Dog Stories: Masada’s Instinctual Aggression by Suzan Vaughn

Masada Dog

A beautiful black, white and silver gray Akita, Masada was a 105 pound dog who led the good life. Her owners had adopted her when she was just a young pup, after having owned a couple of cats that died prematurely. They were hoping a dog would somehow break the bad luck they’d had with becoming attached to and deeply loving their pets, only to have them attract fast moving diseases that took them to the other side while they were still young.

Masada’s owner, Patou, loved her gentle dog, but there were times when she was afraid of him. Patou was athletic and took the happy dog out for a daily run. But she was always wary, keeping an eye out for any other dogs that might cross their path. Because, while Masada was very friendly toward humans, she was not so friendly towards other dogs. It wasn’t just any other dog that the sizable Akita exhibited aggressive behavior toward, though. It was little dogs, and Patou jogged through the neighborhood terrified that at any moment, a small dog down the street would inspire Masada to take her on a leash ride that would put her out of control.

I asked Masada why she disliked small dogs and was so aggressive toward them.

“It’s not all dogs that make me aggressive,” she told me. “Small, snappy dogs with big attitude problems make me want to put them in their place.”

She graphically showed me one case of a small dog that leapt out of its owner’s moving SUV, and ran toward her while barking aggressively. Patou sprayed the small dog with pepper spray to stop it, basically saving its life (although the dog’s owner didn’t see it that way).

Masada had once killed a small, aggressive neighboring dog too. The little dog barked at her continuously through a wrought iron fence. Patou warned her neighbors that the small dog had been seen outside the fencing and that her Akita would not tolerate its presence in her own backyard should the dog get through. Her warnings went unheeded however, the dog eventually did squeeze through the bars, and Masada casually snapped its neck. Subsequently, Patou installed chicken wire around the perimeter of her yard.

Masada did not feel she was aggressive toward dogs that didn’t have attitude problems or act aggressively toward her, although she did consider herself an alpha dog who needed to establish the hierarchy by taking other dogs down.  Her intense curiosity and lack of experience with other dogs caused problems too since her owners couldn’t risk many encounters, even though at times, all she wanted was a whiff.  Bruce and Patou did take the risk to introduce her to a friend’s dog once, who became very special to Masada. With concerned humans standing by, Masada established the hierarchy by pinning the other dog down, after which the two canines became fast friends.

Although I expressed her owner’s concerns to Masada, her innate instincts were not averted.  An animal communicator cannot talk an animal out of instinctual behavior, and although we can offer practical solutions to problems of aggression, these generally include some training and follow through by the dog’s owner.