Why Is My Dog Attacking Other Dogs

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).

How can you prevent a dog from acting viciously against other dogs?

Aside from physical altercations, aggressive behavior can also take the form of mounting, blocking, encroaching on another dog, posing, glaring, and vocalization. Dogs living in the same home might grow hostile to one another for a variety of reasons. Aggression might be motivated by fear or anxiety, be related to dominance, be territorial, be possessive, etc. Some canines have “alliance violence When this happens, dogs only act aggressively around their owners and behave calmly by themselves. These dogs frequently fight over the owner’s attention and have issues when they try to meet the owner at the same time. Intact dogs may exhibit hormone-driven hostility. When intact males act aggressively toward other males, while females act aggressively when they are in heat, or when a mother is defending her pups, this sort of aggressiveness is suspected. Spaying and neutering the dogs may be beneficial in these situations. Changes in the household that result in an unstable hierarchy, such as the addition of a new dog, the social maturity of a puppy (occurs around 3 years of age), the deteriorating health of an aged pet, or the passing of a canine or human family member, are other frequent reasons of hostility. Owners need to be aware that the social structure of dogs is not always clear-cut. A dog’s place in the hierarchy may shift over time or in response to changing circumstances (e.g. one dog may get priority with toys, while another may be the top dog when it comes to food). This makes determining the “tricky alpha dog If a dog did not receive adequate socialization as a puppy, has had social trauma (connected to humans or other dogs), or is not properly trained, they may be inclined to aggression. According to studies, aggressive canines may experience up to 50% separation anxiety and 30% phobias or generalized anxiety. This lends credence to the idea that many of these canines resort to aggressiveness when confronted with unknown, unsettling, or frightening circumstances. Owner conflict is frequently a concern because up to 20% of dogs who are violent toward other dogs are also aggressive toward their owners. Interfering with customary social interactions, rewarding aggressive behavior, frequently scolding/yelling/getting upset (increases dog’s tension and arousal), owners responding inconsistently to dog’s behavior, and lack of training/control of dogs are all examples of owner behavior that may unintentionally contribute to aggression. Aggression is treatable. First, the canines should be assessed to rule out any health issues, such as hormonal imbalances or painful illnesses, that could contribute to hostility (e.g. arthritis). It is important to assess the situation’s overall safety. Rehoming may be advised if there have been severe dog or human bites, if aggression triggers are unpredictable, or if the living conditions make therapy challenging.

Aggression Treatment

Aggression requires time and effort to treat. The time it takes to observe results can range from weeks to months. Improvement is shown in 96% of patients with correct management, with a median improvement in aggression reported at 69%. Treatment entails

1) Steer clear of hostile circumstances and triggers

2) Launching a “nothing in life is free” campaign

3) Favoring one particular canine

4) Counterconditioning and desensitization

5) Drugs that lessen anxiety and aggression, such fluoxetine

One or more of these methods might be suggested, depending on the circumstance. The hostility is typically not successfully resolved by medication alone. Success requires some kind of behavior modification (#1-4). Having intact pets spayed and neutered may also be beneficial. It may be advised to take the dogs for walks or runs since exercise has a calming impact. Punishment should be avoided since it can make the animal more hostile or direct it at the owner. To ensure consistency in household routines and interactions with the dogs, every human family member needs to be on the same page. Dogs receive conflicting messages from treatment regimens that are applied inconsistently over time or by different family members, which leads to treatment failure.

Avoiding Triggers

To start with, stay away from circumstances that could lead to aggressiveness. Resource competition is a common trigger. Food, rewards, toys, favorite resting spots, owner closeness, or owner attention are some examples of resources. Dogs should only be fed, given treats, played with, and permitted to greet owners separately in these situations. Deny the dogs unrestricted access to their favorite foods, snacks, toys, and resting spots. Exciting circumstances like welcoming people, playing, going on walks or rides in the automobile, crossing the property border, barking at onlookers, etc. are other popular triggers. In these circumstances, it may be beneficial to separate the dogs or to take action before the dogs become overexcited. Sometimes it’s necessary to fully separate the dogs before reintroducing them gradually using desensitization and counter-conditioning training. If the dogs are kept apart, ensure sure they are unable to see one other or display violent postures toward one another through gates, doors, or windows.

Nothing in Life is Free

Through this training, the owner and their pets can communicate more consistently and with improved communication. In essence, the dogs have to work for their food, treats, toys, stroking, and human attention. They accomplish this by obediently obeying owner directions. These instructions can range from a straightforward come-sit-stay to a thorough obedience lesson. If the dogs haven’t been trained in obedience before, start by practicing the come, sit, and stay commands. The resource (food, attention, treats, etc.) is only given to each dog when he has complied with the command. Ignore any forceful or attention-seeking behavior. The owner, not the dog, should start and end every engagement. Work with each dog separately at first, then with the others when it feels secure. Dogs learn to maintain their composure in a circumstance that would have previously prompted a fight by practicing sitting or lying down when a resource is present. Independence training could be useful if alliance hostility is the blame for fights.

Showing Preference

Selecting one dog to always have priority access to things like food, snacks, preferred spots to relax, toys, the leash being placed on first, access to doorways, and attention is another effective strategy. Additionally, this dog should get the best supplies (preferred place on the couch, favorite toy, etc). The elder dog or the dog that was purchased first may initially be given preference. Try switching your choice to the other dog if after six weeks there has been no progress. Giving one dog priority access to resources lessens conflict because it adds order and lessens unpredictability. Dogs learn the sequence in which they will acquire resources when used in conjunction with the Nothing in Life is Free program, and the dog that receives a resource second must wait until the first dog has the chance to earn the resource.

Densensitization & Counter-Conditioning

In this program, the dogs are gradually introduced to one another so they can learn that good things happen when the other dog is nearby. Leashes, head halters, and/or basket muzzles should be used to keep the dogs under complete control as needed. The distance between each handler and dog should be sufficient to prevent either dog from displaying any signs of aggressiveness. Pets are then urged to follow directions for obedience and are then pampered or played with as a reward. The handlers’ voices should be lively and joyful. Avoid sounding irate or disappointed, and refrain from imposing any penalties. When teaching dogs for obedience, gradually close the gap between them between each session. Increase the distance and reduce it more slowly if hostile behavior is observed. Sessions ought to be brief and regular. Walking the dogs together is a fantastic method to foster a sense of companionship and allow the animals let off some steam, provided that they are not violent on leash or during walks (most are not unless hostility is severe). Start with walking between the dogs while wearing head halters, then move on to having the dogs walk side by side. When pausing to cross the street, dogs should be trained to sit and stay at a safe distance apart.


If your pet needs medicine to assist treat aggression, your veterinarian should be consulted. Painkillers may be necessary if the dog is acting aggressively because of its pain. Fluoxetin is the drug that is most frequently recommended for aggressiveness. An SSRI is fluoxetin (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). Results may not be visible for two to four weeks. Your veterinarian could advise changing the dosage to get the desired outcomes. Fluoxetine not only lessens aggression but also eases anxiety. Sedation, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, agitation, and seizures are some of the less common fluoxetine side effects. In individuals who have a history of seizures or who are on Tramadol, fluoxetine should be used with caution. It shouldn’t be taken at the same time as MOI drugs.

Other tips

Some dogs might benefit from anti-anxiety products like Thundershirts or Adaptil (spray, collar, diffuser). Additionally beneficial are obedience training, regular exercise, and spaying and neutering.