We know that dogs are social beings that love everyone. Some breeds are even famous for how loving they can be. But if your dog barks and lunges at other dogs, it may have you questioning everything. So why does my dog show aggression to other dogs? Let’s look at all the types of aggression your dog can display and how to fix them.
Types Of Aggression
It might surprise you to learn that not all aggression is the same. And since they aren’t, you can’t resolve all aggression in the same ways. So why does my dog show aggression to other dogs? Let’s look at a few examples and see if any of them sound like your dog.
The first and most common type of aggression is fear, which isn’t just for small dogs. When a dog is feeling vulnerable or cornered, it will often get a fight or flight response. And more often than not, dogs go with their fight instinct. This is especially true for an older dog who has never been socialized and dogs with negative experiences. So how do you know if your dog has fear-based aggression?
The first sign of a fearful dog is a tail tucked under. Some dogs will also growl, show their teeth, and snap while trying to run away. You might even notice that your dog tries to hide behind you or other objects when faced with new situations. All of these are warning signs to others to back off. And that’s ok. Fear is something that drives all of us. But it is possible to train your dog not to fear other dogs.
If you keep the meet and greets calm and simple, your dog will do so much better. And don’t forget to go slow and keep the meetings short. That way, your dog doesn’t have time to become angry or defensive. Once they have positive associations, they will quickly get over it.
Another situation you might find yourself in is two adult dogs that don’t seem to understand each other. In these cases, one dog might love rough play, but the other doesn’t understand the dogs behavior. As a result, what might seem like harmless play can quickly turn into a dog fight.
Or it could be the complete lack of boundaries and personal space that sets your dog over the edge. If other dogs are not minding their manners, it could put any dog over the edge. Another communication issue that can arise is dominant dogs trying to for another into a submissive dog forcefully. And as you can imagine, these meetings never end well.
You see situations like these most when you have dogs that are untrained playing together. Such as places like the dog park or if you are out on a walk. Dog park aggression can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. The best remedy for this is choosing your playdates carefully and training your dog to behave well in the first place.
And finally, another common aggression is due to your dog’s instinct to protect. Most people think of this when it comes to food treat aggression. But did you know that it can also be over toys, places, and people? It’s possible that your dog doesn’t like to share and sees all dogs as a threat to what they love.
If your dog is territorial, you might notice that they only show signs of aggression when other dogs come too close to you. Or they might bare their teeth at any new dog that comes into a play date. And, of course, they might hog toys and snap any time another dog tries to play with them.
The best way to combat these behaviors is to stop the aggression when you see it. For example, if your dog gets tense over a shared toy, distract them and lead them away from the situation. Or, if your dog is possessive over you, walk away from the dogs and pay no attention to either one to prevent the reaction.
How To Desensitize An Aggressive Dog
Now that we know a few of the most common reasons for dog aggressive behavior let’s talk about fixing them. There are several methods to desensitizing your dog. And you might find that some of these work well, while others make reactive dogs worse. So take it slow, and use the same method for at least a week before throwing in the towel.
Step #1: Complete Training
The first step is training. Training is the best way for a dog owner to bond with their pet, gain trust, friendship, and loyalty like no other. If your dog is untrained, they might have difficulty trusting that everything will be ok in stressful situations. So teach your dog more than the basic sit, stay, and come. Maybe enroll in private training classes with your new puppy and continue throughout their life.
Step #2: Control Your Emotions
The next step can be easier said than done in most cases. Have you ever noticed your reaction to any time your dog meets another dog? Do you tense up, grip the leash, and pull your dog close? While you might think you are acting in a preventative way, you are actually telling your dog the exact opposite.
Instead of becoming tense and nervous, try to keep your body language calm and relaxed. In these situations, you show your dog that there is nothing out of the ordinary going on. They might even see meeting strangers as a good thing. You will be surprised how much your dog will look to you for social cues.
Step #3: Control The Situation
The next step is to choose the situation in which your dog meets another. Ideally, you will want neutral grounds so that your dog doesn’t feel territorial. And you should only have one dog that is highly trained and already socialized. For example, if your dog typically lunges at other dogs, you might want a head halter to prevent pulling. Once you have the ideal space and new friends, you are ready for the first social interaction.
Step #4: Desensitizing
The first thing you will want to do is start by letting the other dog into the play yard to walk around freely. Then slowly walk your dog from a distance toward the play area. If your dog starts to pull or show signs of aggression, stop them and walk away. Start back from the beginning until your dog can take a few steps without being aggressive.
Taking a few steps forward and stopping decreases the tension most dogs have when meeting someone. Once your dog sees that nothing is happening with the other dog, it becomes uninterested in them. With just a few steps at a time, your dog will get closer and closer without feeling anxious or territorial. Soon they will be unphased in the presence of other dogs. The next time might go more smoothly until your dog can play with other dogs.
Once your dog can sit still and not react, it’s safe to say they are friendly dogs towards each other. You might even try to introduce someone else another time if it all goes well. It might take a long time for this to happen, but it’s not impossible. And while this method won’t always work for every type of dog aggression, it will help with territorial behaviors and fear-based anger.
Taking Aggressive Dogs On Walks
We all know that walks are the most important thing for our pets. It’s excellent exercise, prevents boredom, and keeps your dog feeling wonderful. But if you have an aggressive dog, walks can be a source of anxiety. So what can you do?
Meeting a new dog on a walk isn’t the best idea. So when you are out and about with your reactive dog, it’s best to distract and use boundaries. If you see another dog coming, walk faster and in a slightly different direction than usual. The fast pace and new scenery will distract your dog just enough to ignore the other dog.
But this isn’t always possible. So what do you do then? The best option for you and your dog is to put a physical barrier between your dog and the other. For example, walk behind a car, tree, mailboxes, or anything large enough to keep your dog from view.
When To Get An Animal Behavioralist
We talk a lot about professional trainers, but behavioralists are a much greater tool for complex behavior problems. A behavioralist observes you and your dog in different situations and compiles a specialized plan. These steps are all tailored to your dog’s needs and proven to be effective.
But these behavioralists can get pricey. So when is it time to throw in the towel and seek out professional help? Of course, that is different for everyone. But if you have exhausted all efforts, and your dog is getting out of control, it is time. And trust us, if you follow the plan of your behavioralist, you won’t be sorry.
Are All Dogs Capable Of Being Best Friends?
Sometimes you might be wondering if your dog is even capable of having other doggy friends. And the truth is that some dogs can’t. Likewise, not every dog will love all other dogs. So if you are wondering why does my dog show aggression to other dogs, you might consider this.
Some dogs are only ok with a few other dogs that mesh well with their personalities. And other dogs hate other pets due to past experiences and previous owners. So as long as your dog has you, they have all that they need.
And That’s Aggression!
Why does my dog show aggression to other dogs? There are many possible reasons. But if you identify why they are so reactive, you can work on the steps to overcome them. And never forget to reward good behavior!
Below is a Pinterest-friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Doodle Board!