...this is a topic that I hold very dear to my heart as I have worked through what others lumped into the "aggression" label with my own and fosters with the help of Alice Fisher, CPDT-KA and Rita Britton, CPDT-KA at Dogsmart.
I have witnessed so much abuse in the name of labeling a dog "aggressive". Some people believe you fight fire with fire, others like me prefer taking a more Buddhist approach. To me, suppressing a behaviour by force; using intimidation, startle, hands on or training 'tools' and frying a dog's nervous system is NOT my idea of diffusing a situation or reframing (Control Unleashed term) the picture for them. Whether its a dog or human, for that matter.
I loved Pat Miller’s article ‘The Gift of Growling’, as I share my life with opinionated…beagles…
She accompanied a client to Dr. Karen Overall’s for a session and here’s the link to her blog post.
www.peaceablepaws.com/blog The session is last down at the bottom of that page
Here’s the part of the blog post where Pat was talking about Dr. Karen Overall's session that I really really felt related to my dogs,those that come into my care (fostering) and the majority of those drama queens I meet out and about.
“a dog’s most important currency is information.” They are always seeking to understand how their world works, and how to make it work for them, and they need information in order to do this. For an anxious dog, many behaviors we may read as “aggression” – growling, lunging – are ways of testing the environment to seek information. She reassured our mutual client (as I had already done) that when their dog was growling at them he wasn’t about to bite, but was merely offering information (I’m not comfortable here) and seeking information (what is happening, and how are you going to answer?)"
I just wish people would be more compassionate about what they say and it would be oh so helpful if they knew what TO DO when another dog is struggling and acting like a loon.
When the other dog is on leash and being dramatic, I actually stop and have my guys engage with me, I yawn, look away, turn sideways, look down... (known as calming signals, cutoff or differential activity) …while the other dog and owner go by. I’ve been in their shoes and would have given anything to have someone reciprocate something compassionate rather than passing judgment.
Education is key. If your dog freezes, gives you a hard stare, growls, lunges...you need to work with a professional who can show you how to diffuse the situation using non confrontational methods so you can "reframe" that picture for them.
For me it comes naturally now from years of experience.