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Pet Training & Behavior Topics

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Welcome to Diana Guerrero's Ark Animals Training & Therapy. This section is dedicated to pets, companion animals, and topics related to their care and training. This article discusses pet aggression. You should get professional help for pet problems.

Pet Behavior Problems: Aggression

Aggression from pets is not something to play around with--don't delay on action steps. Any animal can exhibit aggression. There are different types outline in this article. You should always get professional help IMMEDIATELY when dealing with pet aggression.

People sometimes think that growling, nipping, or biting behavior from baby animals is normal and something they will grow out of. This is not always the case! Most serious aggression problems are rooted in indulgent behavior, lack of boundaries and rules, or miscommunication between owner and animal that started in puppy hood or kitten hood.

Your animal should never growl or bite you, even in play. Games such as wrestling, rough housing, tug-o-war, or slapping an animal are inappropriate games that will escalate or that may contribute to aggression problems.

Contrary to popular opinion, aggression is not handled with force. Hitting or pinning an animal can increase the intensity and drive in this type of behavior problem. That is why it is important to get professional help from a behavior specialist.

Force, pain inflicting techniques, and other such archaic methods of training may escalate your problem. Also, any blanket approach or technique that someone swears will work, should raise a red flag of alarm for you. Get the proper help from the proper source.

There are many shades of different problems that can be found in each situation, so don't try and diagnose your situation without professional assistance.

Note: Aggression cases cannot be solely handled by phone since the cases are too intricate and complex to risk a misdiagnosis.

Here is a brief rundown on the types of aggression you may encounter. Terms will vary.

  • Fear-induced: where the aggression is
    triggered by fear or insecurity.

  • Possessive: object or food guarding.

  • Protective: defense of people, territory, or other (like a litter).

  • Dominance-related: a hierarchical problem that can
    be across species.

  • Psychotic or phobic: roots usually in genetics, injuries,
    or escalation of another type of aggression.

  • Inter-specific: same species/type of animal or same sex aggression.

  • Intra-specific: predatory aggression or aggression
    directed at other animals or people.

  • Pain induced: also illness induced.

  • Other: you will hear of other types of aggression too
    (redirected, play, situational, reactionary,
    retaliatory, defensive, etc.).

Properly identifying what type of aggression you are seeing and the degree of severity of the behavior is important. Each case can have it's own complications and liabilities that accompany it.

If dealt with in the early stages, aggression can usually be addressed successfully with counter conditioning, or desensitization combined with behavior training (i.e., non-force obedience).

In more extreme cases, additional tactics may also include alternative therapy, drug therapy, and take months to address. Worse case scenarios can result in euthanasia.

If you are experiencing this behavior problem help is just a phone call away! Hire Animal Expert

About the columnist: Since 1978 Diana L. Guerrero has worked professionally with both wild and domestic animals. Guerrero has been affiliated with, and certified by, a variety of animal programs in the USA and Europe. Based in California, she writes, consults, and speaks. Information on her animal career programs, training courses, and her books {What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality (SkyLight Paths, 2003), Blessing of the Animals (Sterling, 2007), Help! My Pet is Driving Me Crazy (Guerrero Ink, 2007), Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals (Guerrero Ink, 2007)} can be found in this web site and in the shop. Questions for Guerrero should be submitted via the blog comments or membership forum.


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