There have been several articles lately concerning
what to do with aggressive dogs and how or if those dogs should be placed in homes or euthanized. ‘Aggressive’ can encompass many levels, but for the sake of clarification, in this instance, we can consider ‘aggressive’ as meaning an unprovoked, bloodied bite. One mindset is that there is no place anywhere for
an aggressive dog. The other camp believes every dog should have a home, no matter of his or her temperament. The solution lies between the two absolutes, as it often does, and a good starting point for making the determination of whether or not a dog should be adopted or euthanized is to eliminate factors that are possibly causing the aggression.
Most agree there are two categories to look to- physical and emotional. Some of us believe there are three considerations- physical, emotional and spiritual (or energetic). Also to be considered is past history. Is the dog six years old and has never shown any signs of aggression? Have there been one or two altercations, small signs that
all is not well? Could it be isolated to one particular stimulus like uniformed persons, sunglasses or a certain individual?
The first step of discovery should be the physical exam to eliminate pain or disease, even if the dog has a history of missteps. Thyroid levels, cerebral events including brain tumors, painful joints and a host of other physical ailments can cause grumpiness that escalates in true aggression. Once the dog has been given a clean bill of health and there are no physical reasons that can be attributed as the source of the aggression the next step is to consider the emotional realm.
Emotionally, aggression can be caused by fear. Anxiety, timidness or mistrust are all hallmarks of one emotion, fear. As we can imagine, living in fear is not a happy life and pin-pointing exactly where the issues are may be a matter of very patient, very consistent work with the dog and that in itself is something not everyone capable of doing.
Emotional aggression can also be a form of possessiveness and inappropriate protecting. This particular emotion is almost always created by the guardian, although seldom consciously (with the exception of toy and food possessiveness which can be relatively simple to amend.) Personal space, and possession of the guardian are many times inadvertently caused by the guardian’s own desires and reactions. Inappropriate reaction to strangers can be brought on by the guardian but can also may be traced back to fear (both the dog’s fear and the guardians).
Energetically or spiritual speaking, dogs with aggression have more than likely tried to inform the guardian or past guardians of what they need or what they desire and they have not been heard, so they become more demonstrative in their display as they try to get their point across. Occasionally, these dogs are also doing exactly what was asked of them. I have worked with dogs that have drawn blood on a stranger only to discover through conversation with the animal that the guardian asked the dog to protect them. The dog is doing what the guardian asked of him, but not the way the guardian thought he would. Or the human wanted a dog that was ‘serious’ or ‘tough’, an extension of the human’s persona and then don’t like what they see.
Dogs also pick up our own emotions. If we don’t like someone, chances are they are not going to like the person either. The difference is they will not pretend to like them. There are the people who from outside observations, seem to like the dog, but the dog is still aggressive
towards them. Energy doesn’t pretend, it just is. So it is possible the dog is
reacting to internal dialog of that person.
Sifting through these three categories will give
many answers to whether or not the dog can or should be rehomed and to what
kind of household.
There is a fourth consideration that many disagree with, but I have experienced it. The dog is simply very unhappy and wants out. He wants to continue his journey and not stay in this plane. It seems
unacceptable to some, but should be considered if ever other avenue has been tried with no results of improvement. I think it helps to look at such cases from the eyes of the dog. Is he enjoying his life? Not a few bits of it, but his whole life? Many think the ultimate terrible act to perpetrate on any
animal is death (in the context of this writing), but there are far worse things than death and not having a joyful life tops the list in my opinion.
When previous history, physical and emotional causes
have been eliminated, there is only one left. Energetic and that be must be
where the answer lies. Solve that issue and there will be an improvement. How
much of one depends on the individual dog’s desires and needs.