How to Reduce Aggressive Behavior in Dogs

Dealing with Canine Aggression

I think I managed to get a good shock collar and it will take a bit before it arrives. Going with my optimised ways, or better put, my best bang-for-buck approach, I got myself a collar with decent features all around. It will have to wait though. I can research all I want, but I know that actually doing the training is half the learning process, so I have to wait. I have some pressing matters to attend to.

Maui has not made peace with the cats outside. The plan was to slowly desensitise him to their presence, allowing him to feel more comfortable, but this was not working as smoothly as I thought. If anything, Maui has become more aggressive, as evidenced by his somewhat rabid barking at night when the cats do what cats do at night. Waking up in the middle of the night twice is nothing compared to what parents go through with a baby, but I'd rather not experience that again. 

Cats and dogs do get along, it's just that some dogs are more likely to chase after small animals. With Maui being half a shepherd dog, some of those traits likely carried on. Here's me hoping that all he wants is to gather the cats and put them in order. Even if that's the case, you can never wrangle cats up, at least without a fight, and definitely not my cats. 

What I have to figure out, is if Maui's aggressive behavior is really because of his personality, or if because of the cats, or because of other factors I'm not aware of. My goal is the harmonious existence of all my pets, even if they are cats and dogs. I don't know how Maui would respond to other situations. He may show aggression to strangers but I don't know that since our house rarely has visitors apart from delivery personnel. I have to once again do my homework. 

One thing I've read is how professional trainers actually use shock collars to help with aggression in dogs. They do this systematically, by learning the dog's signs of aggression and stopping them before the behavior is even displayed. This is close to what I did before when I was trying to stop Maui from causing a fuss when I was out walking with him in the yard. I seem to be on the right path, but there's still plenty to consider. 

Aggression in dogs is triggered by things similar to most mammals. It could be "Fight or Flight", where when they feel threatened or are in a scary situation, they will either run or confront the threat. Do my cats pose a threat to Maui? Perhaps, but Maui is not making an effort to run away, and instead attempt to chase after them. I think they do. Not as beasts that can hurt Maui, but as trespassers.

It's also an efficient way to survive. Defensive aggression displays potentially scare threats away with minimal energy instead of spending a bunch of energy fighting, along with the risk of injury. I know cats would often go into cat howling bouts to settle conflicts instead of an all-out brawl. Although my springy cat Mars is actually the type that would duke it out rather than "discuss things". This complicates things for me since he could very well attack Maui if he felt threatened. 

One hypothesis is that Maui is displaying territorial aggression. He might be doing his social duty of keeping intruders off the office, which is why he keeps making a fuss when the largest of our cats stands by the office window, or when the springy one dashes around. If we look at it from a somewhat fictional perspective, you could say that my home is divided into two territories, the yard where the cats are and the indoors where it's the family and Maui's territory. 

Another hypothesis is he's showing some sort of protective aggression or possessive aggression. There are a couple of things he wants to defend here. His food, his toys, and his crate where he has the softest bed. His first 6 months was in a household with several other pups and a small dog with a big personality, who often bullies him, perhaps because he is the runt, or he's just the pup that could not fight back while the others could. Resource guarding could be the root, Maui's not just guarding the territory, but the things he thinks are key to his survival and comfort. 

I think I have the two possible reasons that require the least amount of assumptions, but this doesn't mean it should be enough. I should at least consider reasons, other types of aggression that may not be the likely cause, but if these unlikely reasons turned out to be the case, all my efforts would be for naught. 

Another reason behind aggressive behaviors is a medical condition; something pathological. According to my friend, Maui has the core vaccines, rendering him immune to common killers like parvovirus, distemper, and rabies. However, Maui could be experiencing pain or discomfort that I'm not aware of. I don't have the resources to find out, but at least the vet cleared him of any medical issue.  Maui runs, jumps, and plays as I would expect a dog to do. Since this assumes that Maui has a health issue somehow, it's only second on my list. 

We then have social aggression, which absolutely does not apply since I don't have any other dogs. Although, I could assume that Maui thinks of the cats the same way he thought of the small dog that bullied him when he was much younger. My efforts of positive reinforcement and mild punishment are not enough, and the times when I don't do anything about it are likely reinforcing the behavior also because it works and the cats hop off when he barks. It contains some assumptions, but it ties in well with my two primary hypotheses.

Then, there is predatory aggression. Domesticated dogs are actually omnivores, but that doesn't mean they don't have to eat meat. They must eat meat as part of their balanced diet alongside stuff like grains. They also came from wolves, who are more carnivorous so it's not that far-fetched that Maui feels the urge to bite down on my cats as his prey. I have not seen any actual predatory behavior that supports it, as Maui never had the chance to get near my cats, let alone take a bite out of them. Though I imagine my cats would not make for easy prey. 

So, after all of these, where does it leave me? 

The type of aggression Maui shows is likely possessive or territorial. One way or another, I have to find a way to reduce it. I want to give Maui the freedom to run out into the yard without causing a ruckus. I also want to keep my other pets safe. I have to act soon because these levels of aggression could go both ways. Either it increases, or eventually reduces, but I can't be sure. The key to this will be arriving in a few days. 

The treatment I plan is as follows: I will use the shock collar to reinforce basic obedience commands. These commands will be my bread and butter when it comes to my future endeavours. Ideally, I'll be using the commands to help control Maui as I slowly introduce the cats to him. Should I need something stronger to distract him from his aggressive behavior, I hope the vibration mode is powerful enough to divert his attention to me. 

Like the training I've been giving him, it will take a while. I've read that e-collars have fast results. I don't have a clear measure of how well it will help me, so instead, I'll keep my expectations at a more realistic level.

I'm sure it will work out, not because I'm confident about my homework, but because I have to do it, lest I end up being pushed to that extreme moment where I have to make walls between my cats and dogs or have to choose between them. 

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