Is Dog Aggression Normal Dog Behavior

What Is Normal Dog Behavior

by Alan Papszycki (THE SPIRIT DOG)

So what exactly is “normal” dog behavior ? Well, actually it will be much easier for us to understand, what is NOT normal dog behavior.

Normal inherited and / or learned behaviors, which in actuality are derivations of the same inherited behavior ¹. Can and often will, encompass the entire spectrum of displayable behaviors a dog can exhibit. These behaviors can range greatly, from being very innocuous in nature. All the way to those demonstrative behaviors, that can be readily perceived as the most abhorrent acts, that can manifest themselves by a dog.

So in a nut shell, there aren’t any behaviors that a dog can display, that can be considered abnormal. There are plenty of behaviors that we do not like, but these are normal. Whether or not we are successful in modifying these behaviors, depends on two things. -1- The dog training professional you hire, and your comfort level and willingness to work with the dog.

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1A“Normal inherited and / or learned behaviors, which in actuality are derivations of the same inherited behavior” :

(a) Inherited behavior of digging : Because of a dogs inherited behavior, digging comes naturally ; ( that’s the inherited behavior part) . A dog in a fenced yard that happens to dig a hole near the fence line, then escapes. If then on subsequent occasions he recreates the same digging behavior, that facilitated his  escape in the first place. Then that is a learned behavior that’s tied to an inherited behavior. ( derivation of, the same inherited behavior )

(b) Inherited behavior of survival ( survival instinct), most commonly displayed as fear aggression. The inherited behavior of a dog, tells them to growl when they perceive something that is a potential threat to them ( usually a person). (  that’s the inherited behavior part). Because most people are afraid of a growling dog, a person will back away from the animal to be safe. Hence the dog learns, that by growling he scares away what makes him nervous or uncomfortable. Again, on subsequent occasions, if he repeats this behavior. He has learned that by growling  he scares away the threat. ( This is now a learned behavior, tied to an inherited behavior ). ( derivation of, the same inherited behavior )


copyright©2008 alan papszycki

8 Responses

  1. angel: I know how stressful it is to know that your dog is amazing indoors and yet seemingly stressed / scared / aggressive out doors – what happens to that lovable pup that was in the house just 30 minutes ago !? lol … listen I have just completed a 5 day course with a Dr Isla Fishburn who takes a holistic and natural view of canine communication and behaviour …. I think you should check out her website:

    Having dealt with my own dog who sounds identical to mine, the key is be seen to make good and safe decisions for your dog in your dogs eyes … (this means not forcing dog or wishing dog to be a ‘socialable’ dog ….if it doesn’t want to be. There are different roles / personality types and ranks in dog world. By expecting your dog to have a low swishy tail and bumble along bouncing and being friendly around other dogs – maybe asking something of your dog that it is simply NOT DESGINED to give – so let go of expectations and simply learn to observe your dog and what it is telling you with its body and ears and tail. i.e. are there some dogs it doesn’t react to? are they male / female / spayed / neutred or entire ..are they older / yunger? this is important in understanding what YOUR OWN dog sees as a threat or competition or a non-threat. Puppy classes are always advocated and to me, its silly. Naturally a puppy will learn bite inhibition with mum and pack members… it will learn calm and assurance from mum – but SO MANY PUPPIES ARE CRUELLY stopped from learning these essential life skills by being TAKEN BEFORE REACHING 12 WEEKS OLD and it robs them of any coping skills they should have learnt in order to enjoy life all because ignorant selfish dog wanters think the puppies are ‘cute’ and wont wait until the proper age to steal them from their mums. I say this because, the natural calm a mum affords (she has a chemical similar to morphine that is released as pups suckle and as she grooms her pups) sends of a message of safety for the pup – this builds trust. When a puppy has had trust aborted by being taken at a crucial ‘fear stage’ it set the animal up for insecurity issues such as noise fear / fear aggression / obsessive behaviours and separation anxiety. It is by no means the ONLY factor in these issues but contributes.
    At puppy class, the pups are socialising with pups that HAVE USUALLY BEEN TAKEN TOO YOUNG … have usually been centre of attention, are on a low protein and nutrient diet and have NO OLDER OLE MODELS to explore the world with (to avoid fear ) and have no NANNY or OLDER DOG role models while socialising to learn how to given calming signal, how to approach various ranking dogs etc Basically the pups are running amuck biting ears and rolling over and being taught that ITS OK TO RUN UP TO ANY DOG AND BOUNCE ON IT ……WRONG !!!!!! This lack of social awareness gets the dogs into trouble later on in life …. and then the owners wonder what happened to their lovely friendly dog all of a sudden? Problems usually start around the 12-24 month period as the dog reaches sexual maturity and gives off gender hormones and rank hormones. Most dog in shelters are around 2-3 year old because of this… IT IS NOT A COINCIDENCE. Anyway, you need a dog at least 3- 5 years older than your dog that is ‘balanced’ i.e. non reactive and when pushed will go through four stages of correction ; eye contact/warning 2. lip curl/stiff body 3. low growl 4. contact (air snap or bite or pin). This shows your dogs that noise and contact only come AFTER the warnings and your job is to ensure they understand these stages – bring in what they call a nanny dog (older and stable) to teach your dogs this but do it with a professionals stooge dog as correct greeting is ESSENTIAL for fear aggressive or dominant aggressive dogs.
    Hope this helps – gilly

  2. Angel: Look up postivie reinforcement … take the dogs out seperately for a while and learn to relax and not assume your dog will react or yelp loudly – often because you are worried and tense, and in fear of the loud noises offending people or upsetting others or being embarrassed by your dogs behavious all lead to you being upset and tense – the dog is very prtoective and reliant on you to show him that world is safe and ok – so if you as the leader is tense and nervous or have ‘high energies’ the dog will also exhibit this defensive behaviour. Trust me when I tell you. the first step is for you to challenge yourself and learn to breath naturally, dont allow bad thoughts or images of fights and yelps to flood your mind …a dog can smell a change in your sweat phermones and a change in your heart beat to faster beats all these signal threat to the dog and its getting ready always to protect himself, you and the pack this is NOT fair on the dog. he HAS TO BE ABLE to trust that you undertand the world about you and are confident in stressful situations. A dog is usually sent to us for reasons – have you been a nervous person, or someone who gets anxious or over focused on work or things? …. is there tension in your relationships ….? sorry to be personal but i think this dog has been sent for you to learn how to control your emotions and calm your nerves down – when he sees you relax and enjoy life consistantly he w ill learnt to leave decisions and situations up to you to deal with. You cant ‘fake’ calmness with your dog, you have to really challenge yourself to relax and breath and not assume the worst. Stay steady when he yelps and kicks off … dont let it effect you- have a compassion in your heart for his stress rather than focus on your own feelings of frustration. Thats the starting point. In order to help your dog you have to let go of the fear of being judged by passers by – take it in your stride and stay calm and simply say ‘walk on’ and calmly walk past the dogs stress trigger (another dog) and as soon as the dog relaxes and ONLY when the dog relaxes … a calm siple pat and a ‘good boy’ whilst he is in a calm state will reassure him that THIS is the behaviour you want – not the stressy behaviour.

  3. Hi Angel,

    Sounds like you could benefit from learning how to be ‘calm’ and how to calmly maintain control of your dog when he is showing this fear aggression. I had the same problem with my one until i noticed that when i was with someone i was relaxed with – my dog would not be as aggressive when greeting other dogs. This was my first clue. After much thought I started calmly getting her ready for the walk, calmly putting her in car and calmly controlling her on leash on getting out of car and then on appraoching the park. I breathed nice and steady and DID NOT PANIC when i saw another dog .. in other words i learnt NOT TO ASSUME my dog would be aggressive and if she displayed the first signs of fear/aggression such as stiff body, barking, i stayed neutral and walked on or stood calmly still and asked her to sit (with a gentle push of her bum) to control the situation more.

    After a while of this and BEING CONSISTANT she learnt to relax a bit more or just to look at me when she saw another dog and i would say sit or just ignore her and walk on – I came to learn that by ME MAKING THE DECISION about when to sit and be submissive or walk past and ignore the other dog/s that rea started to rely more on me to deal with the situations and this calmed her down. INa nutshell I earned her trust as a pack leader by staying calm and controlling the situation – rather than feeding into her fear. Hope this helps x

  4. Hi
    At obedience class the puppy was allowed to play but a few weeks in he started to get really uptight. He was a star otherwise and did exactly what I asked of him.

    I would really like to know how to relax my dogs on the walk. I am resorting to taking them to a wood where no other dogs go or taking them out in the dark.

    I think there is some rivalry between them but fear that the puppy is convinced that all dogs are out to get him because the other dog has attacked him so many times.
    I would like both of them to socialize if at all possible. Many thanks for your help.

  5. Hi Angel83,

    Yes, it’s normal for every dog to exhibit this behavior regardless of breed. Did the group dog obedience classes you attended, allow the dogs to interact with each other (play together) ?

    Whether or not you want your dogs sociallized to the point of happily meeting other dogs, is entirely your decision.

    Socialization is not a mandatory thing we have to do with our dogs. You teach your dogs what you need them to know, not what anybody tells you they need to know.

    As soon as I learn how to use video editing programs more efficiently, I’ll be showing you how to communicate with your dogs “chi” if you will.

    Until then if you need help, ask. I will try to explain how to relax your dog.

  6. Is it normal for the Patterdale Terrier breed to display aggressive snarling and yelping when meeting other dogs. This has been happening since he was first taken out out after vaccinations. He is now 7 months old. The noise is so loud and I see it as a big problem. We also have a 4 year old Lakeland Terrier bitch who is now exhibiting the same behaviour and the bitch is getting angry with him so there have been some bad fights. Both dogs have been through dog obedience classes. In the house he is so lovableI

  7. It’s still a canine chewing behavior, what would be abnormal is if you chewed the bumper off of your car.

  8. Agreed that most dog behaviors are not really abnormal but I’m sure that there are some people that can come up with some very abnormal behaviors. How about chewing the bumper off my Cadillace? Would that be abnormal? : )

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