In general, the majority of well-socialized dogs want to avoid aggressive or physical confrontation. Dogs indicate their desires to interact or to avoid an aggressive encounter through body language. Not all canines are adept or natural communicators with members of their own species, just like not all people are.
The diagnosis is based on how the dog behaves and responds when confronted by another dog.
Fear, poor communication, defensiveness, possessive behavior toward resources (such possibly family members or other pets), or territorial behavior toward owner or territory can all be causes of aggression amongst unacquainted dogs. Canines hurting other dogs or people trying to separate them might result from canine aggression. Growling, snarling, barking, lunging, snapping, and biting are some examples of the behavior (see Canine CommunicationInterpreting Dog Language).
How do I recognize fear-based or defensive aggression toward unfamiliar dogs?
The diagnosis is based on how the dog behaves and responds when confronted by another dog. However, depending on how the relationship turns out, these stances and responses could alter over time. For instance, the behavior tends to intensify and the body postures may become more assured if the dog learns that the hostile show ends encounters. Therefore, it’s crucial to pay attention to both current expressions and posture as well as those from the first few encounters. Fearful dogs frequently have their tails tucked, their ears pulled back, and they may lean against their owners or try to sneak up behind them. They can be lunging and backing up while barking at the approaching dog. In many cases, the dog is dodging eye contact. This behavior may have started as a result of earlier aggressive attacks that the dog was unable to resist and in which he or she was hurt. Some dogs that did not have adequate early socialization with other canines may not have the social skills needed to playfully and comfortably socialize. When there are other dogs around, if one of the dogs is overly excited and the owners are unable to calm or control it, the second dog may become scared or protective, which could eventually result in violent outbursts from both dogs.
The owner frequently influences the dog’s behavior. A leash tightening response or even “corrections that inform the dog that the approaching dog or at least the circumstance is of worry, for instance, may be used by the owner to convey tension. Additionally, the dog is likely to notice the owner’s reactions and correlate them with the approach of the other dog if the owner is upset, scared, or anxious about the dog’s conduct (rather than their own behaviors). A dog may become even more defensive and aggressive as a result of this. When a dog’s owner tries to soothe an aggressive dog, the actions the dog is currently displaying may get reinforced. The dog’s dread and anxiety in connection to the stimuli will only increase if the owner attempts to halt the behavior by threatening or punishing the dog. Owners who keep their dogs restricted on a leash—especially with a choke or pinch collar—and have poor control frequently have highly protective pets. Good control can help to relax the dog. dogs that are leashed or otherwise restricted The diagnosis is based on the dog’s body language and behavior when confronted by another dog. are more likely to act aggressively when scared because they can’t get away.
How do I recognize aggression resulting from poor communication between unfamiliar dogs?
Both dogs’ forceful postures or movements can trigger this aggression. These include putting your head or feet on the other dog’s back or adopting other dominant bodily postures like making eye contact, raising your tail, or approaching stiff-legged. Inappropriate appeasing or submissive behaviors toward the other dog by one of the two canines may result in aggression. Owners’ responses, such as pulling and tightening or correcting with the leash or when they use threats or punitive methods, may unintentionally increase the anxiety and arousal. These could alert the dog that the approaching approach could be dangerous. Leash restrictions also prevent the dog from responding at a full tempo and with the full range of body postures, approaches, and withdrawals.
Some dogs could be unsure about how to interact politely with other canines. This could be brought on by a lack of socialization with other dogs or dogs of other breeds and types, by previous negative encounters with other dogs, which would then add fear or anxiety elements to the problem. In dogs that are scared or worried, as well as in dogs that don’t have appropriate social skills with other dogs, issues can quickly get out of hand. For instance, one or both dogs may become aggressive if aggressive or dominant looks and gestures, or overly excited and reactive displays terrify the other dog. In contrast, even when the other dog exhibits deferential behavior, the signaling dog may not be interpreting the second dog’s messages and may intensify its displays, maybe to the point of aggressiveness. The second dog may develop defensive aggression as a result. Through motions, posture, and visual and vocal cues, familiar dogs in a social group can communicate effectively to reduce fighting. However, this does not always work when new dogs are meeting and welcoming each other for the first time. Additionally, the variety of physical and behavioral variations across breeds and individuals, behavioral genetics, inadequate socialization with other dogs, prior experience, and changing circumstances and locations on walks can all exacerbate the issue and heighten anxiety. When challenged, certain dogs who are particularly brave or forceful may fight rather than yield. If the owners do not have adequate verbal and physical control, assertive dogs may become too pushy and/or overly protective. During walks, if the dog drags the owners behind, it will take the initiative in responding to stimuli it encounters and won’t look to the owner for guidance or assurance. Other dogs may be in a state of tension with the other dog because they are friendly or socially drawn to it but unsure of or afraid of the potential results. Aggression can come from these ambiguous or conflicting emotional situations (see Canine CommunicationInterpreting Dog Language).
The majority of the time, this type of hostility manifests itself when other dogs enter the domain that the resident dog thinks to be his own. When other dogs enter their territory, some dogs become extremely agitated and may climb fences or enter via windows or doors to attack the invader (see AggressionTerritorial).
How do I recognize possessive aggression?
Possessive aggressiveness is mainly seen when a dog acts aggressively when approached while in possession of a specific resource, despite the fact that aggression can have numerous components (fear, learning). This could be a particular brand of food or treat, a beloved toy, a brand-new or stolen item, or when near or with a specific family member or family members. The issue develops when one dog has a very strong desire for the resource, even if the other dog defers, or when both dogs are motivated enough to utilize physical conflict to get or keep control of the resource. The issue might be avoided if the resources (toys, food) are taken away during social contacts with other dogs if the dog occasionally displays little to no aggressiveness when the specific resource is present (see AggressionPossessiveObjects and Toys and AggressionPossessiveFood Bowl).
The majority of dog-on-dog aggression is exacerbated by learning and training. The behavior will have been successful if threats or hostility cause the other dog to retreat or be taken away by its owner. The owner may only reinforce the aggressive responses if they attempt to soothe the aggressive dog. Punishing the dog who is acting aggressively toward other dogs is one of the most frequent errors.
“The problem will get worse with each exposure if the owners are unable to adequately handle the dog and resolve the situation without escalating the dog’s anxiety or growing its fear.”
This frequently increases the dog’s level of excitement and teaches it that the stimulus—another dog—is indeed connected to undesirable outcomes. In an effort to exert greater control, many owners subsequently further up the severity of the punishment (e.g., using prong or electronic shock collars), which raises the dog’s level of arousal and, in some situations, may cause defensive hostility toward the owners. Unfortunately, the fact that these solutions may at first inhibit the undesired behavior may confuse owners. Even though the response has been blocked, the negative association may intensify, therefore this does not necessarily imply that the tactics are effective. The dogs will quickly learn to become more scared and aggressive at subsequent encounters if the dog-to-dog interaction causes discomfort or harm to either one or both of the dogs. In other words, the problem will get worse with each exposure if the owners are unable to effectively handle the dog and end the situation without escalating the dog’s worry or dread.
How can I prevent my dog from becoming aggressive with other dogs?
Puppy socialization and training are the first steps towards prevention. Your dog will learn appropriate interactions with and responses to other dogs through early and frequent exposure to other dogs. This can greatly aid in reducing dog hostility against other dogs. A range of dog breeds, sizes, and personalities should be introduced as socialization progresses, starting with calm, good communicators among dogs. If there are considerable size differences, one or both dogs have cropped ears, hair that covers their eyes, or have docked tails, it may be challenging to “read” their body postures, ear carriage, eye contact, tail position, and even body postures (see Socialization and Fear Prevention). The issue will worsen with each new exposure if the owners are unable to effectively manage the dog and handle the situation without escalating the dog’s anxiety or enhancing its fear.
Your dog must be under good control. As a result, your dog will pick up on contextual cues from you and may act calmer, less apprehensive, and less protectively when faced with novel stimuli. Additionally, the dog must consistently react to the orders “sit,” “remain,” and “silent so that desired responses can be corrected rather than reinforced (see Reinforcement and Rewards and Teaching CalmSettle and Relaxation Training). To offer you more control over the dog, you might need to use a head halter if necessary (see Training Products). Training and training products with a head halter Training for head halters (synopsis). A leash is required when the dog might come into contact with other canines.
Preventing the dog from displaying lengthy and out-of-control aggression in the house and yard is crucial when it comes to territorial tendencies. Barking, lunging, dashing through fences, and jumping on doors, windows, and fences are examples of aggressive behaviors. When necessary, windows should be blocked to discourage or stop these actions, and the dog should be taken outside to do so. It will be easier to maintain control and to stop violent reactions and re-direct the dog to more suitable ones if you use a leash and head collar both inside and outside. Teaching your dog a “calm command for barking” is a crucial step (see Barking and Training “Quiet, Barking and Training “QuietSynopsis, and AggressionUnfamiliar DogsTreatment).
Is a dog’s growl at another dog normal?
The low, menacing growl of a dog can’t be mistaken for anything else. This vocalization is used by dogs in a variety of contexts, including tug-of-war games and protecting their favorite bones. But why do animals growl in the first place? Is it abrasiveness, fear, bossiness, or another emotion? What can you do to change it? Learn why dogs growl, what it signifies, and how to handle it in the following paragraphs.
Growling is a kind of dog communication that has multiple causes, just like barking. Everything depends on the circumstances and the dog. In fact, occasional grumbling can be advantageous. When playing, a lot of dogs groan and whine because they’re enjoying themselves. Have you ever witnessed a dog fight? You probably heard some snarling. Although you might have assumed that meant the roughhousing had gotten out of hand, it was probably all in good fun.
Your dog’s growling during play does not indicate aggression. It simply indicates they’re enjoying themselves. Even during a particularly enjoyable hugging or petting session, your dog can snarl. Many dogs use their growls to express happiness or to greet people. These growls are simply signs of contentment.
Of course, some growls signify something quite different. A dog may growl in response to being trapped or as a warning to another dog. Another typical sign of resource guarding is growling. A dog that is hurt may frequently growl to keep others away. Growling is a sign that your dog is bothered by something in all of these situations and more.
You can think of these growls as stress growls, as opposed to play and chat growls. They inform you that your dog is in pain. And that’s priceless. Now you may step in and alter the circumstance on your dog’s behalf before your dog feels the need to use more drastic methods like biting.
How to Tell the Difference
How can you distinguish between stress growls and happiness growls? Observe your body language. For instance, if your dog is giving you a play bow or a submissive grin, any growling is probably OK. That growl from your dog is serious if it appears stiff and is glaring at you with a serious expression.
When you are familiar with a dog, the growl’s tone might occasionally be useful as well. You might learn something different from a growl that is loud and higher pitched than one that is low and gentle. When in doubt, though, present yourself as if the growl is a danger. It’s preferable to make a mistake and end a nice game than to misjudge and get hurt, especially when playing with dogs you don’t know well. Teach young children, in particular, to be cautious of any growls.
What Stress Growling Means
Growling under stress is a warning indication. To warn people to back off before the dog is compelled to take further action is their goal. Most dogs are reluctant to bite or attack. To stop the situation from getting worse, they snarl. This provides growls a lot of value. A dog that suddenly strikes is quite dangerous. Respect your dog’s growls for the understanding they provide into his or her emotions and for the opportunity they provide you to step in, assist your dog, and avoid harm.
Don’t Punish Growling
Hopefully, you now understand that growling is something you should never fix. It could be harmless or a sign of stress in your dog. Punishing your dog for growling will only prevent future growling. You won’t have taken any action to solve the root problem. For instance, disciplining your dog for growling while there are other dogs around will make him stop. Your dog will still feel uneasy around other dogs, though. Even worse, you might believe something else because there isn’t any growling. Your dog is still stressed out and could perhaps snap at any moment without notice.
Regrettably, when you correct your dog for growling, you also make the underlying problem worse. For instance, if you punish your dog for snarling at another dog, the other dog will likely assume that your negative response was the other dog’s fault. Now, your dog will be even more uncomfortable. After all, it’s other dogs that make you angry.
How to Handle Growling
The best strategy to handle growling is to identify the source of your dog’s discomfort and then address it. First, adjust the setting as best you can to suit your dog in the here and now. Cross the street, leave the dog park, or do whatever else is necessary to assist your dog unwind if the presence of another dog is upsetting your pet. Back off and let your dog alone if it’s getting too close to their bone.
Next, pinpoint precisely what caused the rumbling. If you can temporarily remove that circumstance from your dog’s life, do so. For instance, avoid taking your dog to the dog park if other dogs stress them out. Stop giving your dog bones if they defend them, and so forth.
Finally, use a behavior modification technique to permanently stop the growling. Desensitization and counterconditioning techniques might alter how your dog feels about the underlying problem that initially made him snarl. You must assist your dog in becoming accustomed to the things that once caused them so much concern for both their safety and your own. These aren’t quick fixes, and a dog trainer or animal behaviorist might be necessary. However, if you control your dog’s environment while helping them get used to their stressors, they should eventually stop needing to stress snarl. But if they do, you’ll be prepared for it now.
Do you need assistance training your dog? In spite of the fact that you might not be able to attend live training sessions during COVID-19, we are still available to you electronically through the AKC GoodDog! Helpline. With the help of this live telephone service, you may speak with a qualified trainer who will provide you with unrestricted, personalized advise on anything from behavioral problems to CGC preparation to getting started in dog sports.