There are various tiers of reference to analyse the reasons and types of aggression in a dog and the decision with which owners need to reach clarity and finality of the liability of a dangerous dog.
Consultations and discussions presenting a completely transparent accurate history of an aggressive dog can be easily arranged with canine obedience instructors, animal behaviourists and veterinarians. Any concerned dog owner may use all these professional levels to obtain a meaningful over-all opinion.
Some veterinarians who specialise in Ethology and have hands-on experience with dog training and animal behaviour can deal with all these angles and offer an expert, unbiased opinion on the future of the aggressive dog. This means that some vets can function from the level of social work, basic education to psychology and psychiatry.
It must be made clear that no drugs are approved for the treatment of aggression in dogs. Often, I have been asked if there is a drug, preferably homeopathic, which can be given to a pet dog to stop biting people. There is no such remedy! Anyone offering any medication for this purpose is not only irresponsible, but can be held legally culpable for the injury to a person.
Under certain circumstances psychotropic medication, often combinations of drugs, have been administered to determine if there are any changes in the dog’s temperament. Sometimes the medicines can have unexpected results, including increased arousal, unpredictability and loss of inhibition of aggression.
Aggression is part and parcel of complex behaviour patterns for which there can’t be any quick fix. There are also many forms of canine aggression. This may be based on fear, maternal instincts, territorial defence, possession of resources, food control and dominance. In certain cases aggression can be controlled, but not cured.
The implementation of the principles of counter-conditioning, arranging sterilisation, subscribing to obedience training for the purpose of teaching any dog owner assertiveness, physical and mental stimulation and the administration of drugs may complement these various approaches.
The chance of success depends on the duration and intensity of the aggressive disorder, the owner’s commitment towards correction and the competence of the professionals. There are many people qualified to diagnose problems, but one also requires an element of inherent instinctive talent to read the behaviour of the animal and read between the lines of the pet owners to fully understand all the issues at hand.
One of the most frequent causes for behavioural consultations is canine aggression because of its public health issues and legalities. The majority of problems that occur between dogs and owners are due to social conflicts between both species.
To prevent and control competitive aggressive behaviour to owners, especially vulnerable children and the elderly, all professionals require a proper knowledge of canine social communication and the principles of the hierarchy system or pack order. The initial considerations are the risk factors to decide if the case is treatable or a hopeless situation.
More information on coping mechanisms next week.