Saturday, February 11, 2012


Aggression is one of the catchwords of our modern world.  I have, over the last years, had a lot of questions on the subject of aggression in dogs.

In centuries gone by, people didn’t worry about being called aggressive.  They did what they had to in order to protect their loved ones and their property, and that could mean the necessity for aggression in greater or lesser degree.  It was not that they preferred to behave that way, but that was one of the necessities of life and survival.

In our modern world, we have developed other and, we hope, more effective ways of dealing with our problems than blatant aggression – or perhaps we have learned to disguise our aggressions behind a camouflage of manners and proper behavior and legal systems and such.  We teach our children that aggression is not the solution and that they should not beat up the other kids in their class.

We also expect that our dogs should behave and never be aggressive.  But we neglect to consider a number of factors – aggressive behavior is part of the language of the dog, they don’t have words to express these things.  This behavior  can look extremely aggressive to those of us who don’t really understand, but in fact it is communication.  Dogs are equipped by nature with tools that are meant to support this behavior.   Although we educate our children how to behave in ways that will allow them to communicate effectively and circumvent the necessity of aggression, we often don’t do the same for our dogs.

There are many different breeds of dog in the world, a very great percentage of them being dogs that we have created, through selective breeding over a period of, in some cases, even thousands of years, to suit our way of life.  They were bred to perform a wide variety of tasks, which required a wide variety of behaviors.

My collies, who were originally bred to be sheep dogs, to be gentle with the lambs and kind in their work, and that never had to be aggressive in protection of the flock, since they developed in an area where there were no large and vicious predators, are not aggressive.  They are outgoing, friendly, playful, and nurturing to people and to other animals, and for them meeting another dog means a possibility of a new friend and a lovely romp.  I would never breed from a collie that was aggressive, as this is completely opposed to what the breed is supposed to be.

The Canaans, however, are different.  I myself have learned a great deal over the years that I have lived with them, and one of my conclusions is that first of all, we must stop calling them “wild” dogs.  Dogs by definition are not wild animals.  There are no dogs that are wild, all dogs, even dingoes, which are the most shy and difficult to keep as pets, have a natural tendency and connection that draws them to the vicinity of man and makes it possible to easily build up a mutual relationship.  Having had a number of dogs, over the years, that were brought to me as totally “wild” adults, I can testify to their immediate interest and willingness to relate to me.  The Canaans can more accurately be called feral, free living or pariah dogs, but they are dogs, not wild animals.

Wild animals also are not indiscriminately aggressive. Aggression can be very dangerous and can result in injury, also to the aggressor, and therefore damage the possibilities of survival. 

Dogs that  are free living have to use aggression to survive, to protect themselves, their pack mates, their territory and their resources.  The amount of aggression used is the amount that is necessary to achieve the necessary goals, and in most cases it is much more a show than actual aggression.  It is communication – we may threaten someone verbally, shout, gesticulate, without doing more, and a dog may threaten with facial expression, bared teeth, body posture, growling and snarling, and never more than that.  The understanding is there.

There are many different kinds of aggression – territorial, resource guarding, protection of puppies, position in the hierarchy, sexual competition, and so on.  The levels of aggression and causes can be widely varied, but the language is the same.

In Canaans, this language is very well developed and full of many subtleties that we are not even aware of, but it is definitely part of the breed character and is used to the degree that the dogs feel necessary and appropriate to the situation.

We humans are probably one of the most aggressive species in existence.  But we teach our children from a very young age that these impulses must be controlled and that there are alternatives that are just as effective and even more so than the use of violence.  Our dogs, when raised and educated properly, and when related to correctly, also can learn very effectively to control aggressive impulses and to use alternative behaviors. 

However, we must always consider the breed and the background of the dog, and never be complacent, with the idea that every pet must be sweet and passive under all circumstances.

Out of the many different breeds available to us, if you want a dog that is soft, sweet and never aggressive under any circumstances, you have a wide choice of breeds that are like that.  Why on earth should you choose a Canaan and then try to make him something he isn’t?


  1. Dog's world and human's world are different isn't it? i guess only through love than we would be able to communicate with them. thanks for writing. - Iris Quek

  2. i love your post here. we cannot attempt to make the canaans something they are not to fit our life style. i would rather change my lifestyle to fit my canaan. oh, wait, i have!!