Redirected Aggression, Why it is so Dangerous and Why You Don’t Think About it
Excited Dogs Can Bite
I work for a friend of mine at her doggy day care.
I swear my fitbit and I log 15 miles or more on a good day, just walking dogs back and forth and out to play and in to nap.
And, the rare dog that doesn’t like to play or can’t play with other dogs, well they also need some good long walks in order to stimulate their minds.
But occasionally we have issues with redirected aggression.
Thankfully I think we see it more in our line of work than most pet owners see it from their dogs.
But, it DOES exist.
I normal dog, who’s owner swears he would “never bite anyone” will bite when his frustration is redirected to whatever is near him.
So let me paint a picture that I think most people can understand.
When one dog in a doggy day care goes outside, or goes home, or goes anywhere that the other dogs can see; well everyone gets excited and wants to go too.
There is often barking and kennel spinning as all the other dogs voice their excitement and concern.
And, if 2 of these dogs get close enough (even if they are just in crates) they can lash out and try to bite each other sometimes through the bars.
It doesn’t matter if they are friends outside or not.
They “react” to the excitement and environment around them and often one dog barks and lunges at another, while the opposite dog then chooses to bark and lunge at the first.
We call this being “reactive”.
And, many dogs are reactive to other dogs in dog parks, regular parks, and places like doggy day cares.
Some dogs can also so this kind of excited “reactivity” to cars, scooters, kids on bikes, or anything else on wheels or moving quickly.
Instead of consciously thinking anything through, the dog simply reacts to movement and the possible noise of others.
And, if you are not careful the dog can react aggressively or redirect the aggression they are feeling at what they are looking at and instead bite you or someone else.
We Have a Few Reactive Dogs
We have a few reactive dogs in our doggy day care. I think some of them come to spend the day with us, because they are barking and reactive at home.
So we do our best to keep the reactors away from each other so they don’t constantly or continually feed off of one another and make the behaviors worse, or teach the other dogs this behavior.
We also employ the usage of treats to keep the reactivity and aggression from even starting. Because allowing it to continue feeds it for the next time!
But occasionally, the dogs just feed off one another no matter how hard we work.
So a friend that I worked with was actively working with a reactive little dog, trying to get her calmly outside so that she could play.
She (the dog) has many friends.
But she also gets over excited and reacts without thinking, lunging toward anything she can get near.
So as she lunged forward toward another dog’s kennel and my friend reached down toward her (only to grab her leash closer she is always on an easy walk harness) the dog bit her in the hand and arm.
The Bite Wasn’t Terrible
The bite wasn’t terrible. No need for shots or stiches, but let’s face it that no one really wants to be bitten. It’s just not fun and it definitely broke the skin!
And some dogs can be much more serious when biting in these situations, latching on or thrashing.
The bite almost helps the dog to defuse and release the excitement and anxiety!
They don’t think they are biting the “person” often they think they are biting the dog, or toy or whatever has worked them up.
This dog is a normal happy, go lucky, playful girl.
But when dogs get over excited and feed off of their environment or react to things going on around them, a bite can often happen.
In instances like this, I clip the leash on the buckle collar and wait until I am in a more neutral environment before I snap up a harness, where I have to put my face down in the dog’s face.
Never, ever, ever put your face in the face of a dog that is being reactive. I do my best not to put my face in any dog’s face that I don’t know.
But I wouldn’t even put my face in my own dog’s face if they were reacting to something in their environment.
These can be bites where I empathize that the person “never saw it coming”.
Because even though the dog is fidgeting and trying desperately to convey the excitement and aggression they are feeling, the human judges the dog on his past ability to play and socialize and does not judge the moment at which they are living in at the time.
The truth is you can’t judge a dog only on his past and what you know of him.
What Is Your Dog Trying to Tell You?
Whereas this is important information.
The MOST important information is the information that he is currently trying to express to you.
If he is spinning, and barking, and jumping and snarling or hackling; it doesn’t matter if he has never bitten another dog or another person.
I can’t imagine if a child had been holding the leash of this dog at that time. A child would be much more traumatized than an adult who is used to working with dogs.
His current behavior is that of aggression and should be a warning to you as to what you can continue to do.
That is not to say that most of these dogs will maul the person. Actually most often the bites are shallow and a means of just decompressing the excitement that is going on in their mind.
But try to explain that to a judge in court.
It is not going to work out in your favor.
So If You Have a Dog Like This
Although this was an easy depiction to understand because visually you can see the 2 dogs in close proximity arguing with one another.
But this also happens in the real world, when one dog sees another, or a dog sees something it really wants (I have seen dogs drag children into lakes screaming the whole way because they were so excited to swim).
And, it is best to know your dog’s behaviors.
And, it is critical to pay attention to what your dog is trying to tell you.
It Doesn’t Mean Your Dog is Always Aggressive
You may love him.
But if he is barking and spinning and trying to get away you are much closer to his bite threshold than if he is just napping in your home!
Aggression is aggression, plain and simple and most dogs show some kind of aggression at some point in their lives. It is important to recognize it.
It doesn’t mean your dog is “aggressive” it just means he is a dog.
After all, can’t YOU be aggressive too sometimes?
Work on obedience.
Give him something else constructive to do like sit, or down, or give you eye contact.
Work on calming him and teaching him to relax for more on Biofeedback click on the link.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.