How To Think About Dog Aggression

20
Apr

In this short post, I’d like to talk specifically to people who treat their dogs as if they’re kids. Now, I love both my dogs and my kids. Sometimes even I feel that I love my dogs as much as my kids. But even if you do, there has to be a distinction drawn between them. The reason? Knives.

Sounds cryptic, but let me explain: your kids don’t walk around with knives, ready and willing to stab other kids with them at any given moment, with the instinct to pull out the knife if they’re afraid. Your dog, on the other hand, has knives in its mouth. Thousands of years of evolution has given your dogs literal daggers and the strength to do damage with them. Some small dogs can’t do a ton of damage, but probably every dog can break skin. Many dogs can go far beyond that, putting people in the hospital or even killing them.

Now, a child might be physically able to grab a knife and put it into somebody, but that’s not a component of most kids’ personalities. My eleven year old daughter picks on her little sisters. They push, fight, pull hair, and get into scuffles. This rough-and-tumble physicality is within our kids, but the desire to kill and maim just isn’t. But even inside your sweet, fluffy puppy, there’s an instinct that says: “If push comes to shove, pull out your knife and stab somebody.”

For some dogs, this urge is deep in the recesses, and for others it’s much closer to the surface. As an owner, however, you must acknowledge that it exists. If you do, there are some decisions you’re forced to make. You probably don’t leave your kids alone with a dog that’s running around with knives in its mouth. I’ve had both dogs and kids for a long time, and as much as I trust my dogs I’m still careful about that relationship.

When you understand this concept, you also think differently about how guests interact with your dogs. Guests don’t need to take liberties with your dogs, bend over them, wrestle them, and make them nervous and terrified. I don’t allow my guests to do that to my dogs.

When you understand this, greetings on the street become different too. You realize that the dog that’s coming toward you on the end of its leash is out of control, even if the owner says “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” That dog has knives inside its mouth, and your dog has knives inside its mouth. They don’t need to meet when the dog is acting foolish and its owner is clueless.

When you understand that your dog is an animal with traits that can cause damage, these situations go differently. Not only that, but you also look at training differently. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to people whose dogs have behaved aggressively and bitten people, but they continue to say he’s a “good dog.” Here’s a news flash: every dog that shows aggression is probably a good dog 90% of the time. But that doesn’t matter, because that 5% of the time when he gets aggressive will cause you a big problem unless you get it under control. It’s critical that you do get it under control.

When you understand that you don’t have a fluffy child that wouldn’t hurt a fly, but an animal with a knife mouth, you have to do things differently. If you don’t understand those things, you might go your whole dog-owning life without a problem—or you might find yourself in the position as a lot of my clients, with a dog who’s aggressive or anxious and using those “knives” in an inappropriate way. Your dog isn’t a furry little kid. It’s an amazing animal that needs to be treated with sense and respect.

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