The Role of Observation and Responsibility
No, dogs rarely become aggressive or reactive out of nowhere. As Jonathan Decker said, “Even though we are responsible for our choices simultaneously, we influence each other. A lot of times, the monsters we are scared of are the ones that we create by our lack of compassion.”
The responsibility starts with you, who spends the most time with the dog. Many people claim their dog’s aggression appeared suddenly, but this is rare. Often, owners don’t take responsibility and blame others instead. It’s crucial to observe your dog and establish a baseline of behaviour.
The Stoplight Analogy – Green, Yellow, and Red Behaviors
Use the stoplight analogy to categorize your dog’s behaviour. Most people can identify ‘green’ behaviours (relaxed and playful) and ‘red’ behaviours (snarling, biting). However, many miss the ‘yellow’ behaviours (paw lift, dilated pupils, licking, fidgeting, freezing). Dogs often show several yellow behaviours before resorting to biting. Sudden aggression often indicates pain, particularly in older dogs.
Pain, Stoicism, and Fear Responses
Dogs are stoic about pain, as showing pain signifies weakness. When a dog shows evident signs of pain, it has likely been in agony for a while, leading to chronic pain. A sentient in pain may fear further hurt and resort to one of the 4 F’s: Freeze, Fridge, Fight, and Flight. Read more here: The 4Fs of Fear- Fear Responses — Welfare For Animals (welfare4animals.org).
In conclusion, dogs rarely become aggressive or reactive overnight. Stay tuned for our next post: “What Can I Do to Help My Reactive/Aggressive Dog Before Getting Help?”