Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Aggression: fear

Contributor(s): Karen Overall

Introduction

  • Most common reason for aggression to strangers in UK.
  • Frequently occurs at boundaries and thresholds - in cars, next to owner, if restricted, if dog cornered and cannot retreat.
  • Common in more sensitive and nervous breeds.
  • Aggression may be unpredictable - usually associated with low level of aggression which is rarely triggered.This is a function of knowledge and a good clinician will identify the class of stressors to which dog reacts and to which a probablistic assessment can be assigned.
  • May also:
    • Occur during periods of stress or disease.
    • Be predictable - whenever known stimuli present.
  • Response is normally dependent upon salience of stimulus and is influenced by previous learning.
    Print off the owner factsheet on Aggression in dogs Aggression in dogs to give to your client.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Inherited predisposition for being fearful, but not generally aggressive. There is no published data to support this.
  • Lack of early exposure, especially during critical period between 3-18 weeks of age and beyond.
  • Frightening experiences, eg violent owner, mishandling by groomer.
  • Aggression begins as dog matures, usually around 6-8 months old.
  • Aggression is successful in alleviating stress and dog develops experience and skill in using aggression.
  • Aggression will become more severe if owner attempts to use punishment as control method.

Predisposing factors

General
  • Certain lines and breeds will have a greater propensity for developing fear aggression.

Specific

  • Frightening experiences.
  • Lack of adequate socialization.

Timecourse

  • Dog gradually learns to improve use of aggression and becomes more neurochemically pathological as 'forced' to comply.
  • Owners usually present at time of onset or following particularly difficult incident.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Beaver B (1983) Clinical classification of canine aggression. Applied Animal Ethology 10 (1/2), 35-43 VetMedResource.
  • Voith V (1979) Treatment of fear reactions - canine aggression. Mod Vet Prac, 60 (11) 903-905 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Landsberg G, Hunthausen W & Ackerman L (1997)Handbook of behavior problems of the dog and cat.pp 34, 541, 54, 119, 120-125, 127-128 and 137-139.
  • Overall K L (1997)Clincal Behavioral Medicine for small animals.pp 97, 104, 106-109, 135, 206-207, 242-243, 245-246, 317 and 341.
  • Askew H (1996)Treatment of Behavior Problems in dogs and cats.pp 132-137, 313 and 317.

Organisation(s)

  • Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, PO Box 46, Worcester WR8 9YS, UK. Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1386 751151; Email: apbc@petbcent.demon.co.uk; Website: http://www.apbc.co.uk.


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