MINE!! GOT IT??I find it really difficult to narrow down five years of witnessing Brut's aggression without bringing in so many contributing factors, but I am going to try to break it down to the two that I believe are the most important and that I have witnessed repeatly: the natural act of protection and an over-exaggerated hierarchy correction. And while I am not a dog trainer, behaviorist, or expert on any kind on aggression, this is what I have observed in my own home with my aggressive dog Brut.
I talked about Brut's upbringing in the last post that created a prime example of Brut's need to protect himself and his valuables. The most important of these has been himself and because of that Brut has built this circumference around himself that expands and contracts. Sometimes slowly and other times, depending on the circumstances rather quickly. This firewall around Brut is his own personal boundary line and any one crossing without permission or heeding that first or second warning will find themselves being corrected by Brut.
A very rare moment of Zappa (l) and Brut (r)No one knows this better than Brut's son Zappa. Zappa likes to test and push that boundary by challenging back, because Zappa almost always refuses to back down to Brut. From about the time that Zappa was four months old, Brut and Zappa had these challenges almost regularly for the first year or so. Most confrontations were quite minor and didn't always lead to a fight, but others were more intense and there was physical contact.
An example is when they are chasing squirrels. Brut and Zappa have a little hunting festival around the wood shed at the sight of a squirrel. As you can imagine the adrenaline can get quite high and intense. At first Zappa will keep a safe distance and will stay out of Brut’s way while they circle and search. As they come up empty-handed but haven’t given up the quest, Zappa merges closer as Brut begins to let his guard down. Zappa takes advantage of getting closer to top dog position and possibility of catching said prey. If there is so much an inkling of the squirrel Brut will realize just how close Zappa is, which makes him a sudden threat to his claimed catch. With half a heartbeat Brut gives a warning to Zappa. Zappa ignores it because he's too caught up in the game, or more likely isn't to back down and lose the ground that he has gained being "equal" to his father. Since Zappa doesn't back down to the warning, Brut’s radius flares out catching Zappa in it and Brut uses a more direct approach to get his message across. And what may seem like an attack out of nowhere for no reason, was Zappa not giving into his dad’s orders and Brut correcting him.
I have witnessed several version of this same scenario outside as well as smaller versions inside, although not every confrontation leads to a fight. Depending on the severity of the line that is crossed or how valuable the possession is, the correction can be over in a couple of seconds or can be more severe lasting half a minute or more. These are the fights that trigger off the deep seeded fear in Brut that a dog is trying to take something of precious value to him. These are the ones that stem from those fears of abandonment and the fight for himself of never losing again what he lost. And while these fights are more serious and take me to pull them apart, none of the dogs have had more than a bloody scratch at most, when you’d think they’d be more. Amazing, isn’t it?
Make one false move, cat...
For a long time I thought Brut was the cause of every fight, when really it is a two way street. Ignoring a signal from Brut is probably far worse than actually answering it, but no response is still a response. And more time than not it is the unheard answer that explodes into the deeper fear and pain of his puppy hood that I have watched Brut displayed so many times. These are not the teeth of a killer, but a dog who suffered severe emotional pain and trauma and is just trying to hold onto what is his.
And really can you blame him?
And one last personal note. Have you ever witnessed or have had happen to you that a dog comes over and just seems to attack another/your dog for what looks like no reason? I wonder if actions like this could be part of my hierarchy correction idea. Like when a dog isn't even looking at the aggressive dog and it is still attacked. Because I do believe any dog with aggression towards other dogs believes himself to be the alpha dog at every moment and expects an appropriate response to his actions and if that response doesn't suit him, he will attack to correct. I wonder if any of you have experienced this and would agree or not.
Next post I'll delve into the Brut's touchy food aggression.