1) FLIGHT: If a dog chooses flight; They make the choice of removing themselves from a situation not being comfortable enough to deal with it. This can be the case not only in fearful situations & uncertainty, but just stressful situations in general. Not all dogs will tolerate fear and stress the same way, in making the choice of flight.
2) FIGHT: When a dog chooses fight; This can be based on dominant instincts, severe fear-based instincts, temperament-based issues and protection-based instincts. Again, the level of threat will relate to the confidence (or lack of) for the dog to choose fight.
3) ENGAGE: This is the most acceptable form of behavior that we like to see in all dogs. Engage is encouraged in healthy, stable dogs. Healthy situations and times would be defined as times there should be no threat to the dog. This doesn’t mean that all dogs must engage all the time, but severe responses are normally not required in a normal engaging situation like general meeting, social environments (without threat) and balanced dogs in general.
4) AVOID: Is a less responsive response that fight, flight or engage. Avoid quite often is when the dog is just not interested in being a part of something. It also can be a sign of a softer temperament and unconfident responses as well. By avoiding, the dog visually and confrontationally takes themselves away from the equation and chooses not to respond. Quite often they will avoid eye contact and ignore as best as possible while staying put.
Based upon any dog’s temperament you can predict what situations a dog will respond too in anyone of these four options. Get to understand what makes your dog react and why. If you have a “hard tempered dog” then they can be more responsive and quicker to make any one of the choices above. A softer tempered dog may hesitate longer to make any one of the decisions above. You need to understand the temperament and tolerance your dog has, to be able to predict how they may respond.
Just because a dog chooses fight, does not mean you have an aggressive dog. Many times, extreme fear can cause major and extreme responses. At Awesome K9 we see less confident dogs get into altercations more often than a confident dog. Understand your dogs comfort zones and triggers. Learn how to build your dogs confidence and YOU be the fearless leader for them, allowing them to rely on your judgement to keep them safe. Pay attention to body language and postures that will give you initial clues on how they may act. This will give you time to step in, before the dog can make a choice that might not be acceptable. Don’t wait for the dog to get into trouble.