The role of paradoxical interspecific communication in the development of family-pack hierarchical instabilities (abstract)

© Dr. JoŽl Dehasse, behaviorist veterinarian, Brussels, Belgium
Proceedings of the First International Conference on Veterinary Behavioural Medicine, ESVCE & CABTSG, Birmingham, UK, April 1 & 2, 1997, pp. 52-57
This version loaded 20 April 1997 (modified 25 Dec. 2001)

©Dr JoŽl Dehasse
3 avenue du Cosmonaute, 1150 Brussels, Belgium

Full text

A hierarchical instability in a family-pack with the production of canine competitive, irritation and territorial aggression and the dog having access to dominance privileges has been called in France and French-speaking Belgium a "sociopathy". This is a pathology of the communications inside an interspecific system consisting of the family members and the dog (hence the name family-pack).

The paradoxical communication (double bind) is emitted by the owners. The paradox resides in the opposition of cognitive and affective communications, for example an order to be obeyed asked with an expression of fear (like the upper part of the body bending slightly backward). The two communications are expressed in the verbal conditioning queries and the affective involuntary paraverbal attitudes in the same person. The communication is losing sense. The dog is more sensitive to analogical communication and is not fooled by the verbal orders. The communication is not or badly ritualised and causes anxiety.

The double-bind may also be triggered by a false belief or a misunderstanding of the communication proposal by the dog: a lying-down-on-the-back posture to ask for caresses is misunderstood for submission when the dog is expressing a dominant behaviour; if still caressed after a misunderstood demand to stop the contact (tense posture) the dog may express irritation aggression that is once again misunderstood as unpredictable voluntary hostile behaviour.

The double bind may be emitted by the same person or by two separate owners (split up double bind). The double bind is causing intermittent anxiety. The tolerance for the dog having dominant privileges may lead to partial unstable dominance. The continual challenge of the dog's dominant privileges may lead to aggression. The rewarding effects of aggression may lead to hyperaggression.

The treatment is global (systemic): clarification and ritualisation of the communications - suppression of the access to dominant privileges - use of drugs able to alleviate anxiety, reduce aggression and facilitate learning: mood regulatory drugs like selegiline or carbamazepine, anti-anxiety drugs like clomipramine, anti-aggressive drugs like risperidone.


Dr Joël Dehasse
Behaviorist veterinarian