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Canine Behavior – Aggression, The Lesson

Hey guys!  Welcome back to my series on Canine Behavior.  Like I mentioned before, a lot of people comment on the amount of true canine behavior I use in my stories.  That’s because years ago, I learned something very important.  Dogs are really not much more than a domesticated wolf.  True, we’ve played with their bodies, and their hearts and minds, in order to mold them into the image we want.  No wolf was ever the size of a yorkie, and no yorkie will ever be the size of a wolf.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t share the most important  thing that keeps them together.  Their soul.  Basic Canine behavior is the same for both, just in differing intensity.

For example, wolves are often described as shy.  They are not.  They are just naturally wary of humans.  Wariness and shyness are not the same.  Dogs have predominately lost this trait.  It’s something we bred out of them.  And yet, now and again, you’ll see that same wariness show up in this breed or that.  Frequently the older breeds, described as “reserved” hold this trait.  Like the Akbash.  Beautiful dogs who are wary of any human not in their family.  So for the rest of this week and next we’ll talk about the one thing that stays with all of them…. with variances only in intensity, and that is Canine Aggression.

And today’s Lesson is….. you guessed it, The Lesson.

Of all the examples of canine aggression this is one of the most terrifying to watch.  It usually consists of one adult teaching a youngster a lesson.  It consists of terrifying growls and snarls, the frightening flashing of long, white fangs.  The youngster tends to cower, and if under about 8 months or so, typically they drop to their back.  If older, they drop and cower on their bellies.  Many trainers will tell you they must expose their bellies.  This isn’t true.  Yes, the most submissive in the dog world will, but the average dog merely drops to his belly and lays his head flat on the ground to the side, twisting their neck to offer a target.  Their eyes typically are tightly held close.  It’s much easier to give in if you don’t see those horrid teeth coming your way, isn’t it?

For a human watching, it’s one of the most shocking of scenes.  I remember the first time we brought our now 14 yr old dog home.  He charged straight to my female lab and bounced off her in pure joy.  She flattened him. With lips drawn back, her mouth open wide, exposing every tooth and fang in all it’s beauty.  Her voice was loud, aggressive, and downright terrifying as she snarled, barked and growled.  She slammed her head back and forth against him, laying those teeth ever so close to that sweet puppy throat.

Blackjack dropped like a rock, cowering beneath those beautiful and yet frightful teeth.  And yet…..

those teeth never once touched that pup.  Not once.  Oh yes, her head slammed against him, telling him she could rip him apart should he want to, just,,,, she didn’t want to.

She used only the amount of force necessary to teach this wild young pup a lesson.  “I’m boss.  You’re not.  I’ll eat you alive if I have to.”

For the rest of his life, Blackjack respected Lisa the way a child respects his mother.  She raised him as if he were her own, and was willing to protect him with her life, if need be.  And yet their first meeting, to the human eye looked as though she was about to destroy that sweet, brown eyed boy.  What to us looked like pure death in those eyes was the start of the most beautiful relationship I’d ever seen among dogs.

In my writing, when an Alpha is fighting a member of his pack, he uses the exact amount of force necessary.  He threatens, he growls, he attacks.  But he rarely injures.  For, unless the one receiving the lesson is truly challenging his authority, there is no need. For all he’s saying is “I’m boss, you’re not.  I’ll eat you alive if I have to.”




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