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. If the owner is frustrated, anxious, or worried about the dog’s behavior, the dog is likely to notice the owner’s reactions and associate them with the approach of the other dog (rather than their own behaviors), which may result in a dog becoming even more defensive and aggress. For instance, the owner may signal tension via leash tightening responses or even “corrections that signal the dog that the approaching dog or at least the situation is of concern.
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 I prevent my dog from chasing after my other dogs?
Desensitization, trust, positive reinforcement, and obedience training must first be used. The second step is to desensitize your dog to the visual cue and reaction that seeing another dog triggers. You and your dog will develop a level of trust as you work together as a team, utilizing positive reinforcement and rewarding your dog for proper conduct.
Giving your dog or puppy the right behavioral cues and knowing how to work with him will offer him something else to concentrate on while around other dogs and animals. While you are working, it is crucial to keep your dog and other dogs safe at all times. You should also go at a pace that your dog is at ease with.
It is advisable to consider a dog’s age, health, temperament, and preferences when coming up with acceptable remedies for dog aggressiveness problems. Keep your cool and avoid holding the leash taut all the time. Dogs are extremely perceptive to their owners’ emotions.
My dog catches up on my feelings and expresses them in a much stronger way. Sometimes I’m not even aware that I’m anxious or tense, but my dog picks up on it and starts acting out. His conduct also gets better as soon as I intentionally relax down.
When meeting other dogs, it’s typical to tighten up and become anxious about what our dog might do. Our dog will pick up on our nervous energy, which will probably result in an aggressive response.
Make sure the leash is not under excessive or ongoing tension. Additionally, avoid pulling the dog straight back because that is likely to result in a lunge-forward reaction. I immediately walk my dog past the other dog after yanking him to the side.
I typically ignore other dogs and go on when I notice them. I’ve discovered that avoidance works best when I keep my eyes away from the dog’s owner as well. I continue to go forward while maintaining a steady pace. My dog will learn that we avoid other dogs rather than confront them in this way.
Be mindful when strolling not to crowd our dog. He can feel as though he has no option but to respond aggressively if he feels trapped between us and the other dog. Try not to stand motionless and pull our dog away. Get out of the way, and he’ll follow us. We are making room at the same time to prevent him from feeling confined.
My dog is not permitted to obsess over or fixate on other canines. My Shiba Inu occasionally adopts a stalking-down position while waiting for the other dog to pass. When other dogs approach him, some people believe he is such a wonderful boy for performing the Down, but he is actually simply waiting to pounce.
Don’t allow your dog or puppy to engage in this undesirable activity, and don’t even let him consider it. Simply ignore him and move on. If the other dog is preventing us in some manner (for instance, if the owner can’t control his dog), then turn around and go in a different route. Avoid confronting the other dog, either verbally or physically, and avoid staring him down.
Create Space or Block the Other Dog
To accomplish this, we can move into a driveway or across a street while we wait for the other dog to pass. We can also place our puppy or dog behind a barrier, such an automobile. In the absence of any barriers, we can try obstructing the dog’s vision with our bodies.
We avoid a direct, more combative passing by doing this. I’ve tried all of these blocking strategies, but the one that works best for me is to make room and get through the other dog right away. My Shiba starts obsessive if I wait for the other dog to move on.
Because the other dog is too close and my dog is no longer listening, trying to distract him with dog goodies does not work at this time. My dog doesn’t have as much time to look when I walk him quickly past the other dog. Furthermore, he can’t completely obsess because he has to pay attention to walking.
For a fearful dog, though, blocking and barriers might be more effective. When we encounter another dog, some trainers advise turning and moving on without waiting for him to pass. The two issues with this approach are as follows:
The other dog will follow us if we turn away. Some dogs may become anxious and constantly looking back to make sure the follower is not a danger. I’ve tried it, and my Shiba does definitely keep turning around.
If we keep veering off, we can run into other dogs and find ourselves enclosed, particularly if there are plenty of dogs in our neighborhood.
Create Neutral Experiences
I make an effort to arrange as many neutral canine-to-canine encounters as I can. It will cease to be a noteworthy event if every time my dog encounters another dog, we simply pass by and nothing noteworthy occurs.
Our dog’s confidence will increase if we use neutral greetings consistently. We are instructing him on appropriate behavior (avoid conflict and move on) and inappropriate behavior through repetition (get over-excited, frustrated, lunge, and pull). He won’t be anxiously anticipating a highly charged interaction, whether for play or confrontation, thus he will be more at ease.
I attempt to give my dog the best chance of succeeding by preventing him from acting aggressively towards other dogs. He will become more aggressive the more he practices. I make an effort to halt our stroll as soon as my dog starts acting up. Once in this phase, his adrenaline will be up for a while, and he’ll probably respond violently toward every dog we encounter.
He won’t be able to learn in this condition and will just be engaging in dog-aggressive actions. Our dog’s confidence will increase if we consistently use neutral or encouraging greetings.
Protect Your Dog from Rude Dogs and Rude People
I politely encourage folks with little energy to leave if they wish to meet my dog because he gets excited rapidly. Allowing a dog or puppy to meet people is acceptable and nice, but be sure to explain to them how to properly greet our dog. Turn away from him when he jumps, make no sudden movements, and refrain from touching him from above.
Keep Greetings Short and Sweet
We want to occasionally interrupt our dog while he is greeting another dog in a pleasant way to get his attention back on us. Repeat as often as necessary to prevent our dog from becoming overexcited and losing control.
If our dog is firmly standing his place and is too fixated to move, we have waited too long to start the interruption. Positive interruptions are also helpful for handling human welcomes and removing our dog from an unclean or inappropriate environment.
Catching a dog at an early stage, before he begins to focus exclusively on another dog or object, is the key to effective positive interruptions.
Be Aware of Aggression Triggers
Some canines, like adult Spitz-type dogs, have a naturally dominant appearance (ears up, hair out, tail up). Other dogs may start posturing in return in response to this dominant look. Conflicts may arise, and if neither dog is prepared to give in, a dog fight may result.
I simply move on if I have questions about a dog’s welcome. Always err on the side of caution. Be mindful that people can respond negatively to your dog’s appearance.
Desensitize Your Dog to Other Dogs
The issue with dog-to-dog aggressiveness is that the environment is too unstructured and the other dog’s stimulus is too powerful in everyday situations for any learning to take place. Because the other dog is too close, is looking at us, is hyper, or is charging toward us, our dog frequently overloads rapidly and reacts.
To begin the desensitization process, we begin with a very weak version of the problem stimulus and train in a quiet, contained setting. Distance can be used to lessen a dog’s reactivity toward other canines.
By doing this, we also lessen the intensity of our dog’s response, allowing him to remain composed and receptive to instruction. This is required to provide opportunity for us to start teaching our dog to be calm and relaxed around other dogs.
I walk my dog far enough away that he is still calm and receptive to my commands. I then yell his name to gain his attention. If he looks at me, I give him praise and treats for doing properly. Sometimes I will also give him extremely basic instructions, like “Sit.”
As long as the other dog is calm and ready to focus on me when I ask for it, I let my dog sit and watch him. When both of us are happy with this, I take a step in the direction of the other dog and repeat the Focus and Sit exercises.
Avoid moving too quickly or closely to the other dog. Our dog can become aggressive if we move too quickly, and he won’t be able to focus on us any more. I now no-mark my dog (oh no!) and take a few steps back. Once we are sufficiently apart, I make an effort to get his focus once more. I pause, give him praise, and treat when he gives it to me.
Notably, we want to maintain our dog as close to his instinct threshold as we can in order for desensitization to be successful.
I make an effort to keep sessions brief, enjoyable, and rewarding. This helps our dog associate calmness and pleasant encounters with other canines. I always stop before my dog exhibits any compulsive traits and well before he turns hostile. It’s always advisable to end the practice as soon as a dog reacts or behaves aggressively.
As we advance, we can gradually amp up the problem stimulus’s intensity. We might, for instance, permit the target dog to begin moving around or to engage in play with his handler.
Desensitization can be a challenging and protracted process. It will be more difficult to desensitize dogs whose instinct thresholds are lower (the point at which they lose control and turn to instinct). But regular practice will also aid in lowering this threshold.
It’s crucial to always keep our dog below his instinct barrier for desensitization to succeed.