Dog/Dog Aggression

Dog/dog Aggression: There’s nothing pet parents like better than socializing with their dog in the summer sun. There are, however, two important questions to ask: “Is it safe?” and “Is my dog really having fun?” Your dog speaks to you through body language--ear and tail carriage, stance, behavior and vocalizations. Perhaps your dog is telling you she is experiencing an overload of stress when confronted with other dogs. If so, avoid any potentially dangerous situations while you begin a science-based behavior modification program.

Photo Courtesy of Cindy Staszak

Displays of aggression between members of the same species are common in animals. Conflicts over resources, such as, food, territory, and access to others are well-supported in animal behavior literature. Still, we often expect our dogs to play-nice with “stranger dogs” in group situations and out on neighborhood strolls. Rules of appropriate behavior in dog society are quite different than human manners. You may need to reexamine your expectations and goals for your pup. If your dog exhibits generalized dog/dog aggression, it’s unlikely he’ll turn into a social butterfly.

Genetics, early socialization or the lack of exposure during the critical period of social development, and traumatic experiences, shape how your dog interacts with other dogs. Play between dogs should be a 2-way street. They should take turns chasing each other--neither dog being a bully or a target.

Dog/dog aggression can be a dangerous problem for you, your dog, other dogs, and anyone who tries to break up a dog fight. If your dog has an aggression issue of any kind, get a wellness check from your veterinarian to rule out any underlying organic causes that may be affecting behavior.

If your dog has bitten another dog or been in a number of dog fights, engage a certified behavioral consultant to help you work toward changing your dog’s underlying drives and motivation. A complete intake evaluation should be given in order to develop a plan of treatment based on your dog’s history. It’s a complex problem and each case requires an individual approach to assess on-leash aggression, off-leash aggression, territorial aggression, fear-based aggression, fence-barrier aggression, resource guarding aggression, bite hierarchies, ameliorating factors and context.

The amount of time it takes to see improvement varies depending on the severity of the reactivity, your dog’s responsiveness to training, and the amount of time you devote to practicing behavior modification protocols.

Behavior modification techniques that include: desensitization, behavior adjustment therapy (BAT), functional rewards, Feisty Fido and clicker training will help you and your pup have a safe and happy summer together. Avoid harsh methods or collars that cause pain as they increase fear and anxiety and may cause aggression (Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 2006).

A realistic goal for you and your dog may be taking your dog for a pleasant walk in the neighborhood without any barking and lunging incidents. If your dog shows signs of anxiety with “stranger dogs”, it’s all right to skip the group activities and play at home The booklet Play Together, Stay Together by Dr’s. Patricia B. McConnell and Karen London is packed with great games for the two of you. Supervised play-dates with doggies friends may be another alternative. Stay safe this summer and have fun with your dog!

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: [email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at DogPsychologistOnCall.com 

Originally published by San Diego Pets Magazine. Publisher Casey Dean. All rights reserved.


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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


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12 thoughts on “Dog/Dog Aggression

  1. Duke Schaffer

    Hello

    I have a 9 month old Border Collie with high instinct on movement, smell, etc. She has VERY strong eye as well. I am having trouble with her recall off lead. I am a novice trainer and think that your show is more about structuring people than pets..haa.

    Anyway I am in the process of hiring a personal dog trainer that knows Border collies he recommended not using a daycare because the dog could pick up bad habits. What are your thoughts about this and maybe a show about the pros and cons about dog day care. I know it really helps Taylor wind down and burn energy it also helps her socialize..she has shown no agression towards other dogs and submits to puppies!!

    Thanks
    Duke

  2. KELLEY TATE

    HELLO MY NAME IS KELLEY i HAVE A GOLDEN RETEIVER HE IS SIX MONTHS OLD AND HE IS VERY ROUGH PLAYING WITH THE KIDS AND I HAVE NOT BEEN UCCESSFUL WITH HIM NOT RUNNING AND JUMPING UP ON PEOPLE. HE WEIGHS 60 POUNDS AND HE SCARES EVERYONE. HE DOES NOT BITE US BUT HE IS VERY MOUTHY WITH HIS TEETH AND NIPS AT OUR HANDS,MAINLY WHEN TRYING TO CORRECT HIM. IT IS MAKING ME ANGRY AND I DON;T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I HAVE PURCHASED SEVERAL COOLARS AND DID 12WEEKS OF PROFESSIONAL RAING THAT I DID NOT AGRRE WTH BECAUSE THEY TEACH TO REWARD WITH FOOD FOR EVERY COMMAND AND IF HE DOES NOT GET A TREAT ALL DAY HE ACTS OUT. DO YOU HAVE ANY SOLUTIONS?

  3. Jennifer

    Great article. I have a reactive dog, and it took a long time to adjust to the reality that he will never be able to go to the dog park. However, I came to realize that meeting new dogs is very stressful for him, and he is fearful. He is actually much happier NOT having to meet strange dogs all the time. It is important for pet parents to see things from their dog's perspective, and it becomes much easier to do the right thing. I also second the recommendation to visit with a trained professional. Though I clicker train dogs myself, I learned a lot of great tips from a visit to the veterinary behaviorist.
    To comment on Kelley's post above, one point that the article brings out is the importance of using positive methods rather than corrections with reactive dogs. When you correct, you are actually reinforcing the connection that the scary thing he is reacting to does indeed warrant that reaction. I am a crossover trainer myself, and at first didn't understand what positive training was all about. I would encourage you to get some hands-on help from a good positive trainer. It sounds like maybe the trainer you saw was not a good match, but please do not think that all positive training will be a failure. The right trainer will help you control his behavior all the time, though it will take a lot of work on your part as well. Good luck!

  4. Joan Miller

    I used BAT on a extremely reactive dog, what a wonderful difference! Iam excited for the APDT conference this October to take another class/seminar regarding BAT, Fiesty Fido and K 9 nose Work. Another great activity to share with clients and their dogs.

  5. Nancy

    Hi,
    I have a almost 3 yr old German Shepherd. I got him last year. About 3 weeks after I got him a large yellow lab here in our apartment complex attacked him and since then has been very fear aggressive towards all dogs.
    I really wish I could help him through it, but I am totally unsure how to go about it. I want to do whats best for him, but also for all the other dogs here at our complex.

  6. Ashley H.

    I have a two year old Shepard/pit mix who is very anxious. I manage her anxiety at home and in our yard, but her anxiety towards other dogs had grown into aggression. She reacts as soon as she sees another dog by lunging, barking, growling, and whining. I am using a head collar to control her better, but it is still an ordeal when she reacts. The issue I am having is that I do not know anyone with a dog I can socialize my dog to. Pet stores are too much stimulation and dog parks are out of the question. Do you have any suggestions as to socializing my dog in a safe environment?

  7. Linda Michaels, MA Psych

    Hi Ashley,

    I would suggest professional help if possible. Personally, I found a great local dog park where I work dog aggressive dogs on the OUTSIDE of the enclosed dog park. We never go inside! There's a huge grassy area on the outside of the dog park fence which is a great place for us to practice our desensitization and BAT routines. Then we can do a bit of "following" creeping up to "parallel walking" with the dogs that are coming and going in and out of the park as well. We keep a low profile to be sure we don't bother anyone who has a friendly dog.

    One really nice thing about this set-up is that the dogs that frequent the dog park are almost all very friendly. If they're not, they don't last long as they aren't welcome.

    Although making a friend may be a great step for your dog, it doesn't necessarily predict that making one friend will help to make a second friend. In my experience, it works for some dog reactive dogs and with others it doesn't. Just as many dogs who habituate to a another family dog are not friendly with stranger dogs, those who manage to make a friend won't necessarily make many friends. The good news is that one friend, a play-date makes!

    Thank you for writing Ashley and all! Hope this may have helped you and yours.
    Linda

  8. David Wiest

    We have a rescue dog (coon hound mix) and live next door to a family with 3 chocolate labs (all brothers from 3 different litters). Their middle dog and our dog do not get along at all. They charge the fence at each other. We are thinking of replace the chain link with a solid privacy fence. What is your opinion on this option. We've taken our dog through basic obedience I & II and he passed a Good K9 Citizenship class. Is there a time when 2 dogs just don't like each other?

  9. Shannon Elliott

    Victoria, I am with a rescue group and heard of a chow mix that was to be euthanized. Her owner was being evicted, and the dog, living on a chain was not friendly. But, she had 3 day old pups. This dog is approx. 3 years old, and had been chained all of her liife.

    We saved the pups, all are now in a foster home with 4 childrn and have been told to handle and handle thsee pups. Our momma raised them to 6 weeks old....

    It has only been a couple of days since the pups were removed, but had to go in the pen witht a large piece of plywood to protect ourselves to get the pups.....she would even run at you with teeth barred if you approached her pen, though I know this may be normal for a mom with pups, but now that they are pulled, she still is barring her teeth. Have gotten her to take a treat from my hand, but still too afraid to go into her pen. PLEASE, any suggestions appreciated on how to just start with her.

    I understand the chance we have taken, but we wanted to save the puppies. and give her a chance.

  10. Dagmar

    My partner Sheree and I adopted an older dog, Jasmine, a Shepard mix -- Belgium Malenoix a few months ago. One of the reasons I decided to adopt her, other than nobody wants an older dog and certainly not a larger dog, I thought she could help me to become more active again and start jogging.

    Jasmine is being treated for severe separation anxiety and is making progress. she has few issues in the house, but when she is on the leash and encounters other dogs, she appears very aggressive toward them -- which I assume is fear based -- since she seems hyper vigilant and a hunter to boot.

    What is the best way to train her? I have become fearful to walk her and so she has not received the exercise I know she needs and deserves. I want to remedy that. she is an active and healthy 8 year old shelter dog.

    We also have two other dogs, Anni, who is 10 and a bit grouchy, and AB, about 1 year old rescued Minpin, who gets along with Jasmine just fine. Jasmine seems to be very patient with this puppy.

    So my promise to Jasmin is to become more active with her -- how can I do that and not become so fearful, anticipating her reaction to other dogs?

    Thanks,
    Dagmar

  11. Pingback: Dog Aggression Toward Other Dogs

  12. lexie

    My 7 month old vizsla puppy has suddenly turned on the puppies we regularly meet at training classes and now has even started snarling really viciously at our older two Vizslas (female 13 yrs and male 9yrs) I did not witness any incident that could have triggered this but he is really frightening me and I worry he will turn on us next. I have tried rewarding him with treats and praise every time he is near other dogs and behaves well but this only seems to work some of the time. Help! why has this suddenly happened. He is not neutered and at only 7 months old is he too young to castrate and would it make a positive difference anyway or is that myth? I am finding it really upsetting and am desperate for help

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