Whilst in a conversation a few years back with another dog trainer they revealed a possibility to me. Some dogs are bred with features that other dogs can instinctively find threatening. Let me list a few…
- Erect, forward ears
- Large size
- High tail carriage (they carry their tail high)
- Sharp eyes
There are many breeds that can be said to have features that can be threatening to other dogs; Akitas, Huskies, German Shepherds, Malamutes etc.
The interesting question that this raises is do these features make them more likely to exhibit bully behaviour? Let me make the case…
What is ‘Bully’ Behaviour and How Is It Rewarded?
When we talk about bullying behaviours we’re often really talking about dogs that display what we might otherwise refer to as ‘distance-increasing behaviours’ in the presence of submissive dogs. Distance-increasing behaviours are simply behaviours that are intended to increase distance between two individuals for example; mounting, snarling etc.
If these behaviours work i.e. they achieve the desired result (increased distance) then a problem can start to develop. Edward Thorndike taught us with his ‘Law of Effect’ all of those years ago; a behaviour that is rewarded is more likely to occur again.
Why This Could Impact Some Breeds More Than Others
It comes down to opportunity. As certain breeds of dogs have more intimidating features (in the perception of other dogs) they are likely to find increasing distance much easier.
A floppy-eared Cocker Spaniel is going to have to put a lot more effort into increasing distance than a large Akita is. That’s not to say a Cocker Spaniel can’t learn it, but the Akita that can increase distance with very little effort is going to have an increased opportunity to practise and therefore learn to rely upon.
This isn’t the end of the world but is something to be cautious of. We need to raise dogs that firstly rarely feel the need to increase distance and are comfortable in the presence of other dogs but also have an acceptable method of doing so when they do feel the need.
Even more if you own a dog with intimidating features…
When I say flooding in this context I mean the way we used to socialize dogs (and some people still do). The old put them all in together and let them sort themselves out technique. There is more to the term ‘flooding’ than this but we’ll save it for another day.
This method of socialization is going to provide these dogs with endless opportunity to practise and refine those distance-increasing behaviours that we find undesirable. This is just another good reason to find a good dog trainer that knows how to socialise dogs responsibly and can help to guide them in the right direction.
I Love Big Dogs. Don’t Hate Me!
I’m already anticipating the angry comments from owners of breeds I’ve listed as examples. I love all dogs. In fact, if anything I have a preference for large, wolf-type dogs that would meet the above criteria. This is not a ‘lets never breed or own these dogs’ blog, but rather a cautionary note and observation.
[Read More About Ticoh the Doberman here: 2 Words You Should Never Say to Your Dog]