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Aggression in Dogs:the case of Diane Whipple

Updated on July 25, 2012

The case of Diane Whipple is probably in the hearts and minds of those who remember what happened to her in January of 2001. The pretty, petite blonde was attacked by two Canary Island Fighting Dogs, Herra and Bane as she tried to enter her apartment in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco. The owners of the two dogs, Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, were found guilty of all charges brought against them, including a count of murder, for these dogs were deliberately bred to be aggressive. The bloody scene was such a traumatic one to witness that police personnel involved had to be sent for counseling.

The case highlights the importance of dog owners having to monitor their dogs’ behavior. The Whipple incident shows that it is critical to spot the signs of dog aggression before-not when, but before-it happens.

Symptoms of canine aggression

What, then, are the signs of canine aggression? Every responsible dog owner should be asking himself this question. An obvious answer to it would be the growling, snarling, lunging and snapping that is a hallmark of aggressive behavior. The dog may even mount other people or dogs in an attempt to establish dominance over the other party.

These are all symptoms dog aggression already being played out. What about the signs that aggression is about to manifest itself? Some owners fail to react quickly when they sense that their dogs’ hairs are bristling or when the canine’s ears have flattened backwards. They do not notice when their dogs’ tails have straightened or when they are deliberately blocking the path of whatever is provoking the aggression. Failing to react quickly before these little behaviors develop into full blown aggression can cause regrettable incidents.

How to nip canine aggression in the bud

Canine aggression can be dealt with in a number of ways. The most effective would be, of course to ferret out the root cause of the aggressive behavior. This usually is an injury; pain causes anyone, and definitely a dog, to behave negatively and brings out the dog’s need to defend itself. See a veterinarian for help in spotting hidden injuries.

What may seem an obvious but often neglected step to take for owners is to put a muzzle or halter on for their dogs. This acts as a reminder and a form of restraint for the animal and serves to keep it from baring its teeth. A stubborn owner who refuses to do this so as to give his dog that little bit of freedom can end up bearing unwelcome consequences.

Owners can train their dogs to focus on them. Treats can be used to distract an aggressive dog and draw attention away from the person or animal who has provoked the aggression. Owners should have treats in their pockets when going out with their dogs and give them out if they see a situation where there is potential for aggression.

If possible, dog owners should find a more controlled setting for aggressive dogs. These are places where there are fewer people or dogs around to represent sources of distraction for their canines, who would be able to behave better in such surroundings. This can be done until the dog slowly realizes the proper behavior to adopt around other people and animals.

Owners should always use positive reinforcement on their dogs when they behave well; when the dog shows the proper behavior in front of others, praise and pet to let him know that they have done well. The positive reinforcement reminds the dog that it is the correct behavior to subscribe to.

If possible, enlist the cooperation of people; they can give treats to your aggressive dog as they pass by or demonstrate non response towards the dog’s aggressive behavior so that it knows that the conduct should be ignored.

Canine aggression should be dealt with without delay for prevention of incidents like that which happened to Diane Whipple. The containment of aggression provides for a happier, well-balanced canine, and I daresay owner.


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