So often we hear about a dog who bites an innocent bystander. Somehow the conversation leads to blame. Not about the dog, rather the dog’s owner. While there may be validity to this claim, avoiding such episodes is key.
Is it aggression or reaction?
Depending on the circumstances, the answer varies. Both emotional reactions involve growling, barking, snapping, lunging and/or biting. The most common cause of aggression or reactive stance is fear, but there can be contributing factors. For this reason, it is important a dog who displays either reaction be evaluated.
Causes of Reactive “Aggression”
Reactive stance is often due to pain or other medical issues, while aggression often is due to missed socialization milestones. It is important to understand that it is often not the fault of the dog’s caregivers. In fact, aggression/reactive can be seen in a highly socialized dog who have underlying medical issues. It can also not ass common, however it does occur in highly socialized dogs who have had a negative experience while away, for example, at at veterinary office or day care.
Hypothyroidism can also be a contributing factor for aggression. Symptoms include hair loss, weight gain and lethargy. Similarly, seizure activity may lead to aggression. Epilepsy does not necessarily cause convulsions. Your dog may instead appear absent or have rapid mood changes. Additionally, the brain can be damaged by inadequate thyroid function, hydrocephalus (too much fluid in the brain), tumors, and/or trauma. Aggression in dogs is complex. A consultation with a veterinary behaviorist is necessary to diagnose or rule out these conditions. Your veterinary behaviorist will offer sound advice based on the findings of a complete exam, blood count and thyroid function.
The Genetic Code
Dogs bred for protection may develop aggression if not thoroughly socialized. For example, although a Cane Corso may have an intimidating posture, they generally have a gentle and docile temperament. Bred as sheep herders and guard dogs, the modern-day Cane Corso is often wary of unfamiliar people and dogs. For this reason a good dose of early positive socialization is essential.
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