As part of my role of Ambassador of the inaugural Perth Pet Expo, I was asked to ponder what were the top 5 pet problems. In my daily travels as vet behaviourist, I came up with the following list for a special in The West’s Habitat section on Friday, 7 November 2014.
Number one is of course is:
A dog’s social skills are learned through experience, not instinct. Young dogs thrive on positive and regular socialisation. A puppy’s first 3-12 weeks is make or break towards becoming a well-rounded adult.
Often dogs who are aggressive to other dogs have had limited or traumatic early social experiences. It’s important to realise that this behaviour is not an intent to harm. Rather it is a request for distance, due to fear and anxiety.
For other dogs, looks matter. Facial expressions are a vital part of dog language. Short faced dogs (eg. Pugs) or dogs who don’t have contrasting muzzle and eyebrow colour are at the top of the ‘do not play’ list as they have to work harder with body language cues and gestures to get their message across.
How well your dog socialises can relate to its general health. Pain is a very common cause for a dog to suddenly withdraw from social opportunities and become aggressive.
Punishment or forcing interaction will invariably result in an escalation of aggression. Re-education using positive methods will give your dog alternative strategies for dealing with their fear-based behaviour. A veterinary behaviourist can help.