A man who is not afraid is not aggressive, a man who has no sense of fear of any kind is really a free, a peaceful man.
“My dog is aggressive.”
How I detest that word….aggressive. It’s a one-size-fits-all description that so rarely describes the actual point at issue.
The dictionary definition of “aggressive” is:
“Any offensive action, attack, or procedure; an inroad or encroachment”.
How unsatisfactory a term for what I usually see when I enter a household with an “aggressive” dog.
As I’ve mentioned before in The PAW Method, dogs are constantly asking yes/no questions. Can I eat this? Can we play? Is it dinnertime? Usually the questions just involve day-to-day life and its management. Sometimes the questions are a bit more serious: Is this person/dog/animal going to hurt me? An aggressive dog is just one who has not had that question answered. I rarely see a dog who is truly aggressive; 99% of the time the dog who is considered “aggressive” is merely frightened and trying to protect either themselves or a pack member.
Look at it like this: you’re at home sleeping, and you hear an intruder break in. You reach for a gun you have hidden away. You hear the intruder coming towards your bedroom. The doorknob starts to turn as they open the door. You yell through the door that you are armed and demand they leave. At what point would you shoot them? What would it take for you to injure and probably kill another human? Would you shoot through the door? Would you wait until you saw their face? Would you beg them to leave, but end up having to shoot them anyway because they just wouldn’t leave you alone?
Now think of this: at what point should be be labeled “aggressive” because you injured or even killed another human? If you’re like most people, you’d say that label is absurd given the situation! You were threatened! The same goes for most “aggressive” dogs. They are afraid, either for their own safety or the safety of a pack member. I guarantee you’d shoot that intruder more readily if it were your child’s room they were entering! Same goes for dogs – they will defend their pack!
Here’s the problem: it’s easy for us to see what’s a threat and what isn’t a human world. No, the mailman isn’t going to kill us, Fido. But how does Fido know that? Because you told him? How absurd! Dog’s aren’t fluent in English! Dogs only communicate using “yes” and “no”, and you haven’t given them the proper response to their question: Is this a threat? The answer is obviously “no”, so tell them, in a way they understand.
When you start to see aggressive dogs as what they really are (frightened, un-Piloted fearful creatures), you can start to help them past the fear. How many dogs are put down a year because they are deemed “aggressive”? What would have happened to them if someone had just been able to Pilot them past their fear? Indeed, some dogs take longer than others to accept being Piloted, but that shouldn’t mean we give up on them, or even worse, don’t even try.
So before you label your dog as “aggressive”, take a look at the situation. Your 5 lb. Yorkie is actually trying to defend you and herself against that 200 lb. cable guy she’s never met. Please don’t make her do that anymore. She’s frightened. She’s scared. But she loves you enough to put her life in danger (in her mind anyway) to defend both of you.
Answer her question. Be her Pilot. Don’t force her to be labeled “aggressive”.
Sparta, warily watching the photographer. She did indeed ask me if the photographer was a threat, and I gave her the answer “no”. Good girl, Sparta