Aggression is Aggression, Regardless of the Breed
During the yearly visit to the vet with Koa, I watched as a vet tech carried a chihuahua back to the owner who was just finishing telling me how antisocial the dog is to everyone and everything. The dog looked fine until being handed to the owner who said, "Here's the little trouble maker now," and held the dog high on his chest. The dog, who had previously been just fine, snapped at the vet tech's face -- who was taken aback just a bit and since I had a front row seat I admit it was pretty close!
Look at the picture accompanying this post. Neither behavior is acceptable but small dogs seem to do this more often than the larger breeds, and are able to get away with this more often... do you know why this is? Because the small breeds are seen as "cute" and having "lots of personality", when the truth is that they are given a free ride by their owners and that behavior is never corrected effectively. In this case, the owner told her "No" while stroking her head and making excuses for the behavior. Can you imagine doing that with a Rhodesian Ridgeback or a German Shepherd who is aggressive and snapping at someone? Just stroke their head and nurture that behavior -- and get out your checkbook because that is going to be a trip to the hospital for someone...
This dog was not "antisocial" as the owner had stated; the dog was the pack leader and the owner demonstrated weakness which causes the dog to go into leader mode to fill the void. How do I know this? While we sat in the waiting room before going with the vet tech, balanced Koa was watching the dog from his usual respectful distance and the dog -- while in it's owner's lap -- stared at Koa and shook. This isn't fear, but confusion about what to do and it is negative energy being thrown off (in short, this dog would be fine around other dogs WITHOUT the owner's negative energy being present). Being Unbalanced in the face of Balance creates confusion and anxiety, which are good things when it helps the dog to become more balanced. But nurturing that anxious/nervous behavior will lead to aggression and a possible bite -- and the owner is not immune. Since the dog is the leader and does not respect the human's position in the pack, if they can't bite the object of their rage or fear they will bite the next best thing.
In fact, when you review the TIMING and ERGONOMIC DYNAMICS of the behaviors it is textbook dog psychology. So how can this be changed?
When holding a small dog, hold them lower than your face/chest area
If the dog has a history of aggressive behavior stop it BEFORE it shows itself
Follow through on the corrections and be calm and assertive setting rules/boundaries/limitations on behaviors
Don't make excuses for the behavior but do apologize. First of all, your excuses are probably wrong. Second, people have far more patience with owners and the dogs that are aggressive if you tell the truth -- that you are working to make your dog social. And last, when you get tired of apologizing for your dog you will cause the change to take place.
Be Patient! Frustration is weakness so take a breath.
Make your dog social. Staying calm, expecting the desired result, and exposing your pack member to as many different environments as possible -- and often -- creates the trust and respect they should see in you, and the ability for them to associate calm appropriate behavior with new people/dogs/experiences. Take them to a dog park, to the pet store, to the hardware store (Home Depot allows dogs on leashes), around crowds (Rita's and Bruster's have free doggie ice cream for them and it's a good excuse for you to reward yourself!), or anywhere that you think would be a challenge for you or your dog.
Remember exercise, discipline, affection -- in that order!
Until next time remember, no excuses for your dog -- or for you!