Yesterday while walking Rex, the little casanova spotted a cute little cream colored, female shaggy-type diva-dog and began whining to rendezvous with her. We walked towards her and politely asked her Mom if she was friendly with other dogs. “Oh, yes…” her Mom replied, “She loves other dogs.” Diva-dog began rapidly wagging her tail and seemed excited to welcome Rex’s advance. They quietly sniffed noses for a minute when suddenly Diva-dog stiffened, turned into Devil-dog, and went on the attack! She raised her hackles and let-out a horrifying yapping growl, thrusting herself towards Rex, startling all of us… especially Rex!
The first mistake was to assume that Diva-dog’s tail wagging was friendly and welcoming. A wagging tail is not necessarily a sign of friendliness….especially a “rapidly” wagging tail, as in Diva-dog’s case. You can read more online about deciphering tail wagging language, but most experts agree that you should be wary of a rapid or almost “vibrating” tail wag. Also, Diva-dog’s sudden excitement upon the approach of a strange dog may have been misinterpreted. Perhaps her excitement is better defined as nervousness… agitation maybe?
What would make a dog suddenly, without warning or provocation, react aggressively towards another dog?
A Bad Experience
Dogs don’t soon forget if they experience an unwarranted attack by another dog. Your once friendly, well-adjusted little pooch may have had a bad experience at a dog park, for example, and now he is constantly on the defense fearing that another dog will hurt him. Maybe Diva-Dog was afraid that Rex would attack so she did not want to appear weak or vulnerable.
Diva-dog may be possessive over her owner and see other dogs as a threat. This possessive behavior would put her on high alert, even when there is no threat at all. A possessive dog consistently feels anxious and “stressed”. Aggression is the way she protects herself.
It’s easy to confuse “Possessiveness” with the need to “protect”. If Diva-dog felt that her Mom was in danger, she may have been attempting to shield or guard her from a perceived adversary. A protective instinct can be so strong in some dogs that it may very well cause unprovoked aggression.
While chit-chatting with Diva-dog’s Mom she mentioned that Diva-dog had unknowingly been inside all day with no way to relieve herself. This was her first potty-walk since early morning and it was around 5:00PM at the time! Could it be that Diva-dog was frustrated and unjustifiably
redirected her frustration towards Rex?
On the other hand – don’t laugh – Diva-dog could honestly have, well… a screw loose. Brain chemistry quirks are not all that uncommon, especially in cases of irresponsible breeding. Unfortunately, dogs can suffer from chemical imbalance issues just like humans do.
Pain, fear, dominance, old age (not in this particular case), territorial issues, illness… There are a slew of possibilities as to why an otherwise friendly dog would suddenly exhibit aggression. However, the real cause for concern is whether or not the problem is on-going. If your friendly, well-socialized dog suddenly and continuously begins showing signs of aggression, you should not dismiss it. Start first with a medical check-up from your vet to eliminate any physical cause. With your veterinarian’s guidance, an animal behaviorist may be your next course of action.
It may take a while to repair Rex’s broken heart, not to mention his wounded ego, but he’ll recover soon enough. “There are plenty of other fish in the sea”, I keep telling him. He just tilts his head… he hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about.