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ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES TO DOMINANCE THEORY FOR DOGS BEHAVING AGGRESSIVELY

  • The Ladder of Aggression is a depiction of the gestures that any dog will give in response to an escalation of perceived stress and threat, from very mild social interaction and pressure, to which blinking and nose licking are appropriate responses, to severe, when overt aggression may well selected. The purpose of such behaviour is to deflect threat and restore harmony and the presence of appeasing and threat-averting behaviour in the domestic dog’s repertoire is essential to avoid the need for potentially damaging aggression. The dog is a social animal for whom successful appeasement behaviour is highly adaptive and it is used continually and routinely in every-day life. It is most important to realise that these gestures are simply a context and response-dependant sequence which will culminate in threatened or overt aggression, only if all else fails. Contrary to persistent misinformation, the gestures identified are nothing to do with a purported dominant or submissive state relative to companions. In all dogs, inappropriate social responses to appeasement behaviour will result in its devaluing and the necessity, from a dog’s perspective, to move up the ladder. Aggression is therefore created in any situation where appeasement behaviour is chronically misunderstood and not effective in obtaining the socially expected outcome. Dogs may progress to overt aggression within seconds during a single episode if the perceived threat occurs quickly and at close quarters, or learn to dispense with lower rungs on the ladder over time, if repeated efforts to appease are misunderstood and responded to inappropriately. As a consequence, a so-called ‘unpredictable’ aggressive response, without any obvious preamble, may occur in any context which predicts inescapable threat to the dog, when in reality it was entirely predictable. (Shepherd, K 2009. BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behaviour, 2nd edition.pages 13 - 16. Editors Debra F. Horwitz and Daniel S. Mills).

  • About Canine Temperament

    • Because of breed-specific dog legislation and negative publicity associated with many breeds of dogs, temperament testing has assumed an important role for today’s dog fancier. The ATTS Temperament Test provides breeders a means for evaluating temperament and gives pet owners insight into their dog’s behavior. It can have an impact on breeding programs and in educating owners about their dog’s behavioral strengths and weaknesses as well as providing a positive influence on dog legislation.

  • Q: What is breed-specific legislation? 

    • A: Breed-specific legislation (BSL), also referred to as breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL), is a law or ordinance that prohibits or restricts the keeping of dogs of specific breeds, dogs presumed to be specific breeds, mixes of specific breeds, and/or dogs presumed to be mixes of one or more of those breeds. 

  • Research has consistently shown that visual breed identification is very often inaccurate, and scientists have known for decades that even first generation crossbreeds usually look dramatically different than either parent. Moreover, recent research also indicates that even experts have very little agreement when visually determining breed.

  • Information on Medically Attended Dog Bites

  • National Canine Research Council brings together leading experts in academia from all over the world who provide the highest quality research, policy recommendations, and analysis on a full range of canine behavior science topics.