonly laughed at, giggled about, pridefully shown off and actually initiated to show other people when the animal is young. This behavior grows more and more dangerous as the animal grows more and more knowledgable about his or her abilities and successes. Some humans are under the misconception that this will make the dog "more protective". No. just more dangerous. It needs to be remembered that hard play biting can cause injury just like any other type of biting. Without ever learning to "inhibit" his/her bite, the animal will not understand that biting hard is a bad thing and can very easily harm a child or anyone while just trying to play. An action that can cost the dog it's life. One of the most serious mistakes is encouraging this behavior while the dog is young. Remember, a dog's best learning time is from 4 to 16 weeks of age and what we don't want them to do as adults, we should not teach them to do as pups. Some humans (maybe the same ones) assume it doesn't matter what we allow the pup to do when he/she is young because they will magically grow out of it. No, habits are grown into not out of.
Possessive aggression is very much like the temper tantrums of a spoiled child trying to get it's own way and striking out at a weak or ineffectual parent. This behavior is not motivated by hormones therefore (although recommended) spay/neuter will not stop it. There are no limitations as to breed or age with this behavior and it can appear anywhere, at any age and at anytime. Dealing with your animal through parenting weakness begins this spoiled child behavior. In some cases little or no harm is caused or created by this human submissive behavior but this is not a prideful thing and all too often leads to replacement or death of the dog and much heartache if not actual injury for the family unit. This is a type of aggression (like dominance and play) thought to be cute (or whatever) when the animal is young - and encouraged accordingly. We must keep in mind that dogs are cause and effect learners as well as a monarchy species. As with any true monarchy, there must be a leader (king/queen). If by your attitude and actions, you are always/most of the time asking, serving, instantly gratifying, bribing, etc., or just ignoring, you certainly are not the leader, therefore the animal must be. Think about what your behavior shows. Are you confident or unsure and solicitous? When interacting with your animal, if you were looking into a mirror - would you respect and believe you? As with many opportunistic species - the belief that if you can take it - then it must be yours applies here, after all it is good to be king or queen!
Protective aggression is a kind of close up and personal canine use of power and if guided properly, is of great benefit to humankind. This type should not be confused with possessive, territorial or any other of the many forms of aggression. This form of aggression display is usually shown within close proximity to possessions (home/family). As much as this behavior can help us - it can equally hurt us if the dog is making his/her actions up along the way - again, no clear guidance. If this type of behavior is treated as a toy, a joke, a threat to other family members (even if it's only in fun), a crutch for our own personal fears, etc., this behavior can easily result in serious and costly consequences (and very often does). Be aware of the dangers of the exploitation (using your dog for ego extension / gratification / etc.) of protective aggression. As with many, this behavior is a self motivating and self starting weapon and should never be used through ignorance. Don't put your family, friends, innocent bystanders and your dog at risk just to feed your personal "I wanna's". This type of interaction is not fair to the situation and certainly not fair to the dog. The potential safety this behavior can give us is well worth the effort to understand and apply right teaching.
Fear aggression is by far the saddest and most dangerous behavior I work with and yet in most cases, is the easiest to turn around because the animal doesn't want to do it in the first place. It usually just knows no other way. Typically the animal in an average household is being constantly forced into making decisions (no clear lead) before they know what a decision is much less how to make one. they can only decide what to do from prior or pre existing knowledge - errors just repeat themselves. One of the biggest causes of fear reaction is the "too much - too soon" syndrome. The title of "free roaming" (as if to imply a kind thing) labels this error. Free roaming without knowledge leads to many confused and reactive animals The reaction will go the way the individual animal's temperament and prior knowledge guide. All too often fear aggression appears. Too many people believe that for a dog to show fear aggression it must have been "beaten or abused". If you consider a constant state of confusion a form of mental abuse and you believe that mental and physical abuse are equally devastating then these people are right, however, a dog showing extreme fear aggression - more often than not - may have never been struck, may have lived in excellent conditions, may be in wonderful physical condition and may never have been told NO. Canines, being a monarchy species in nature need one thing above all and that is leadership presenting what is wrong as well as what is right.. We humans seem to want only the fun parts of the relationship and we avoid the guidance and/or teaching part. Wanting the fun parts of any relationship is most everyone's wish however, the refusal to accept and apply the needs of the animal through teaching responsibilities can result in tragic and often deadly behavior (usually injurious and heartbreaking for the humans / deadly to the confused, scared dog).