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Dominance Aggression
The evolutionary social system of dogs developed around a dominance hierarchy which incorporated different threat displays and inhibited levels of aggression to maintain order and limit frequent/fatal aggressive interactions between pack members. It is usually not an all or nothing thing where Dog A is top dog followed by dog B who resides above dog C.... If a generally more submissive animal is strongly motivated by food, for instance, and a generally more dominant animal is not, the more submissive animal may take a more dominant role by asserting itself aggressively. Dominance aggression is most often directed towards human family members and other non-human members of a household. Some common presentations include aggressive reactions to being disturbed while resting or eating, attempts to take away bones or other possessions about which the dog is strongly motivated, aggressive responses to discipline (which needs to be distinguished from defensive aggression), and intrusions on their interactions with favored individuals. The top of a dogs head and the back of its neck are areas related to dominance. This is why well intentioned children that hug a dominant- minded dog around the neck are often bitten in the face. From the dogs perspective, this is a strong display of dominance on the part of the child, and the dominant-minded dog responds accordingly. It is essentially a communication breakdown between species. Dominance aggression is more common in male, as opposed to female, dogs and often does not begin until dogs reach behavioral maturity (10 months to 2 years, earlier in small breeds, later in larger breeds). It is largely driven by the presence of testosterone; and it is well advised to have all non-breeding animals neutered @ 6 months of age. Dominance aggression is common, and costs a lot of dogs their lives. It is however a very treatable problem in most instances. It requires a substantial transfer of information from owners to myself, and then in turn from me to them.