Why Is My Dog So Mean To 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?

You can start addressing your dog’s aggressive behavior after you identify what’s behind it. Always talk to your veterinarian before beginning a new training regimen. The following three suggestions may help you stop your dog from attacking other dogs:

Socialize Your Dog

It’s crucial to choose a secure area where your dog can interact with other canines. Reward their good conduct in this area to promote appropriate canine interactions. It makes sense to consider how to socialize your puppy and how to introduce canines to other dogs if you bring a new puppy home with an older dog to avoid the development of violent behavior between the two dogs.

Work On Barking And Growling

Both barking and growling are aggressive behaviors. Try to remove your dog from the scenario that is causing him to bark and growl, and then convince him that he is secure and can calm down.

Leash Training

On a leash, some dogs can escalate their aggression. Working on leash training with your dog may help him behave better around other dogs.

For a detailed look at how to work with your dog to control aggressive behavior, see our skillfully prepared article on aggressive dog training methods.

Can a dog that is violent be cured?

Some people will remark that a dog is simply mean when it growls, lunges, or bites. The truth is more nuanced.

As Dr. Sackman advises, “it’s better to start treating aggression as soon as the first signs develop. When controlling aggression in dogs, it’s crucial to pinpoint the trigger and pay close attention to his behavior. Speak to your primary care doctor or a veterinary behaviorist if you have any worries.


The following are some of the most frequent causes of canine aggression:

  • Fear-based The most common reason for dog aggression and dog attacks is fear. Just like people, each dog has unique phobias that may or may not make sense to other people. Dogs frequently experience dread of other dogs, puppies, kids, humans, and veterinary visits. Fearful dogs will lunge, snarl, snap, and sometimes bite to fend off people or other dogs that are frightening to them.
  • Territorial
  • Your dog may exhibit territorial aggression if his aggressiveness is directed toward a boundary, such as a fence in the backyard, a door, or the windows of a car. Dogs’ need to defend their home is ingrained in their DNA because they were raised in part to be house guard dogs. However, hostility might result from the territorial instinct. When your dog is on a leash walk or within a veterinary office, his personal space may occasionally serve as his boundary.
  • resource protection
  • Your dog is guarding a valuable resource with resource-guarding. The things your dog is willing to fight for, such as a couch, a human, food, food bowls, a bed, or a favorite treat or chew toy, are known as resource-guarding triggers. Never approach a dog guarding a valuable object and attempt to remove it; you risk getting bitten.
  • Maternal
  • Dogs share the inherent instinct of many mother animals to protect their offspring at all costs.
  • Play-based
  • Dogs with play-based aggressiveness become extremely excited while playing and may grasp with their lips or act aggressively in other ways. Although the dog may think that this is merely play, actual damage could happen.
  • Inter-dog
  • In-house dog fighting is referred to as inter-dog aggressiveness.

A dog may be more prone to aggressive behavior as a result of his past experiences. For instance, a dog who has previously been grabbed and bit by another dog may start acting aggressively against dogs he does not know out of fear. There isn’t truly a “kind of dog that is more prone to hostility than another,” with the exception of those who have experienced trauma in the past. It’s a popular misperception that a dog’s breed affects the likelihood that aggressive tendencies would emerge in it.

Dr. Sackman claims that there is no correlation between a dog’s breed and its propensity for aggression. “Like people, there is a hereditary base which can make some dogs more prone to react with violent behaviors. It’s not connected to a dog’s specific breed, though.


It’s critical to spot the warning symptoms of canine aggression. When a dog is exposed to something that triggers aggressive behavior, the aggressive behavior often increases from a low point to a high point. A dog acting aggressively is probably stressed out or afraid of particular stimuli or circumstances, and as a result, acts aggressively. An aggressive dog is probably expressing his discomfort in the situation.

Looking at the canine ladder of aggression can help one grasp this. The more subdued symptoms of stress include licking the lips, yawning out of worry, stiffness of the body, and turning away. The dog may display medium-level indicators of stress, such as snarling, barking, snapping, or lunging to defend himself out of fear, if he is unable to withdraw himself or if the situation intensifies.

Finally, your dog will climb to the highest rungs of the ladder and snap or bite if he honestly believes, “I think I’m going to die.” The majority of the time, your dog attacks because he feels the need to protect himself, and the lunge, snap, and bite are ways for him to remove the source of his fear.


It’s critical to remember that there is no treatment for hostility. Through appropriate treatment with a veterinary behavioral specialist, aggressive tendencies are regulated and minimized. Additionally, it’s critical to realize that violence is a behavioral problem rather than a matter of obedience.

For all of her patients with violence, Dr. Sackman suggests a three-part therapy strategy:

  • environmental control to reduce the trigger’s exposure to your dog
  • Changing your dog’s behavior can help them feel differently about the trigger
  • prescription drugs to treat fear and anxiety

An essential component of controlling violence is desensitization to the trigger. By rewarding your dog for acting quietly around the aggression trigger that causes fear, you can use this technique. Give your dog a very nice prize, such a piece of hot dog, when he approaches the trigger without displaying any signs of hostility, even if it is from a distance. You’re telling him that when he looks at the frightful dog, person, etc., nice things happen.