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“Don’t normalize aggressive behavior”

I saw a post in a Facebook group the other day; it's a well respected group with lots of dog professionals and hobbyists who’ve been involved with dogs for decades. I typically see really excellent advice given in this group, and the group itself is a positive reinforcement/force free group, so I know it’s a safe space where I won’t have to see dogs being trained with pain and intimidation. (Honestly these are the only groups I spend time in anymore, my heart just can’t take it!)

But there was one comment that really rubbed me the wrong way, and I need to talk about it. Someone posted about a situation where they had brought their dog to a friend’s house, and the friend’s dog had snapped at/non-injuriously communicated with their dog. The post went off on a tangent, and someone in the comments said “Don’t normalize aggressive behavior!” Then everyone hopped on, agreeing and liking the comment and nodding their heads that yes, aggressive behavior must NEVER be normalized.

Pomeranian dog snarling

Well, I have some thoughts about this (because of course I do). This may rub some people the wrong way or maybe even make some people mad, but here’s the thing: most aggression is NOT abnormal dog behavior. Aggression is not pathological, and it’s not a sign that there’s something clearly WRONG with an animal. While aggressive behavior from dogs is highly upsetting to us and it’s not something we WANT to see, calling a dog who is behaving aggressively “abnormal” just because of the aggression isn’t helpful.

I think we have a tendency to take aggressive behavior very, very personally due to a combination of being conditioned for centuries to think of us as dog’s “masters” rather than family members or friends, plus the little lizard part of our brain that sees a dog’s pearly teeth flashing and goes “AH WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU LET A WOLF INTO OUR HOME?!?!?!” And I don’t think either of these mindsets are helpful.

Wolf snarling
EXCUSE ME, who let this large angry floof into our home?!

Let me be CL