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Sources of Your Dog’s Aggression

Your rescued golden retriever Harley would have a terrific career as a Hollywood actor. Your even-tempered, tail-wagging pooch loves everyone in your family, even your crotchety old cat Theodore. Harley also has lots of canine and human buddies in your neighborhood. However, Harley also has a darker side, one that would likely earn him a canine Academy Award. When Harley feels threatened, he transforms into a fearsome, aggressive-looking dog who looks like he’d take your hand off. While you appreciate Harley’s acting skills, his behavior is clearly unacceptable and could lead to someone getting hurt. You’ve asked your Highland veterinarian to give Harley some old-fashioned behavior modification training.

Classic Aggressive Position

Dogs who show aggression, including Harley, have all read the same script. When these dogs flip their personality switch, they stop wagging their tails and literally anchor themselves to one spot. You’ve seen Harley stand like a statue, with a motionless head and tail, and fix a cold stare that reminds you of a movie villain. Harley’s rigid posture still allows him to snarl at you, showing his impressive choppers that could inflict some real damage.

Inadequate Socialization

You suspect that Harley wasn’t adequately socialized during puppyhood. Ideally, when he was 3 weeks to 14 weeks old, Harley’s owner or breeder should have given him the socialization he needed. You don’t think Harley received that guidance; and at 14 weeks he became a snippy adolescent who barked at strangers and was extremely protective. This negative behavior could have colored Harley’s interactions with his future owner, and might mean he couldn’t be completely trusted around other dogs and people.

Possible Past Mistreatment

Whether Harley was well socialized or not, his current aggression might result from past rough handling or even physical abuse. Even without physical abuse, though, Harley could have lived in a negative environment without much positive human contact. Harley could have been attacked by another aggressive dog; or his aggression might have emerged after he was frequently teased and taunted by children.

Aggressive Dog Breeds

Rottweilers, Akitas, and Doberman Pinschers are valued for their protective instincts; and they all seem to have a natural tendency toward aggressive behavior. Pint-sized terriers can also be aggressive, as they were originally bred to flush out small game along the ground. Female dogs in heat or nursing puppies, and intact male dogs with bad attitudes, are also known for aggressive behavior.

When Harley arrives for his behavior mod session, your Highland vet will record your dog’s history and closely study his behavior. Your vet will develop a strategy to replace Harley’s undesirable aggression with safer, more acceptable behaviors that will help to make Harley a happier dog.

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