Body Language and Dog Aggression - video

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Postby mnp13 » May 12th, 2008, 5:54 pm

The topic of Pit Bulls "liking" to fight has been rather heated in the past. Liz and Inara were at our house this past weekend and we had an interesting experience that we decided would be a good one to share.

Riggs is truly dog aggressive. He has no interest in the "usual" posturing that comes with the normally accepted description of dog aggression - screaming, hackles up, lunging, barking and otherwise carrying on. In most dogs, this type of behavior is meant to scare the other dog so that a fight can be avoided. You do not try to scare away that which you would like to draw nearer. Most (not all) of the behavior usually labeled "dog aggression" is actually fear based, not confidence based. Yes, possible the outcome is the same - a dog fight - but the root of the behavior is different.

This may sound like semantics, but learning to recognize certian behaviors can help to avoid a problem.

We initially introduced Inara and Riggs "correctly." He has been ok with other females and we thought he would be fine with her. He attempted to grab her, Liz pulled Inara away by her back legs and I stuck my hand in his mouth to prevent him from connecting with her. We tried a second time and weren't fast enough to avoid contact, Inara ended up with two punctures - so that was the end of that. Had we not both been alert the first time we would have had a disaster, the second time he was too fast for either of us, even though we knew exactly what to expect.

The interesting thing about the encounter was the complete lack of warning. Riggs was silent both times, and his body language was almost exactly the same as Inara's. Ears forward, tail up and wagging, some dancing on the tippy toes. Nothing else.

Inara spent the weekend playing with Ruby and Connor - with the exact same mannerisms as she is showing in the video, including the barking and jumping.

We talked about it a lot over the weekend and decided to video another encounter between the two dogs. We carefully set up the meeting so that the dogs were as safe as possible, we didn't want to add any extra risk to an already somewhat risky plan.

Riggs' body language gives little to no indication that he wants to do anything but play, except for the rather loud snap of him missing Inara when he tried to grab her.

Here is the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPRT-DXQhts

A few things to note: yes the leashes are tight, the last thing we wanted was for them to actually connect. The only commands that Riggs was given was heel, down and break (as in you can get up from your down / break your heel.) There are also some avoidance behaviors at the end.

Personally, I think Pit Bull owners have a different level of responsibility regarding dog-dog interactions. There is no warning when Riggs decides to go after another dog, and I've had more than one person tell me that "all he wants to do is play, just look at him." Well, frankly, his idea of play isn't the same as most dogs.
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Postby BigDogBuford » May 12th, 2008, 6:14 pm

Buford is the exact same way. I swear he lures dogs in just to grab them. There is a split second of tensing right as he lunges, but it's generally too late.

*edited to add that I love the way Inara throws her a$$ at Riggs when she's trying to get him to play.
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Postby pocketpit » May 12th, 2008, 6:18 pm

For me it's always been the intensity that is the clue. Inara while she wants to play isn't "locked" onto Riggs and allows herself to bounce around, present her butt and generally be silly to ivite play. While Riggs has his tail wagging and his ears up he's obviously very focused on her and much more tense. He moves in a forward direction only and never deviates from his "target".
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Postby BigDogBuford » May 12th, 2008, 6:24 pm

pocketpit wrote:For me it's always been the intensity that is the clue. Inara while she wants to play isn't "locked" onto Riggs and allows herself to bounce around, present her butt and generally be silly to ivite play. While Riggs has his tail wagging and his ears up he's obviously very focused on her and much more tense. He moves in a forward direction only and never deviates from his "target".


Yep, that's what I've finally realized. Generally if I see a dog THAT focused on another dog during introductions, I just don't go any further with it. Buford is like this with all strange dogs although sometimes he'll look away just long enough for the other dog to get closer, then he grabs them. He's manageable with new dogs when I bring them in the house but I go super slow and he usually never has play time with them. Honestly, he just isn't interested in meeting new dogs.
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Postby amazincc » May 12th, 2008, 6:38 pm

:shock:

Crap... that is EXACTYLY how Beast used to act around most people if he WASN'T screaming his head off at them. I, like most people I know, always assumed that a wagging tail meant that he was being "friendly".
If I didn't know better I would've thought that Riggs just wanted to play w/Inara. :neutral:
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » May 12th, 2008, 6:40 pm

I was just fascinated with how their body language was almost identical. That's why Inara got nailed on Thursday at the initial introductions. He looked just as happy and relaxed as she did. He absolutely was luring her in.
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Postby katiek0417 » May 12th, 2008, 6:40 pm

This is an interesting conversation. I think back to last week with the dobie approaching Cy. Cy was peeing and didn't see the dog coming...it wasn't until Cy looked over his shoulder and saw the dog (with it's nose up his butt) that he started to growl and his hackles went up...

Also, interesting, is that Cy will allow another dog approach him, have his tails and ears up...until the dog is face to face and nose to nose with him...only then will there be an indication that it's "on." This behavior even occurs when he is not in obedience mode...and very often with females, as well (especially if he has a kong in his mouth when the female approaches)...

I think while it's important to know "typical" signs of aggression in a dog, it's also just as important to know your dog...

Also, I have watched Drusilla stand at the fence separating our yard in two with her tail wagging, only to have an unsuspecting Asja go over, and Dru start a fence fight...of course, Asja is now smart to Dru's ways and wants to fence fight just as badly...
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » May 12th, 2008, 6:43 pm

BigDogBuford wrote:*edited to add that I love the way Inara throws her a$$ at Riggs when she's trying to get him to play.


lol That almost got her butt nailed twice! We had the leashed perfect to keep their heads inches apart - we weren't planning on her trying to hip check him!
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Postby cheekymunkee » May 12th, 2008, 8:10 pm

mnp13 wrote:The topic of Pit Bulls "liking" to fight has been rather heated in the past. Liz and Inara were at our house this past weekend and we had an interesting experience that we decided would be a good one to share.

Riggs is truly dog aggressive. He has no interest in the "usual" posturing that comes with the normally accepted description of dog aggression - screaming, hackles up, lunging, barking and otherwise carrying on. In most dogs, this type of behavior is meant to scare the other dog so that a fight can be avoided. You do not try to scare away that which you would like to draw nearer. Most (not all) of the behavior usually labeled "dog aggression" is actually fear based, not confidence based. Yes, possible the outcome is the same - a dog fight - but the root of the behavior is different.

This may sound like semantics, but learning to recognize certian behaviors can help to avoid a problem.

We initially introduced Inara and Riggs "correctly." He has been ok with other females and we thought he would be fine with her. He attempted to grab her, Liz pulled Inara away by her back legs and I stuck my hand in his mouth to prevent him from connecting with her. We tried a second time and weren't fast enough to avoid contact, Inara ended up with two punctures - so that was the end of that. Had we not both been alert the first time we would have had a disaster, the second time he was too fast for either of us, even though we knew exactly what to expect.

The interesting thing about the encounter was the complete lack of warning. Riggs was silent both times, and his body language was almost exactly the same as Inara's. Ears forward, tail up and wagging, some dancing on the tippy toes. Nothing else.

Inara spent the weekend playing with Ruby and Connor - with the exact same mannerisms as she is showing in the video, including the barking and jumping.

We talked about it a lot over the weekend and decided to video another encounter between the two dogs. We carefully set up the meeting so that the dogs were as safe as possible, we didn't want to add any extra risk to an already somewhat risky plan.

Riggs' body language gives little to no indication that he wants to do anything but play, except for the rather loud snap of him missing Inara when he tried to grab her.

Here is the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPRT-DXQhts

A few things to note: yes the leashes are tight, the last thing we wanted was for them to actually connect. The only commands that Riggs was given was heel, down and break (as in you can get up from your down / break your heel.) There are also some avoidance behaviors at the end.

Personally, I think Pit Bull owners have a different level of responsibility regarding dog-dog interactions. There is no warning when Riggs decides to go after another dog, and I've had more than one person tell me that "all he wants to do is play, just look at him." Well, frankly, his idea of play isn't the same as most dogs.



Been there done that precious.

And nothing will convince me he doesn't love the fight. Just the idea that he might be able to engage another dog makes his face look like of a kid in a candy store.

Justice ( with Munkee) show fear aggression, it's forward but it is fear. Munkee ( with all dogs except Ollie) shows TRUE Dog Aggression. The difference in the two dogs actions with each other ( on the rare occasion they have even SEEN one another) is like night & day. She moves towards him, barking & snapping. He stands there with a "bring it bitch" look on his face & waits.
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Postby mnp13 » May 12th, 2008, 9:07 pm

BigDogBuford wrote:edited to add that I love the way Inara throws her a$$ at Riggs when she's trying to get him to play.

Yeah... she's saying "look at my cute bootie!" his response... "bring it over here baby." lol

amazincc wrote:If I didn't know better I would've thought that Riggs just wanted to play w/Inara.

exactly

pocketpit wrote:While Riggs has his tail wagging and his ears up he's obviously very focused on her and much more tense. He moves in a forward direction only and never deviates from his "target".
For me it's always been the intensity that is the clue. Inara while she wants to play isn't "locked" onto Riggs and allows herself to bounce around, present her butt and generally be silly to ivite play. While Riggs has his tail wagging and his ears up he's obviously very focused on her and much more tense. He moves in a forward direction only and never deviates from his "target".

Very true... the thing that scares me is that I've been told by more than one person who has seen this reaction from Riggs "look how much he wants to play"

the "lock" is a good point... (and quite obvious now that you've pointed it out ;) )

cheekymunkee wrote:Been there done that precious.

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Postby babyreba » May 12th, 2008, 9:13 pm

i know a dog that acts like riggs, and that's aja's puppy. he's excited and happy and doesn't telegraph anything, just acts "normal" and happy, then grabs.

i have a different kind of dog-aggressive dog here in doc--he's not really looking for a fight, he does actually want to play, and he will play for a while. but while playing he will sometimes get so over-the-top that he sort of loses control of himself and turns it into aggression--almost prey aggression, really. it's not personal with the other dog at all, and he holds no grudges. it's just a fast and furious response when he gets too swept away.
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Postby katiek0417 » May 12th, 2008, 9:15 pm

babyreba wrote:i know a dog that acts like riggs, and that's aja's puppy. he's excited and happy and doesn't telegraph anything, just acts "normal" and happy, then grabs.

i have a different kind of dog-aggressive dog here in doc--he's not really looking for a fight, he does actually want to play, and he will play for a while. but while playing he will sometimes get so over-the-top that he sort of loses control of himself and turns it into aggression--almost prey aggression, really. it's not personal with the other dog at all, and he holds no grudges. it's just a fast and furious response when he gets too swept away.


Sounds like Nisha....
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Postby DemoDick » May 12th, 2008, 10:48 pm

This is an interesting conversation. I think back to last week with the dobie approaching Cy. Cy was peeing and didn't see the dog coming...it wasn't until Cy looked over his shoulder and saw the dog (with it's nose up his butt) that he started to growl and his hackles went up...

(emphasis added)

I think the whole point of Michelle's post was that if you're a Pit Bull owner waiting for the typical signs of "unfriendly dog" that you described you're setting yourself up for a potential disaster. The serious Pit Bull who wants to fight displays much of the same body language as the friendly dog who just wants to play.

I've seen a lot of people, some who have been in this breed for years, get their hands on their first truly "hot" Pit and freak out, saying things like "he just snapped", "he didn't growl or bark or make a sound", or "I can't trust him now". In fact, the dog is behaving perfectly normally for this breed, and with a little understanding future problems can be avoided. Forewarned is forearmed.

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Postby amazincc » May 12th, 2008, 11:12 pm

This should be a sticky - it is THE best explanation/demonstration of dog aggression I have seen so far.
I just showed this video to Caroline (PitaCC) who was absolutely convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Riggs wanted to play... until she heard the snapping of his jaw.

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Postby TheRedQueen » May 13th, 2008, 12:47 am

pocketpit wrote:For me it's always been the intensity that is the clue. Inara while she wants to play isn't "locked" onto Riggs and allows herself to bounce around, present her butt and generally be silly to ivite play. While Riggs has his tail wagging and his ears up he's obviously very focused on her and much more tense. He moves in a forward direction only and never deviates from his "target".


Agreed...I was watching his intensity also...I was not convinced that his intentions were entirely "honorable" :nono: :mrgreen:

So here's a question to ponder...

How much of this is learned behavior? By that I mean, he learned to hold his displays in check because of something...an aversive of some sort.

The scariest dog I had in the house was Tuna, the pit bull mix from Israel this past summer. She'd been with a family for 6 months (after leaving Israel and arriving in MD)...who were well-meaning...but in essence trained her to not have symptoms of aggression. Meaning she was corrected (yelled at, smacked, etc) for growling or showing signs of aggression. She learned to hide it, and didn't give "warning"...she'd just stand in the house and wag and look relaxed...then try and nail John's hand, or Score's head.

I don't know much about Riggs specifically...so I'm not necessarily aiming it at him...but just putting out food for thought for everyone to ponder.
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Postby amazincc » May 13th, 2008, 1:02 am

Ah, Erin... the lady w/the tough but GOOD questions... :wink:

Personally, I am VERY embarrassed by this, but - I successfully managed to "train" the warning system right out of Beast. :oops:

I never hit or physically punished him for growling/barking... but he definitely "learned" that I wasn't pleased w/that sort of display. Hence, I raised a very dangerous "silent lunger", and until I joined here I had no clue that tail wagging doesn't automatically mean "friendly".

So, now I never discipline him for getting vocal, but I sure as hell would've liked to have known this years ago.
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Postby DemoDick » May 13th, 2008, 1:07 am

How much of this is learned behavior? By that I mean, he learned to hold his displays in check because of something...an aversive of some sort.


In his case? None. He's not holding any displays in check. He never "displays" fear or insecurity in that manner, and I don't think he ever has (the dog doesn't know how to back up from anything, as his breeder once said). He wants more than anything for Michelle to drop the leash, just like some dogs want to get the tennis ball.

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Postby amazincc » May 13th, 2008, 1:23 am

So are you saying that Riggs' behavior is "instinct", per say? Were Pit Bulls actually bred for NOT displaying any warning signs?
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Postby DemoDick » May 13th, 2008, 1:36 am

amazincc wrote:So are you saying that Riggs' behavior is "instinct", per say? Were Pit Bulls actually bred for NOT displaying any warning signs?


Ask yourself one question...what purpose to "warning signs" serve in the pit?

I've watched a lot of footage of actual, honest to god "pro" pit fights. I'm sure others here have as well. They are largely silent except for the sounds of shuffling paws and dogs struggling to maintain or improve their holds.

If you've ever watched MMA or Ultimate Fighting it's the CROWD that makes the noise. The fighters are quiet and determined. Same with boxing or any other combat sport.

The whole "Pit Bulls were bred to not display warning signs" is generally true, as long as we are talking about dog aggression. It doesn't make them any more dangerous than other breeds as long as the owner is aware of this. That's the point of this thread. Don't assume he wants to play just because he looks like he does.

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Postby amazincc » May 13th, 2008, 1:43 am

Yep, I was talking about dog aggression.
I KNOW that my guy is an abberation and should NOT display any aggression towards humans, silent or otherwise.

Hmmm... very true about the combat sports. I never realized that before.

This should be a sticky. :)
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