How Aggressive is Your Dog? 5 Test to Tell Determine Your Dog’s Aggressiveness
In this article we are going to look at dog aggression and help owners determine the level of aggressiveness in their dog.
There are many humans who might have wondered whether or not their dog is aggressive. There are also other owners who have wondered exactly HOW aggressive their dog is (this group contains owners who already know their dog is aggressive).
This article is followed by a group of tests that will show exactly how aggressive your dog is. To go straight to the tests formed by Uncle Matty (a dog trainer), please scroll to the bottom of the article.
It is incredibly important for dog owners to understand that dog aggression is not limited to large dogs or dogs that have a so-called “reputation” for being aggression (e.g. Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, etc.). In her article “A Walk in the Park” Is Supposed to Mean “Easy” – When Aggression Isn’t Funny, Laura Baugh describes an incident where she encounters a particularly aggressive Yorkshire Terrier. During her encounter, a woman noticing the Yorkie’s aggressive behavior quipped, “He thinks he 200 pounds!” Doesn’t this sound familiar? Aggression from all dogs needs to be taken very seriously -especially from small dogs because it often goes unnoticed. Remember: Small dogs are not necessarily small to children, other small dogs, and other pets.
It is not unusual for owners of aggressive dogs to refuse to acknowledge the problem. Reasons can vary. For example, some owners mistakenly think the dog will outgrow aggression. Others believe this type of behavior is a reflection on them — that perhaps people will think they have neglected or mistreated the dog. However, aggression can also happen in the best of families. Some people just don’t want to take the time or spend the money that might be required to correct the problem. Others, who may be dealing with serious and dangerous types of aggression that can’t be modified, do not want to deal with the options that apply to dangerous dogs. The most common excuse for NOT dealing with aggressive behavior is “He isn’t aggressive all the time! He’ll grow out of it.” Uncle Matty says, “The older a dog gets the more aggressive he becomes. It only takes one bite to cause pain and suffering for everyone concerned.”
We really recommend Matt Weinstein’s book Dogs Don’t Bite When a Growl Would Do for anyone who is experiencing problems related to dog aggression. It is a great book about a person’s relationship with his or her dog and is a must for almost any dog owner.
Failure to deal with aggressive behavior is irresponsible. It can lead to tragedy, child endangerment charges, a lifetime of pain and suffering for family members or others, lawsuits, the loss of your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, the loss of your home, or the loss of your dog. Worse than all of these put together, aggressive dogs can kill.
If your dog has been showing the signs of aggression, you really need to identify his personality or temperament. It can help prevent a tragedy. In fact, regardless of your dog’s behavior, you should know his personality type. It is the only way you can truly communicate. It is the only way problems can really be solved. It is the only way a dog can learn effectively. You don’t communicate with a lethargic couch potato the same way you communicate with a high-energy, run-around-the-house pooch!
Always identify the personality of a puppy or older dog before you take him home. If you don’t, you could be acquiring a dog that is a risk for you and others. If there are children in your home, you could be endangering them. Some dogs do not have child-compatible temperaments. And, unless you are in the business of rescuing dangerous dogs, you have the special skills and you know the rules, avoid making an aggressive dog a member of your family. This will prevent the heartache of having to deal with the problem later and you just could be preventing tragedy.
To learn more about specific dog breeds, check out our dog breed selector!
Words of Warning
1. If you already know your dog is aggressive (growling, lunging, snarling, snapping and/or biting) please seek professional help to determine the type of aggression and how to modify or control it.
2. Children should not attempt any of these tests.
3. Two adults are required for some tests.
4. If your dog is six months old or younger, there is little risk to the administration of these tests.
5. If your dog is at least six months old but not older than one year, use caution.
6. If your dog is older than one year, use extreme caution and if your dog is showing the signs of aggression, or you fear your dog, the help of a professional is recommended.
7. Because every dog is unique and it is impossible for these instructions to predict every dog’s reaction or anticipate the seriousness of any aggression, approach these tests with caution. If you believe you are not able to control the dog during these tests, please get the help of a qualified professional.
Before we begin, let’s look at some behaviors that indicate dog aggression (courtesy of Wag the Dog UK)
An aggressive dog usually shows some of the following behaviors:
- Becoming still and rigid
- Lunging or charging at someone that poses no threat
- Showing teeth
- A quick bite that tears skin
- Biting hard enough to cause bruising
- Biting that causes a puncture wound
- Biting and shaking
Dog Aggression Test One:
Dominant Stare Test- Is your dog subordinate, dominant or dominant-aggressive?
It is important to know if your dog is subordinate or dominate (wants to be top dog). A dominant dog is determined to be head of the pack and may also want to be leader of his human family, which may cause him to be dominant-aggressive.
Administer this test both inside the house and in the yard. Both places are your dog’s territories.
1. Have a strong reliable person hold the leash and the second person administer the test.
2. Stand about ten feet away from the dog and call his name to get his attention.
3. Assume an authoritative posture and lean slightly forward.
4. Stare straight into the dogs eyes.
No verbal communication during the test. For the most accurate response, if possible, use both family members and then do the test again with people who are not familiar to your dog.
If the dog is dominant, he will look directly into your eyes and not break the stare or look away. He may puff up and appear to grow larger. His ears and tail may become extremely erect and he may snarl or growl. He may continue to look directly at you and maybe he will begin to slowly move toward you. If this happens, he is telling you that he will dominate you, so break off the stare and look away. Do not continue to antagonize his aggression. He has told you that he will dominate the family and if anyone threatens his position, this will lead to serious aggression.
If your puppy exhibits this dominant-aggressive behavior you need to modify this early on before your dog reaches the age of one year. The sooner this behavior is modified, the better. A professional who understands dog temperaments and aggressive behavior easier handles modification of dog aggression. If your dog is older, modification of aggressive behavior is extremely difficult and may not be possible. A professional expert may be required.