CONTROL VECTORS in dog on dog aggression:

According to Steven R. Lindsay, all behavior has attention-intention-action sequences and within this context, motivational interests are need tensions, having particular goals or target objectives which are located within the animal’s space. To obtain goal satisfaction through the acquisition of these target objectives the animal must change or control the environment in some way. These need tensions combined with their specific target objectives form control seeking vectors that behaviorally converge upon relevant resources, places and activities located in the environment. The sum of these relevant resources are the dogs social and territorial space. Where there is an enhanced appetitive need then overt combat is more likely and the center of territory is within the home, presumably the location where the dog habitually rests or sleeps or eats! In aggression there are distal (preparatory aggressive arousal) and proximal influences. These can also be defined as triggers. The group’s living space is defended by deflecting, displacing or destroying outsider control vectors that threaten social and territorial space. In dealing with multiple dogs, with multiple need tensions and control vectors conflict is not uncommon. Under the influence of growing levels of destabilizing anxiety and frustration there are four possible outcomes:

  1. attack-fight (competitor displaced with potential for injury)
  2. attack-retreat (competitor displaced with no injury)
  3. cutoff or lateral escape (deflection of control vectors) or
  4. threat appeasement (competitor deflected from location or resource). Where anxiety is high lateral escape or appeasement is more likely whereas high frustration overt combat is more likely to occur.

Social facilitation and crowding – dogs living in multidog households are subject to additional pressures that may intensify territorial defensiveness. The presence of another dog alters the strength of shared or allelomimetic behavior (copycat) including group coordinated territorial defense. Thus, most dogs are much more aggressive when in companionship with other dogs acting out aggressively. Under the influence of social facilitation dogs tend to intensify their behavioral efforts beyond the magnitudes they would exhibit if alone. Social facilitation combined with crowded circumstances leads to outbreaks of frequent and potentially serious displays of territorial aggression.


Katherine Smith

Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants), Professional Member APDT, (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), AKC Canine Good Citizenship Evaluator, Animal Behavioral College Mentor