Have you noticed a change in your dogs behaviour? Perhaps they are experiencing frequent shaking, not wanting to leave the house or acting aggressive around other dogs and/or humans? It is possible that your dog might be displaying signs of fear aggression.
What is fear aggression in dogs?
As explained by the RSPCA, fear aggression is defined by:
"the dog may bark, growl, snarl while backing up in a response to people, or other animals. The dog shows fearful body posture, with its tail and ears down. The dog may bite from behind and run away. It looks for escape routes when cornered."
For more information on other forms of aggression and how to spot aggressive behaviour in your dog click here.
Is my dog fear aggressive?
Fear aggressive dogs can nip or bite other dogs and people so it is important to understand and identify what behavioural signs your dog displays when feeling scared, anxious or nervous in order to deescalate possible aggressive behaviour.
Monitor your dogs behaviour and body language and if they display some or all of the following mannerisms they could be fear aggressive.
Fearful postures, such as stiffening the body, lowering their heads or frequent shaking
Showing the white of their eyes and looking to you for support
Running away and/or refusal to play with other dogs
Nipping and/or biting
Simultaneous nervous and aggressive behaviour
If your dog is displaying some of these behaviours then you should seek professional advice immediately to get a proper diagnosis.
Why has my dog changed his behaviour?
Dogs can change their behaviour due to an environmental, medical or emotional change. If your dog is acting strangely you must first identify the cause of this.
Reasons your dog is behaving differently:
Your recently moved home
Your have a new pet or baby in your home
Your dog or other dog is in heat
Your dog is pregnant
Your dog is territorial of their puppies
Strange sounds or smells caused by local construction or fireworks could be scaring your dog
A recent accident, operation or indecent has left your dog feeling anxious, embarrassed, hurt or protective
Unknown injury, abuse or bullying could be affecting your dog
Similar to humans who experience PTSD, animals who have experienced trauma or abuse can be triggered by loud noises, routine changes or by a new presence in the home. I recommend knowing your rescue dogs history so you can avoid any unnecessary upset or triggers that might cause your rescue dog to change their behaviour.
For more information regarding dog behaviour visit the RSPCA website.
Finding out your dog is fear aggressive can be a very stressful and traumatic experience and can create a lot of anxiety when out in public with your dog. Dog behaviourist and fear aggressive dog owner, Jess Kemp, shares her top tips on how to walk fear aggressive dogs and how to keep them calm.
5 top tips on how to walk a fear aggressive dog
Be patient. Don't force your dog to walk if they are feeling nervous or aggressive. Indoor stimulation where the dog is more comfortable can be just as beneficial as walks to a fear aggressive dog.
Create space for your dog. I always pick walking routes with plenty of open space and go during quieter times.
Be visible to other walkers with 'I Need Space' jackets, collars and tags. (I always shop at Yellow Dogs UK)
Look for signs that your dog is starting to feel nervous or aggressive. Tune into your dog's body language and listen for any low growling. This might be a sign to change direction and find space.
Remain calm yourself to help reduce your dog's nerves and stress.
5 top tips on how to calm your fear aggressive dog
Provide mental stimulation at home with lick pads or scatter feeding to help the dogs nerves and prevent irractive behaviour from boredom.
De-escalate situations by remaining calm and unemotional yourself, trying not to punish their emotional behaviour.
Remove your dog from a situation or encounter if they appear trapped, stressed or nervous.
Don't walk your dog if this causes too much stress. Find stimulating ways for them to play at home.
If they allow it, physical contact with your dog is an amazing way to calm them.
Jess's dog walking checklist:
A waterproof jacket & walking boots
Biodegradable poo bags
Ruby Ruffs dog treats & a collapsible water bowl
Tractive dog tracker
Paws & Presto microfibre dog towel
Pawesome Pet Tags durable dog tag, collar, harness & lead.
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