In a previous article, we discussed that the American Bully is a companion breed and is a perfect family pet. (The American Bully Temperament article may provide more information.)
It is not typical for this breed to show aggression toward humans. However, according to United Kennel Club breed standards, in some cases, a certain degree of aggression towards other animals may occur. This statement does not mean that if you have other pets at home, you cannot purchase an American Bully, nor does it mean that you cannot go to the park with your dog.
Just like any other dog breed, the American Bullies can show aggression towards other animals. Not only because they inherited it from their ancestors, but because they tend to prefer the company of humans. Without training focused on socializing with other animals, this breed is quite protective. According to some studies, among the traits proved to be significantly heritable is aggression. By careful breeding, it is possible to overcome it. With this goal in the American Bully breeders’ minds, we can confidently say that this breed is not considered aggressive or dangerous.
Another interesting thing to keep in mind is that just as not all humans are extroverts, not all dogs have to be social with other dogs to be excellent pets. Some people think that they are bad owners or that their dogs are bad if the dog does not play with other dogs. Professional dog trainers say that it is normal to have a dog that is not a player. More damage is done when the owner forces his dog to play with other dogs when he does not want to. Instead, we should teach our dog how to properly behave with other dogs and let him decide whether or not he wants to interact. If our dog is obedient and shows good behavior without the need or desire to play, then there is no reason to think that there is anything wrong with him. As long as our dog shows good behavior with other dogs, that’s all that matters.
Let’s discuss some “symptoms” that can lead to an aggressive reaction of the American Bully to other animals. However, these typical behavioral problems are only manifestations of something deeper. We, as the dog’s caretakers, are responsible for digging deeper and finding the root of the problem. Each dog has its personality, and circumstances also play an important role in the picture. The solution for my dog does not have to work out for my neighbor’s dog or your dog.
Fearfulness and lack of confidence
It brings many risks when a dog has not been socialized from an early stage in his life, especially for the American Bully. Lack of socialization means that there are no positive experiences with other dogs, animals, strangers, and a new environment. We cannot be surprised if a dog is afraid of something unfamiliar to him. So if this dog runs into another dog on a walk or in the park and is unsure if the signs are positive or mixed, the American Bully might react protectively. This is why early socialization is crucial: it enables dogs to hone their communication skills. Without exposure to the language of play, it is easy for a dog to misinterpret a cheery pinch as an invitation to fight.
We are not talking about the desirable protection that we all expect our dogs to show for our families and homes. Instead, the dangerous behavior that results when dogs become hypervigilant over their territory. A similar situation may occur when a dog becomes aggressive because another dog wants to take his favorite toy or wants to be petted by his mom/dad. Again, I believe that early socialization can prevent undesirable protection in dogs. Of course, we cannot say that socialization is a universal recipe for every behavior problem. Behavioral problems can develop in our dogs over the years. Still, there is always something that caused a change in our pet’s manners. It may be less attention, change of environment, death of the owner, illness, or an interruption of our routine.
A new animal in the household
Reacting aggressively to a new animal in our household can also be caused by fearfulness and protectiveness.
Let’s consider a real-life situation as a case study. A family bought an American Bully puppy while they already had two other dogs at home – a labrador and a pug. The American Bully soon became the dominant one, I don’t have to explain why. The labrador and the pug didn’t want to play with the American Bully because he always won and he just had too much strength. They continued to be buddies, and there was no behavioral problem like aggression at all. They were sleeping together, eating together, etc. One day a small kitten arrived in the household. The family kept the kitten inside because it was winter, so they didn’t want to risk leaving him outside.
As months passed, the dogs began to notice the kitten as she was often sitting in the window. However, they were never introduced to each other. This resulted in stress and frustration on both sides. They didn’t know what to expect from each other. The family didn’t worry about the Pug and the Labrador, because they just didn’t have the instinct to view the kitten as a potential danger in the garden or as potential prey. However, American Bullies tend to have a strong prey instinct.
Spring came, and it was just natural that the family had to let the cat out to the garden. However, first, they separated the American Bully into the other part of the garden. We know that separation is a punishment for a dog, especially when he sees his owners playing with other animals in front of his eyes. So when for the first time, the kids accidentally opened the gate for the American Bully, it ran inside the garden and started chasing the kitten. The frightened kitten climbed up a tree and didn’t come down for hours, even when the dog was already behind the gate. Predatory behavior, such as when chasing wildlife, is always dangerous, and this is one example of it.
If we have a closer look at this situation, we can point out more errors that could had caused the growing trend that resulted in this horrible first experience.
- Separating the dog made him see the cat as the problem
- The owners never introduced the cat to the dog
- Owners were stressed, and this made the animals feel stressed too
I would suggest this family to consult a professional dog trainer. Aggression in dogs is a complex issue. There is no overnight solution that turns this dog into a well-behaved canine. However, with the right approach and a lot of patience, you can learn how to stop dog aggression. As is often the case with all behavioral problems, prevention is key. In most cases, being diligent about puppy training is what works. Most aggressive dogs tend to show signs that, when noticed early, can be resolved.
Prevention of Aggression in the American Bully
Here are some tried and successfully used tips that can help prevent the development of aggression in dogs:
- Discourage dominant behaviors.
- Watch out for signs of resource guarding
- Pay attention to socialization, both with other pets and with strangers.
- Use positive reinforcement training
The American Bully has the potential to become the perfect family pet. However, with this breed, you need to put systematic effort to dog training. Some aggressive reaction in American Bullies is perfectly normal because they have a protective nature, some have prey instinct and they prefer to live with human company. As is often the case with all behavioral problems, prevention is key. In most cases, being diligent about puppy training is what works.