My Dog Has Problems With Aggression Towards Other Dogs
Dog-dog aggression is one of the most common dog problems. Treatment options depend on the reason for the aggression.
Types of Dog-Dog Aggression
The most common types of dog aggression are:
- Leash reactivity: If your dog is fine with dogs off-leash but reacts on-leash, this is caused by excitement that has turned to frustration.
- Fear: If your dog has never been exposed to other dogs or was attacked, he might be afraid. Some signs of fear are tucked tail and laid back ears, hiding behind you, only barking when picked up or charging but running away.
- Prey: If your dog only charges small dogs, this could be a prey response. Your dog will never be completely trustworthy with small dogs.
- Territoriality: If your dog only fights with dogs in his own home, this is a territorial response.
- General aggression: Just as we don’t like all people, your dog is not going to like all dogs. These dogs can be trained not to react but they can’t be trained to enjoy the company of other dogs.
Treatment of Dog Aggression
If your dog is leash-reactive, teach him to focus. Begin with your dog in the most quiet room of the house. Hand feed him his meals for a month. Say “watch” and hold a piece of food to your forehead. If he looks, give him a handful of his food. Repeat two or three times and then say it without holding the treat to your forehead. If he looks, reward. If not, wait 10 to 15 seconds and then use the lure. Slowly fade out the lure. Once he is good in the quiet room, move to a busier room, then your yard, then the park, waiting until he has mastered each place.
Once in the park, start at a distance where your dog will not react and gradually move closer. If your dog reacts, walk away abruptly but don’t talk to your dog until he is calm. Make him sit and watch. He can’t learn when he’s reacting so get him out of the situation and move more slowly. Once your dog can walk past another dog, he is finally ready to try greeting. Make sure he is completely calm. If he reacts at all, the session is over.
If your dog is fearful, you want to pair the focus command with a positive association. As soon as your dog sees another dog, start giving treats and praise rapidly. Once the dog is gone, stop. Just as with reactivity, start at a safe distance and gradually move closer. If you want your dog to eventually greet, start with an older, calm dog or much smaller dog once your dog has progressed to that point.
If your dog has prey drive, teach a rock solid recall. Practice on leash repeatedly until your dog will come every time. Then, introduce distractions. You should be able to call your dog off of every distraction allowing a greeting.
If your dog is territorial, teach focus and recall, but also use a crate. Practice the focus with the dog entering. Keep your dog on leash. If your dog can look at you without reacting, he can stay in the room. If not, he goes in his crate or quiet place. Don’t let the guest dog disturb him. If he allows the dog in the house, give lots of treats. If he seems interested in greeting, drop the leash. If at any point he reacts, send him to his quiet place.
If your dog doesn’t like other dogs, don’t make him greet them unless he wants to. Use the same methods as with the leash-reactive and fearful dog so dogs predict good things. If his ears, eyes and tail are relaxed (not necessarily wagging—stiff wagging is associated with aggression), allow him to greet. Reward profusely.
With all dog aggression, it is important to keep sessions short and positive. If your dog reacts after 30 seconds, make the next session 15 seconds. Be patient and you will gradually help him be a happier, healthier dog.