Posts Tagged ‘fight or flight response’

I recently attended a lecture by animal behaviorist and veterinarian, Dr. Marsha Reich. I took notes to share with you, because what Dr. Reich had to say is something that all dog owners need to hear.

(Note: This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on Dogs and Fear)

Why dog dogs bite?

Dogs commonly bite due to fear, rather than dominance. Behaviorists today are challenging popularly-held notions about dominance aggression and alpha-male status in dogs. The behaviorists see dogs as belonging to a family, rather than a pack. Using this approach, biting is addressed as a fear response. Rooting out the source of the pet’s fear or anxiety is crucial to eliminating the potential for biting incidents, including among pets in a household and in outdoor settings (such as dog parks.)

Fear response in dogs is a reflex-like involuntary response, which manifests in one of four ways: fight, flight, freeze, fidget. For this series, I will focus on the Fight response.

Fear, anxiety, and excitement are closely related, and dogs can switch from one to another in a second.
Think of the dog that excitedly greets another dog or a person, then switches suddenly to barking, snapping, and snarling, with fur raised.

Fear response in dogs is often triggered by “cornering.” A dog feels cornered when its movements are restricted in some way – such as being held in arms or tethered to a leash, or when another animal or a person approaches.

Dogs can feels cornered by obstacles in the household. If a person or animal approaches a dog while the dog’s flight path is blocked by a chair, ottoman, or other piece of furniture, the dog may feel cornered and bite to protect itself.

Interestingly, the fear response is engaged if the fear object approaches the dog, but not if the dog approaches the object. However, just because a dog sniffs your hand or gets close to you, that does not mean he wants to be petted.

Est. 1973

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Part 2 will appear on Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

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