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FIRST AID ADVICE FOR OWNERS SUPPORTING AGGRESSIVE DOGS

PURPOSE

Safety of all parties

Reducing escalation

of an aggressive incident

If the family are

considering euthanasia,

can't cope with the dog

in the house but want

time to consider the

situation

If the dog is showing

any form of aggression

If the dog is targeting a

family member in the

home

If the dog is likely to

bark, growl, snap or

bite when being

touched or moved

If the dog is likely to

attack another dog

in the home

If the dog is likely

to attack another

dog whilst outside

the home

If there is a risk to

property (e.g. if the

dog is damaging

door frames or

window frames in

response to territorial

triggers)

If an animal is anxious

or fearful about

approaching a stimulus

or entering an environment

IMPLEMENTATION

If a dog is aggressive, ensure that the dog is not exposed to the target of its aggression or placed in the environment in which it becomes aggressive. Ensure that the family is familiar with the signals that the dog is likely to use if it is becoming distressed (Fig 3) and explain that the dog should be immediately removed from a distress inducing situation.

Never use positive punishment (direct or indirect, physical or verbal). On recognising any behaviours from Fig 3, the family should remove the dog from the environment or, if this is not possible or safe, the person should move away from the dog.

Keep a list of local kennels that have the competency and kennel design suitable to support dogs displaying difficult behaviours. Help the family to get a break from the dog whilst encouraging them to spend time visiting the dog in safe, open spaces

Explain to the family how they can introduce a Baskerville style muzzle (see Blue Cross below). This should be initiated by a family member who has a good relationship with the dog and in an open space. The muzzle should be used for 'fun' as well as in potential conflict situations. Teach the family to recognise signs of 'distress' in their dog (Fog 3 Ladder of Aggression Shepherd 2002) and to distance the dog from triggers whenever any signals of distress are shown.

Introduce a muzzle (as above) and a light-weight house line (see APBC advice sheet) so that the dog can be gently guided away from rooms without anyone inadvertently threatening the dog. Consider using baby-gates in the home. If a person is threatened, they should stop what they are doing, keep their arms down and stay quiet; they should lean slightly away from and look slightly downwards and away from the dog (maintaining a peripheral view of the dog). If they are unable to move away from the dog, they should pick up an item that could be used as a barrier, but they must not use this to threaten the dog. Provide a hiding place (den) that is always available to the dog but that is away from family activity.

Use a house-line (see APBC advice hand-outs) and food lures to move the dog whilst people remain at a safe distance. Do not confront or force the dog.

Separate the dogs into different areas of the home and don't try to reintroduce them without professional advice. Keep thick gardening gloves, blankets and cushions in every room, in case someone accidentally releases a dog - separate the dogs as soon as possible and with the minimum of fuss. Placing a visual barrier between the dogs may help (e.g. a blanket) - but the earlier this is applied the less likely it is that it will result in frustration related arousal.

Don't take the dog out at 'sociable' times of the day or to 'sociable' environments - instead use e.g. large car parks and introduce games to increase interest. The dog should be muzzled and on a lead when outdoors. If the dog is generally distressed outdoors (use Fig 3 to discuss this with owners) exercise the dog in the owner's garden.

Keep the dog in a safe environment at trigger times, ensuring that this environment is as far from the trigger as possible. Only leave a dog in a crate if 'crate trained' and able to relax in a crate

Never force or cajole a dog to approach a stimulus or enter an environment that initiated anxiety or fear - this will only result in further emotional arousal and enhance the dog's need to use aggression.

(taken from Hargrave C (2019): Behavioural first aid advice for canine patients. The Veterinary Nurse. November 2019, Volume 10 No 8)
Basic first aid behavioural advice for owners that should supplement environmental and enrichment advice

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