Friday, October 8, 2010

Redirect Aggression Towards Humans

As a dog trainer, I have always taken redirected aggression towards humans very very seriously.

Redirected aggression, (not in exact scientific terms) occurs when an animal is aggressively motivated and redirects the aggression from a source towards another animal or human.

Unfortunately, redirected aggression can be so contextually inappropriate, so unexpected, and so traumatic that the recipient of the aggression becomes instantly and intensely fearful of the aggressor.

As a matter of fact, my first and most serious dog bite was as a result of redirected aggression. At that time, we had just started allowing a local rescue group to use part of Doglando's campus to have adoptions from and to exercise their dogs. We requested they abide by our rules; which were as follows:

1. No more than five dogs
2. Only one terrier per group
3. 2 Staff
4. No forms of aggression

These dog were not part of our daycare dogs, they were kept far apart and separated, but we still wanted to assure safety for all while on campus.

Needless to say, that day all our rules for them were broken. The group came in with 9 dogs, all terriers of some sorts. Long story short, the last dog I helped unload from the van appeared to be highly aroused, and quite intense. I grabbed him by his collar to off load him to bring him into the yard, and I felt his entire body tense up... and his neck as stiff as a brick.

I had my hands on his collar, and the dog's first reaction was to turn his head and mouth towards the hold. Immediately, I knew this was an unsafe dog.

Despite my judgement, I was asked to let him go amongst all the other rescue group dogs. I held onto him as I asked for reassurance, I felt really unsafe about him, and knew once I let him go, I was not going to be able to grab him again, he would turn to bit the human.

Just as I let the dog go, two dogs locked jaws and got into a fight. Without a second thought, I reached in to tap the dog I was holding on to, in an attempt to startle him and drive him away from the other two dogs. All I did, was reach in as he ran off, and gently tapped him on his side. Instantaneously, the dog whipped around almost in a 360 degree angle, lunging in the air towards my face.

The dog's force knocked me to the ground, as I reached over my head to grab his collar from under his neck. If today I had to reenact this, I am certain I could not.

Once I grabbed his collar and was able to throw him to the ground, he locked his jaw around my leg. It was not until I was able to take his breath away (literally) that he let go of my leg, by then of course, he had done his damage.

My point being, dog's with this level of aggression, and more so intent, are truly dangerous dogs. These dogs are just not safe enough to be re-homed.

A dog that would redirect aggression, does not just do it out of the blue. Many times pet owners give excuses for their dogs and minimize warnings until they become very obvious, apparent and dangerous.

Redirected aggression is a very serious form of aggression and is difficult to work with because it requires ultimate management of the dog who easily gets very aroused, excitable, demonstrates no bite inhibition, demonstrates very poor boundaries, poor self control, easily stimulated, and operates above threshold.

A dog who is capable of redirecting aggression is not a stable dog. We have such an obscure perception of the term stability when referencing a dog, that in itself is dangerous.

Dog Responsibly

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