Feb 2017 I rescued a 10 month old Giant Schnauzer that was going to be put to sleep for what the vet labeled aggressive /aggressive tendencies. That Veterinarian and a Veterinarian Behaviorist both told me that not all aggressive behavior is fear and giving Prozac is the best thing, which had me questioning myself. First A dog does not behave aggressively, they behave defensively. One night I replayed all incidents in my head of defensive behavior and I almost had to correct myself. Pain defense behavior came to mind and it is another case of where a dog shows signs of defensive behavior. However, I went through all the pain associated defensive behavior and found that only the fearful dogs would cause the human pain. A less fearful dog will give a warning signal. An even less fearful dog will only cry in pain. A secure dog will cringe in pain or only show signs in the eyes that it is uncomfortable.
Too many dogs are being labeled having aggressive behavior when it is fear based behavior and can be remedied by changing your responses to a less frightening one. There are only two conditions I am aware of where aggressive behavior is not from fear. One is a thyroid problem; if a dog all of a sudden becomes visibly defensive it could be its thyroid. The second is rage syndrome that was mainly seen in Springer Spaniels but they have found it in other breeds. This is a condition that can act like a light switch being turned on in some dogs between the ages of 2-4 years old. I have personally seen it in Chows that were 3-4 years old. I was mauled by a Chow/Shep mix when I worked at the county Animal Shelter. This dog showed no visual signs of aggressive behavior until I stopped petting him. I also had a friend that had to have her Chow put to sleep for aggressive behavior after it turned 3. I had groomed this dog since it was a puppy and it showed the same aggressive behavior toward me so I was able to warn my friend in advance.
How to lesson fear is the key to most signs of defensive behavior. This is a story of a Pit Bull, which came to the last vet clinic I worked at, for 10-day quarantine. This guy would charge the gate like a mad dog barking and carrying on. He is going to be here for 10 days and will need to be walked outside to go potty. How do you think we should handle getting him out on lead? Catch pole? How would your fear level adjust to seeing this pole with a loop coming at you? This would only create more fear so now what? Any kind of force will create more fear.
How I handled his fear was very simple. When he charged the gate I jumped to one side laughing saying oh you are going to get me. His response was to jump at me; I jumped to the other side continuing to laugh. I continued to do this making it a game between him and I. After a short period of time he calmed down enough that I opened the gate and he willing allowed me to put an all in one lead on him. I was aware he still had fear by how tight/tense his body was. Every time I took him out I brushed against him either with my leg or my hand accidently on purpose. I did this not only to get him use to being touched, but I also got to see how he was going to respond. I did not force anything on him. As the days past he was okay with me petting him. One day he jumped up on the counter next to me to see who I was talking to and was great with me putting my arm around him.
Hitting, yelling, screaming, medicating or wrestling at/with them will only create more fear, which the dog only knows of one way to respond to. Get loose anyway they can and get as far away from it as possible. This self-preserving action on their part gets them labeled aggressive. You created this fear defensive behavior and you are the one fueling it to continue. An insecure dog will have fear so tell them every time how good they are when they do something you appreciate. Dogs love to be told that they are a good boy or good girl. They can feel the loving energy coming from when you say it making them more confidant of them self. Praise for everything they do positive even if they have been doing it for year.
Unconditional Love has no fear. Spread love not fear.