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Confused !

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Emmastace, Apr 4, 2011.


  1. Emmastace

    Emmastace PetForums VIP

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    Hi
    Could someone just clear something up for me please. Reading some other threads I am now a bit confused about biting. On one thread a vet had said that going for the face and head showed an intent to kill (this was on a human). In another thread that had a link to some text about measuring aggression and how you tell if it is serious intent on not it mentioned if a dog confines it's attention on the head area it does not mean to cause seriousl harm. On this one it was talking about dog/dog aggression.
    Is one right and the other wrong or does it depend on whether the aggression is towards humans or dogs?
     
  2. lucysnewmum

    lucysnewmum PetForums Senior

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    found this link for you to hopefully answer some of your concerns.`
    hope you find it useful....i certainly do when dealing with aggressive dogs and some of the techniques have definitely prevented a bite and allowed me to safely take control of the dog before attempting to modify the unwanted behaviour.
    hope this helps....particularly pay attention to the one about human's teeth!"

    How to Handle a Dog Attack - wikiHow
     
  3. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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    First thing, dog directed aggression is very very different to human directed aggression.
    They may be present in the same dog but the motivations are very different.

    Aggression is far too complicated to be able to understand its severity in such succint terms.
    Be aware that vets get little behaviour tuition, VNs get more ;) but saying that this summary is too simplistic and therefore loses much accuracy.

    Aggression, like pretty much all dog behaviour, is context specific.

    It is far more valuable to understand the damage done by the bite, the area that was bitten (e.g. the same bite force to an arm will cause different wounding to the face) and the context.

    Using an objective scale such as the Dunbar Bite Levels scale is prob the best way to measure severity of a bite. This scale grades bites from Level 1 (an airsnap) to Level 6 (a bite causing injuries that lead to death).

    Another objective measure that is important to be aware of is bite threshold. This measures how quick a dog moves through the aggression sequence e.g. how quick does a dog go from stiffening to growl to snarl to bite etc.

    When it comes to dog-dog aggression Terry Pride (leashedforlife on this board) has documented a bite scale.

    Generally, and this is very general, minor wounds to the upper part of the body e.g. small punctures or nips to the neck, face, ears etc. are usually part of 'normal' dog-dog fighting. Injury to the trunk of the body or particularly the back legs could signify a more serious fighting MO.

    Again the amount of damage is imporatant to measure objectively.

    There is so much rubbish spouted about dog aggression, so much myth and OTT comment that it is difficult to wade through all of it.
    For info on dog-dog aggro prob the best starter book is Jean Donaldson's FIGHT!

    It should also be noted that other than prey related aggression almost all aggression is processed as fear related behaviour. What we refer to as aggression is escalated distance increasing signaling, people don't consider whale eye, yawning and tongue flicks in social sitautions as aggression even though this stuff is actually the understated polite way of asking for distance - yet people are much happier about referring to growling, snarling etc. as aggression and returning this aggression with shouting, telling off or worse :nono:
     
    #3 tripod, Apr 4, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2011
  4. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Most onleash dog walkers cannot see those visual signals, I've seen so many growls and barks rewarded by sudden yanks on the leash to correct, sometimes combined with yelling. The thing is the same yank frequently happens to a dog that hesitates and stops very often, even in face of a glaring oncoming dog, though at least the owner rarely yells in this case.

    It would be interesting to know the history, and see if there was a learned progression up the scale due to the poor handling causing negative association, with the flight option (increased distance) prevented.
     
    #4 RobD-BCactive, Apr 5, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2011
  5. Emmastace

    Emmastace PetForums VIP

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    Hi
    Thanks for those replies. Although I asked the question to try and understand my own dog a little more it was just a general question really and probably far too simplistic.
    My own dog has never shown aggression towards humans as such. We live in a pub and she is 100% fine with anyone in the public areas. She tends to ignore people or go over for a quick sniff before walking away. If people encourage her over she will most often go all silly and have a big fuss. On the few occassions when she hasn't wanted to approach people that are calling her over she just walks away (I have to say in my experience she is always right and they do tend to be the weird ones that she ignores). She is also fine with people in the private parts of the building, even workmen who wander through from one to the other. The only place she 'defends' by barking is her yard. She sounds aggressive when people are in her yard but hasn't gone for anyone, although she has air snapped at their bums on a couple of occasions when they leave the yard. The only time she did snap at someone and catch their hand was when she was sitting on my son's girlfriends lap inside the car. The window was open and a complete stranger put his hand through the car window to pat the dogs head. She did snap at his hand but I think she was protecting my son's girlfriend and the man was stupid to do that.
    Mia has never growled, lunged or even barked at another dog but she can show fear aggression on occasion and has held by the scruff without breaking the skin on several occasions which is why I never let her off lead and I am really careful about letting her come into contact with other dogs.
    We are working with a behaviourist on this but it is a long slow process.
    Hence my question. Mia has never tried to touch another dog anywhere but the scruff even though she has had the opportunity in the past when sniffing nose to tail.
    I think I was looking for reassurance that she isn't past help but know deep down that it is more complicated.
    Someone else mentioned in the pub yesterday about any contact by a dog with the head or neck meaning 'a death bite' intention. I don't see that in Mia because I know she is capable of serious damage but has never done it and it is in conflict with studies I have read. I also see dogs just playing that consistently go for the others head and neck without causing any damage.
    I will just have to wait and see what happens with Mia.
     
  6. newfiesmum

    newfiesmum Banned

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    I would never take any notice of a vet when it comes to behaviour. They invariably have no idea what they are talking about. Didn't I read here a little while ago about a vet who told someone to put a shock collar on her mal or husky or something?

    Vet's know sod all about behaviour and training and should point their clients to someone who does. That's my opinion.
     
  7. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    The problem is if the Vet isn't one who's particularly interested in Dog Behaviour, how do they judge who knows what they're talking about? Some Vets (like last one I spoke to, had useful advice from her personal experience with a rescue, though she was cautious about straying from her professional area of competency). There's a tendency in a large proportion of people to accept the word of authority figures uncritically and with no thought; even when it's blatantly illogical advice.

    I've met a woman who was Vet referred to a Behaviourist, as her Spaniel was guarding, and she got taught to alpha roll the dog. She was quite happy, so all I could say, was "that sounds out of date, I've read lots of warnings about that working for a while but then leading to further aggression", but knowing that it would not make any difference.

    You actually need to find a clueful behaviorist and hope to get Vet referred if it's covered by Pet insurance.
     
    #7 RobD-BCactive, Apr 5, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2011
  8. newfiesmum

    newfiesmum Banned

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    You are right there, Rob. If everyone found out about these things and about their breed before getting the dog, they may be able to think more objectively. But if you are first time dog owner, I suppose you would not question the advice of the vet, no matter what you had read.

    When we got Joshua at 8 weeks and Ferdie was two, the vet told me to "let them play rough" Giant breed, eight weeks old, could easily have been permanently damaged if I had taken any notice. I listened to the breeder's advice and what I already knew about newfies. Luckily, Ferdie never wanted to play rought with him at that age, he was very gentle, but it could have been a different story.
     
  9. Pawsitive

    Pawsitive PetForums Junior

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    Obviously it's difficult to know over text without seeing the behaviour but in my humble opinion, it sounds like your dog has very good bite inhibition - even if she is showing 'aggression', she is not breaking the skin. This would imply to me that she is not trying to severely injure the other dog.

    Clearly, FA needs to be worked on as you are doing but from experience, if a dog 'means' a bite, it will usually draw blood.

    If I were you, I would learn everything I could about her body language - so you can see what's coming before it happens (as others have said, whale eye / body posture / calming signals etc)

    Also, you are right that some dogs go for the head and neck and are just playing - Had a client with a wolfhound x puppy that would hang off his other dog's neck thinking it was a great game! My Collie bitch often tries to entice my Collie boy to play by snapping in his face and gently biting his neck - it all depends on circumstances and the signals they are giving each other.
     
  10. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Furthermore, actually you may have had many dogs, and have had much good advice from Vet, so not then question something, if the professional advises outside of their area of expertise. I would guess, it's only people who've taken an active interest in Dog Behaviour themselves, who are not going to do what they're told, especially when they might incurr significant costs themselves.
     
  11. tripod

    tripod PetForums VIP

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    There are a couple of studies on incidents of aggression and the application of aversives. I think I posted some links to some relevant work in the prong collar thread. If you can't find it I will post them again when on my own computer where I have all my links ;)
     
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