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The Link Between Culture and Aggression in Dogs

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Aggression is quickly becoming prevalent as we see more aggression cases now than ever before. Not only what we see as therapist and trainers but also what’s taking place in other countries. I think we need to re-think how were running training classes and how were dealing with aggression.

Some countries are rapidly getting worse than other countries. Up until just a few years ago it was generally recognized that the USA had the worse aggression problem in the world. According to the latest data the UK has outdone them by taking the lead. The UK is seeing exactly the same things happening to them.

According to research it’s not the same story in other countries which is strange. If you go to another country like Belgium dog to dog or dog to people aggression has not grown worse it has remained static probably for the last twenty years. Go to Italy; go to a lot of European countries behavior with dogs is not getting worse.

The USA is also the country noted for spaying and neutering more animals than any other culture yet they have the worse aggression problems than anywhere in the world next to the UK.

So what is it that’s makes the difference?  A difficult thing to recognize is that the behavior of children and dogs in any culture is mirrored. Any culture where you see child behavior, an example of child behavior is where children have little respect for their parents, little respect for the elderly, little respect for property; you’ll see the same thing in dogs.

Obviously we could say one of the reasons behind that are the parents or the owners of the dogs are the wrong role models for the way that children or the dogs behave. Much comes down to the owners being the role model for their dog.

And what’s happened in recent years is that parents seem to have become less of a role model for their children, kids are watching computer games, video games, TV programs, movies etc. And some of the role models they choose are not the role models parents would choose. And the trend is exactly the same with dogs.

Adding to this is the way that we train our dogs, it doesn’t replicate real life. It’s still based on traditional competitive obedience. Training inside a facility will not benefit ample results. This type of training is called artificial and context specific training. Simply, you can’t train a real life recall in a training hall and expect the same results outside when the dog is in chase.

In India they hold training sessions outside and can have up to forty males and females that are not spayed or neutered and experience no aggression problems in a class. Being a male dominated country the typical breeds are Dobermans, Great Danes, Boxers, German Shepherds and Labradors.

In the USA and Canada you can have a neutered male, an entire male a spayed female or a bitch, how confusing is that for dogs. It’s easier for dogs to understand you’re either one or the other. In India it’s either you’re a dog or a bitch.

Another myth created by some trainer back in the 60’s that the word entire also implies aggressive for some odd reason.

Another cultural difference in Canada and USA is that the number of dog addicts is female, 90 percent, not so in other countries. Belgium it’s more like 50/50, India is 60/40 in favor of male dog trainers.

In a report I read recently which was from a pet food manufacturing business, it claimed that in the USA Humane Societies alone are responsible for destroying five million dogs a year. That’s a massive number. The statistics are about the same for the UK.

Canada’s statistics from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies tell us that about 50% of the 171,000 animals taken in by shelters countrywide in 2007 were euthanized. Yet we never see the true numbers because not all shelters respond to the surveys.

“Most shelters these days are bursting at the seams,” said Sheilagh MacDonald, the federation’s program director.

To be a good dog trainer in Canada and the USA we have the hardest job of any trainer anywhere else in the world. We have a much more difficult job than other countries because of the way that culturally pet owners keep and maintain their dogs.

In Belgium dogs have a massive amount of freedom, very few frustrations, and he way that the pet owner keeps and maintains a dog differs significantly to the way we keep pet dogs.

A dog in Belgium will be taken out in the neighborhood three times a day, week ends the dog will go out a lot more, these are pet owners by the way, these are the ones we need to get to, not dog enthusiasts, dog enthusiasts would do this anyway.

In Belgium pet owners will play with their dog with toys, hard to believe that in our country there are not that many dogs that retrieve. I’m always amazed at that, and I don’t mean retrieve a dumbbell. I mean retrieve a ball.

And let us not forget that a dog in our country is the most legislated against animal in the world.

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  1. Avatar Of Beth



    There were a number of things like neutering and male ownership domination that you mention, but do not actually tie in. I suppose we are supposed to infer your meaning.

    Besides that, you’re essentially saying that a well socialized dog (a dog who is out and about regularly meeting all sorts of people and dogs, cats, etc) is less likely to be aggressive. I don’t think anyone with a bit of education doesn’t get that, but thanks for reiterating it – since there is plenty of proof that many dog owners still need this info.

    Your point that there is an inverse relationship between legislating dog behavior and ‘good’ dog behavior is, I think, a good and interesting one. I’d like to hear more about that. I live in a committee where the bylaw says all pit bull and pit bull crosses must be kept in a large pen with a roof (ie. no socializing, no exercise) so that the bylaw actually encourages these animals to become aggressive, dangerous dogs.

  2. Avatar Of Leebee



    I would like to know more specifics about what kind of dog aggression is on the rise in US and UK. Certainly the prevalence of puppy mills in this country is contributing to creating some messed up animals. Also, of course, some dogs are being raised to be aggressive because some people want aggressive dogs. Most dogs I see in the city get along great when they are off-leash in a big park but will show leash aggression when out on a walk.
    I totally disagree with your comments on neutering however. Neutering does decrease aggression.

  3. Avatar Of Isiris



    I feel alot of the aggression not only comes with lack of training of the dog by the owner, but also because here in America, we are required to vaccinate our dogs over and over again even if we live in areas where they will never be in contact with the pathogens they are being vaccinated against. There is proof that vaccinations don’t prevent them from getting diseases that they’re vaccinated against and the Rabies shot is the most lethal and some dogs have even died from it. Yes, the food they make for dogs is not very healthy. I cook for my dogs that way I know what’s in their food!

  4. Avatar Of Karen



    I live in the US but had a chance to live with my dog in the UK. My dog (neutered male American Eskimo dog) had a wonderful park to walk in, off the lead, with his other dog friends of all kinds. He was relaxed and happy and had tons of social interactions, off the lead, and we rarely encountered aggression from other dogs.

    Here in the US, living in our suburban area, we have to make a special effort to socialize with other dogs. People are so concerned about lawsuits and legal liability that they keep their dogs from playing with each other. I think most don’t know what dog play even looks like. They stifle their dogs and as a result, the dogs become anxious and antsy and act up when they encounter other dogs.

    I also think we expect our dogs to learn without our guidance. We’re not trained to train our dogs! Somehow, in the UK, the village raises the dog…. here in the US, you are on your own!

    • Avatar Of Isiris



      That is absolutely right, Karen! I live in NYC and we don’t have a dog run near us, but we, meet in a street hockey rink that is hardly used by the neighborhood people, but is used by hockey players that don’t live nearby. It’s enclosed and the dogs have a place to run and play except that it is not covered in grass. We also have a ball field that we use to let the dogs run. We have to use these areas with the risk of getting a summons because they both say NO DOGS ALLOWED yet they’re hardly used and would be used daily if they allowed dogs!!! I have had dogs since I was a little girl and have read alot on how to train my dogs, but many of the dog owners where I live are first-time owners and have no inkling as to how to train or socialize their dogs. Many have exclaimed how well behaved my dogs are and I tell them that I started training them when they were little puppies. Many of them don’t realize how much work it is to have a dog! It’s like having a child that will never grow up and go out on their own!!

  5. Avatar Of Bella



    With all this stuff in dog food, how to know which is safe? Maybe going back to giving them some table food might help?

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