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Dog & Wolf News / Issues

Evaluating Aggression In The Shelter Dog…

Posted by Jennifer McCarthy on February 16, 2011 in Dog & Wolf News / Issues, Speak! Archive, Training & Behavior Tips

Run after run, I slowly walk down the aisle. Some tails wag, other bodies shake, some mouths growl and others have a warning sign on their run that says: “Do not touch” on the gate. Those are the runs that I find where a dog is in need of significant help.
After spending a long time working with extremely severe cases of dog aggression and aggression in captive wolves, it takes a lot for me to label a dog “aggressive” even though there are a lot of dogs that are deemed so.
Because dogs originated from wolves, in stressful situations, they still hold more fear than aggression towards humans and although something may look aggressive on the surface, most often it’s not. With that said, it’s important to work with the dogs that are shaking in their runs that everyone is afraid to touch. I should know as I own one of those dogs. Believe it or not, she is the sweetest dog I’ve probably ever owned once I got her out of the environment.
Some people are quick to determine a dog’s state of mind when not looking at all the underlining issues. It’s hard to say that a canine that is growling and barking is actually going to retain that when adopted. In most cases of shelter dogs, it is fear that is the ruling factor not dominance.
I always tell people that if you have an intelligent animal, expect that you may experience aggression in times of high stress. I know that if my dogs were in that environment as two German Shepherds for a prolonged period of time, they would start becoming aggressive. All people and all animals can be aggressive given fight or flight or the right circumstance to push them over the edge. It would be hard for a person to sit in a run day after day with all the noise and stress let alone a dog.
Certain tests that are done on shelter dogs to determine their thresh hold of tolerance should be done away from the kennel environment and not on any dog displaying aggression or fear. First you must build trust to get them completely over that hurdle before presenting something that could back fire that on that trust.
I don’t believe in testing dogs inside shelter environments because it’s not fair and not accurate. If you want to take the dog out for a walk first, that’s one thing but doing anything along the lines of testing in a shelter run is like teasing a lion locked behind a cage. You have to remember that all things must be looked at from the dog’s perspective.
The stress of a shelter can wear thin on not only the dogs but the people trying to save their lives. It’s important to recognize that without these dedicated souls, most dogs in these environments would not make it out alive.
Hopefully, we can continue working on protocols while still establishing the need for individuality as truly, no dog is the same 🙂
Henry 4.JPG

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