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Fear aggression versus......

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Rottiefan, May 2, 2011.


  1. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    Something that's never quite sat with me is when people describe their aggression as 'true' aggression. Where they believe the dog purposefully and wholeheartedly has his or her mind set on biting someone or another dog. However, I always feel that dogs only bite when they need to and even the 'confident' dogs that are overtly aggressive- body forward, hard, direct stare, whiskers and lips puckered forward, high aroused tail etc.- are acting that way out of feeling threatened and fearful.

    But there seems to be a lot of people- average dog owners and professionals included- that see some dogs as not fearful when they turn aggressive or hostile. Obviously, the concept of 'dominance' aggression doesn't help this- where dogs are multiple resource guarders and use aggression to control their resources consistently. I don't use the term 'dominance aggression', as I see dominance/subordinate relationships as only intra-species specific, but when you have multiple resource guarders who act in this way, I still would call it, fundamentally, 'fear aggression'.

    Am I missing a trick here or is it all down to shoddy labels and misleading human interpretations?
     
  2. shells

    shells PetForums VIP

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    no idea sorry but didnt whant to read and run:confused:
     
  3. Dogless

    Dogless PetForums VIP

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    That is a really interesting post.

    I have very limited knowledge compared to most on here, but am doing my best to learn as much as I can in various ways. I would agree that all aggression is 'fear aggression' in some form. The way I see it is, that resource guarders are still afraid that they are going to lose whatever resources are of value to them, a dog who bites as the owner grabs their collar isn't 'turning' as so many people see it, it is redirecting aggression and probably feels fearful that it is being restrained, a dog who bites when touched may well be in pain and afraid of the area being touched etc.

    I would say the only exception could be aggression of forensic origin, such as brain tumours or neurological impairments.

    I think that humans are guilty of creating labels in order to suit our own belief systems and also, sadly, in order to 'sell' a concept in some cases for financial or status gain.

    I may be completely wrong, but will watch this discussion with interest.
     
  4. kat&molly

    kat&molly PetForums VIP

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    Our Scruff, a Terrierx , is 3 years old and came in December. She hasn't been socialised at all in her previous lives. I am working on this but its taking forever.
    If out on a walk and we see someone I have to put her back on lead quick, as she charges off, runs to them and stands just inches away barking like mad. I honestly dont trust her not to bite if they touched her, her tail is wagging :confused:
    If someone[who she should know by now] comes to the house, she goes crazy- we tell them not to talk to her until shes calmed down and then she will approach them for a fuss.
    Even though she isn't getting the chance to bite, it sort of seems like 'attack [verbal] is her best sort of defence'?:confused:
     
  5. Dogless

    Dogless PetForums VIP

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    I suppose she is 'shouting' 'don't come near me' really as she is fearful of the situations due to her lack of socialisation though rather than being on the offensive.
     
  6. kat&molly

    kat&molly PetForums VIP

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    Yes, I think so, but I do wish she didn't have to charge at them to get her message across:blink:
     
  7. lucylastic

    lucylastic PetForums VIP

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    I have never yet met a dog who attacks/bites just because it can. Leaving aside neurological causes, it would seem to make sense that all aggression is fear based. The exception being when excitement levels get too high and pack mode (dare I use the P word) takes over. As an example the tragic cases of children being mauled by multiple dogs. Aggression (dog/dog or dog/human) is a learned behaviour based on the dog's life experience to date. A confident dog who has learned that attacking gets what he wants (go away/leave me alone/give me that bone back etc) is often labelled dominant but is really reacting no differently to the less confident dog who backs away and cowers. This dog will bite too when all other options have been taken away. As far as I am aware, it is only primates who become aggressive for no good reason.
     
  8. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    This is really aggression. Aggression is the intent to do harm. So I am talking about physically biting/attacking people. A lot of dogs have aggressive displays but they are not much more than that. I've know some dogs at shelters to be very 'aggressive' outside their kennel but they calm down as soon as you step in.

    I see aggression as a last resort for a lot of dogs- but it seems that some people see it as something the dog wants to do rather than being made to do it.
     
  9. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    Yep, I agree totally. Humans misinterpret animal behaviour so much sometimes.

    I heard Patricia McConnell say recently that some dogs (on the context of aggression) just want to fight- but I find that deeply confusing and suspect.
     
  10. kat&molly

    kat&molly PetForums VIP

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    I'm not sure I understand - you dont think this is out of fear?
    Another instance, I took her to a friends house for the first time , there were about 10 people there. I told them all not to approach her, and when she barks no-one was to talk to her. She didn't bark as expected, or go near anyone at all[except me]. I've even wondered if its being protective and then when taken out of her comfort zone, shes not quite brave enough?:confused:
     
  11. RobD-BCactive

    RobD-BCactive PetForums VIP

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    Fraid dogs can & do bite when a group of them stop playing together and decide to chase a runner, given the various circling movements and close up from the rear which looks very much like Wolves hunting in Wildlife films, so I find an explanation based on "fear" falls flat in this case.

    Almost all of my running friends in late 70's/early 80's got nipped or bitten this way, usually because they didn't decisively stop the chase sequence, but tried to ignore the dog too long. It's less common now, because the dogs grow up used to joggers & runners, so are much less reactive than they used to be to this.

    If you ignore predatory behaviour in dogs, it is self deluding and makes owners complacent and act irresponsibly, taken by surprise when a chase escalates to biting.
     
  12. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    Sorry!:eek: I meant to say "This isn't really aggression"!

    The fact that she's been that close to people exhibiting this behaviour, I wouldn't call her aggressive. But yes, I would say she needs some desensitising as her behaviour is out of fear/frustration.:)
     
  13. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    Okay, I can see how this could be down to predatory behaviour but is it the same as wild dogs hunting for food? Is it not just a reflexive reaction to a unconditioned stimulus, making the dogs uncertain and therefore prompting this innate behaviour? I'm not too sure.

    One dog could have a fear of people and the sight of a person running away could prompt this behaviour and make the other dogs around aroused- what they call an 'allelomimetic' behaviour.
     
  14. lucysnewmum

    lucysnewmum PetForums Senior

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    in basic terms predatory behaviour is also a genetic reflex action and is based on the fear of losing a meal!!!!! so, going back to the 'pack attack' theory you could still say that it is fear based!!!

    deer calves, lion cubs, rodents, birds and the like all have the good sense to lay still in the grass in the face of an attack.....only those who bolt are chased, killed and eaten. therefore, doesnt it make sense, if under threat of being chased by dogs to stand still, avoid eye contact and wait for them to pass??????
     
  15. ClaireandDaisy

    ClaireandDaisy PetForums VIP

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    I prefer to use the term `reactive`.
    Aggression is a words that implies a human motive. Calling it Fear Aggression is perhaps a step forward but it is still misleading.
    Consider a couple of common cases -
    1. a dog is startled by a bike rushing past and barks. The bike continues on. To the dog, the bark has worked because the bike has gone away. Therefore the dog barks at bikes.
    2. A dog is approached by another dog and is unable to maintain what he feels is a safe space because the owner has him on a short lead. So he barks and growls to signify he is uncomfortable. Both owners part the dogs - so the response has worked.
    In both of these an action leads to the dog learning that certain actions solve problems. I think a lot of `aggression` is learned behaviour rather than fear. It may well have been triggered by fear at one point, but it has now become `what you do` in certain situations.
    Once you understand that, the solutions become obvious.
     
  16. Jenny Olley

    Jenny Olley PetForums VIP

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    100% agree.
     
  17. grandad

    grandad PetForums VIP

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    The owner who has a dog on lead that shows the tension through the lead, could also be triggering a response in the dog. A learned behaviour that is triggered by the owner, which has been learned from a previous encounter.
     
  18. catz4m8z

    catz4m8z PetForums VIP

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    Well, there is always a reason for aggression isnt there? Since Ive had my dogs (about 3years) Ive only come across 2 dogs that clearly wanted to attack with no provocation or reason. Thankfully both on leads and with owners fully aware of the behaviour but that is a very low number considering the dogs we have met.
    My youngest is very fear aggressive unfortunatley.:( If another dog gets to close she will yelp and try and run away, if she cant then she will growl, snap, lunge at them. Basically be as loud and unstable/aggressive looking as she can be hoping to drive them away. She never goes up to dogs or chases them and would be happy to be left alone, although her size means other dogs often wont take her seriously.
    I think reactive is a good word coz alot of dog aggression seems to be the result of over stimulation and misdirected excitement.
     
  19. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    Reactive is a good word and one that is used a lot. I do see a distinction between calling a dog 'reactive' and calling one 'aggressive'.

    Dogs that have bitten before and use this tactic whenever possible is what I'm interested in, really. To me, it comes down to trust and what the dog has learned about the environment when growing up. So aggression is always fueled by fear and although some dogs look like they want to attack just because they do and there is no reason or provocation, dogs like this are just as scared as ones that would be prime examples of 'fear aggression'.
     
  20. goodvic2

    goodvic2 PetForums VIP

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    Aggression is not always fear driven. Some dogs when they are at home are just territorial. If a stranger steps onto their territory then they can react aggressively.

    This isn't anything to do with fear.

    Resource guarding is also not fear, but can lead to aggression.

    Some people might view this as dominance...
     
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