BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

My Dog Hates Other Dogs: Top Techniques to Teach Fido to Play Nice

My Dog Hates Other Dogs
John Walton
Written by John Walton

This is by far one of the most common problems that dog owners face, and it’s actually one of the most prominent fears that new dog owners have to think of for quite a while until they understand how to prevent it from happening. Truth be told, this is a problem, and if left unaddressed, it will cause some major issues for your dog in the long run.

There is no fool-proof method of dealing with it, and the solution to this problem is not exactly set in stone, because in order to stamp this behavior out, you will have to dig deep and actually fix some things that stem from the dog’s puppy years, and then work onwards from there.

Dog needs socializing

It’s easy to say “my dog hates other dogs” and simply be done with it by avoiding contact with other dogs, however this is among the worst choices that you could make, and for a multitude of reasons:

  • Your dog needs to socialize with other dogs too, not just humans;
  • It’s actually a lot harder than you might think;
  • You will find yourself planning some ridiculous routes in order to avoid other dog owners, dog walkers and strays;
  • Every single walk or run becomes a struggle if other dogs wander in your general area;
  • Your dog will become more aggressive and subsequently more dangerous when other dogs are near;
  • Your dog slowly loses his or her personality as a dog and instead tends to adopt a more human-like one.

Understanding dog behavior

Dogs, just like us humans, are social creatures. They tend to not fair so well in complete isolation, and just by looking at the dog’s ancestor, the wolf, we can see that they, at a primordial level, are meant to work together and coexist with each other in packs, just like we are meant to coexist with each other in society.

So at the most basic of levels, dogs are not supposed to fight with each other, and come to the conclusion that they are better off on their own than around other dogs.

Understanding dog behavior

There is no such thing as a “lone wolf”, and even if some wolves go rogue every now and again, they tend to not survive for long on their own. Dogs have that pack mentality, which is characteristic to them, however they don’t really discriminate in regards to the pack that they are in.

That being said, even though you, as a human being, view your family as being a family, your dog will view the very same family as being the pack that he or she is a part of, thus identifying himself or herself as a vital and valuable member of that pack. This is not a bad thing, by any stretch of the imagination, however it tends to lead to a few issues without the proper training.

Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that it is very easy to mistake general aggressive behavior with defensive aggression, and quite a lot of dog owners, especially the inexperienced ones, tend to mistake the two.

There are actually a lot of types of canine aggression, however these are the 2 main ones, and it’s a topic that deserves a closer look.

Canine aggression and the reasons for it

Let’s have a closer look at the types of canine aggression as well as the reasons behind them, and see if your dog fits into one of these categories.

Psychotic violent intent

This is a strong and unbridled feeling of hatred towards another dog, and the deep desire of ripping said other dog to shreds. This is something commonly found in dogs that are trained for dog fighting and pit fighting, and it manifests itself as a burst of uncontrollable manic aggression as soon as the dog spots another dog.

The dog in question immediately tries to run towards the other dog, frantically pulling on the leash, barking and growling, putting all of his muscular power and body weight into escaping your grip and charging the other dog.

Violent dog

Relentless, unwilling to listen to commands, refusing to pull back or give up, literally requiring extreme measures in order to be subdued, not to mention the fact that the dog becomes enraged, willing and able to bite left right and center in order to get to the other dog.

The body language is as follows: the dog exposes all its teeth, sometimes foams at the mouth, raises his shoulders, arches his back forward, leans his head in the direction of the other dog, the hair on the back of his head stands on end, the chest is pushed forward, the tail is up and in a prominent position, ears are pulled back and the movements of the dog are frantic, chaotic, wiggling and pulling on the leash, sometimes trying to bite it and break it, putting a lot of power into trying to escape and charge the dog that he has in his sights.

Fear

The dog is scared, he feels backed into a corner, he fails to see an escape, he feels overwhelmed, he resorts to aggression in order to either bluff or fight his way out of it. This is something more or less specific to dogs that have been cuddled and protected too much, and now are lacking the defensive skills as well as the confidence to take on other dogs and face the scenarios and situations that appear in day to day dog life or canine interaction.

Simply put, your dog lacks the social skills and practice needed in order to have the confidence to interact with other dogs. This results in your dog seeing other dogs as a potential danger to himself, resulting in a very intimidated but at the same time alert dog, and whenever a dog tries to approach him, he flips out and turns aggressive.

Scared dog

Something to note here is the fact that, unlike the previous type of aggression, in this one the dog has no problem with other dogs being in the general area most of the time, the problems start when the other dogs get too close or cross a certain line that your dog considers a safe zone.

The body language is as follows: The dog exposes teeth, but not the full set, more or less warning the other dogs that they should back down.

The dog barks and growls, however the tail betrays him, instead of being up and ready to charge, the tail is more or less on a horizontal position. The head is stretched forward, the chest is pushed forward and the shoulders are tensed, ready to charge, but the hind legs are more or less relaxed, in a neutral position.

The dog is controllable and will back down if the leash is pulled upon or tugged back. The dog does not respond to commands particularly well however it will respond in the end and can be controlled with a firm grip and strong will displayed by the master.

The dog is trying to defend you

As stated earlier, the family that adopts the dog becomes the dog’s pack, and the dog identifies himself as being a vital and integral part of said pack.

Here is where the problems arise, because dogs are very loyal and as a result of that, very protective of the members in their pack.

A strange dog or simply another dog can easily pose a threat to you or your family in your dog’s eyes, and as a result of that the dog goes into defensive more and tries to charge the dog in order to either drive the dog away or wound it in order to scare it off.

This is a problem that is common amongst dogs that have been socialized a lot with humans however they received next to no socialization with other dogs.

Dog is trying to defend you

Something to note about this particular type of aggression is the fact that it is not exactly dangerous or harmful. Yes, the dog will bark and yes he will growl however the dog’s main objective is to protect you, and he will not directly charge or try to charge another dog except if said dog displays clear signs of aggression or makes any sudden moves towards you and your dog.

Body language in this case is as follows: The ears are pointing straight up, the head is in a neutral position, some teeth are exposed, the dog will bark and he will growl at the other dog.

The shoulders are tense, however the chest is in a neutral position, the back is arched forward slightly, and the tail stands up straight.

So the dog adopts a rather defensive stance, letting the other dog know that he is standing his ground however he is willing to attack and tear him to sunders if he dares to make a move.

The dog is controllable, and responsive to commands while in this state of mind however he grows more and more unresponsive as the other dog inches towards you.

General mischief

Yes, this is present in dogs as well, and it manifests itself just like it does in us. The dog is basically a bully, going above and beyond dominance of the pack and simply focusing on making life a living hell for other dogs.

It’s important to note here that this is a form of aggression as well, it does not always have to involve barking, growling and biting, the dog can generally be mischievous and cause a lot grief and discomfort to other dogs.

Dog bullies other dogs

Some examples of this type of behavior are:

  • Grabbing the other dog’s toys and refusing to give them back;
  • Muscling other dogs around or out of good resting spots constantly;
  • Pushing puppies around and fending them off just for fun;
  • Constantly pestering other dogs;
  • Stealing their treats.

I think you get it by now, general bully behavior is what you will be looking after, and ironically, this one is the most overlooked of them all, often being confused for play, and owners making the same mistake that parents make by saying “dogs will be dogs”

The ones that resort to this type of behavior are big puppies, generally immature and spoiled dogs. There is no actual body language to watch for, the actions will speak for themselves, and if you did not catch on to them, you will definitely get some complaints from the other dog owners or see other dogs starting to pick fights and act aggressively towards your dog.

Fixing the dog’s aggression problem towards other dogs

The good thing about dogs is the fact that they resemble us in so many ways, and just like us, with the right help, the right training and the right therapy, they can get past anything.

It’s easy to think that your dog is beyond hope, however that is not the case. Some of the meanest and most ferocious pit fighting dogs have been reformed, dogs that would seriously injure, maim and even kill others, dogs that have served in war zones for their entire lives, dogs that have been through hell and back then back again, they have all managed to be reformed and are now living out the rest of their years with a family that loves them, while they are reciprocating that love back to their family.

Pitbulls are nice infographic

So there is no such thing as “my dog is too old” or “it’s too late now” or “this is something that should have been addressed while the dog was a puppy”.

On one hand, I agree with the last one, however that does not mean that problems cannot be addressed now, on the contrary, believing that is more or less an insult brought to your dog.

So what can you do?

For starters, your dog needs training, and he needs to practice being around other dogs in order for him to realize and say to himself: “these are not threats, these are not enemies, these are dogs, just like me, and maybe I can make some play friends here.”

Your dog will need to be more or less taught how to socialize with other dogs, and your dog will have to be introduced in groups of dogs in order for him to build up his confidence, calm his nerves and adapt accordingly.

You have 2 options here.

Option 1: Go about it yourself

It is doable and a couple of people have actually managed to pull it off. It is a plausible solution, however it will require you to do a lot of research, contact a lot of people and set up some complicated and often times dangerous scenarios and settings in order to get your dog to adapt and get the confidence that he needs.

It will require you to do a lot of research, invest a lot of time and resources into this and even so, it is not guaranteed to work perfectly.

Option 2: Seek the assistance of a dog trainer

This is actually the best thing that you could do. The dog trainer already knows how to handle these situations, and most likely will have the necessary arrangements made in order for your dog to overcome these hurdles.

Professinal trainer

Not to mention the fact that there are always those little kinks, those little notches that you simply don’t notice, whereas the trainer notices them and adapts the situation in order to fix them.

Another great thing about this is the fact that the trainer will not plop you into a random setting with a dog that is likely to start rampaging, but rather put you in a group alongside other dog trainers and their dogs, as well as more experienced dog owners and dogs that have been perfectly trained for these situations.

This will allow the trainer to focus on s well as more experienced dog owners and dogs that have been perfectly trained for these situations.

This will allow the trainer to focus on our dog and guide him, while giving you the opportunity to relax and help your dog get through this.

Preventing this aggression from the very beginning

Prevention is the best thing for these types of problems, and it’s quite simple. While the dog is in its infancy, in the early puppy months, start training him alongside a dog trainer, and never stop practicing.

Puppy training with others

Always carry on the training, always push for more and more discipline, and never stop practicing or training all together.

Make sure that you specify to the trainer that you want your dog to be trained to socialize as well as being introduced in socializing environments.

In conclusion

Aggression in dogs, in regards to other dogs, is a very common problem, and the main culprit for this is usually improper training or lack of training to begin with.

It is never too late to change this problem, and even though you might end up having to sacrifice a certain amount of time and resources, the end result will be worth it, and not having to deal with your dog’s aggression issues every time a dog passes him by, will be a great relief and a welcome breath of fresh air.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Jennifer Smith

    I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT, whenever I take him for a walks we have problems. So, going for walks is always a challenge for us. And he barks A LOT.
    My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

    • Jennie Mele

      I feel for you…we had problems with our dog also. He used to bark like crazy when we were not at home, and our neighbours complained a lot because of that. Both my husband and I work a lot and had no time to take our Bud to dog training classes. We asked one friend who works in foster care (he is always surrounded by dogs) what we should do. He recommended one online dog behavior trainer. It helped us a lot, and I strongly recommend it for you.

      • John Walton

        This is a great recommendation, Jennie. Dog training classes can help improve its socialization skills, and will also allow pet parents to learn more about dog behavior.

  • Hilary Reddy

    There’s a lot to learn about our dog’s body language. It really takes a lot of sensitivity to understand what our dog is communicating to us. Thanks for this great article!

    • John Walton

      Indeed, it will be a learning process to understand our dog’s body language. We appreciate that you enjoyed this article.

  • Laura

    Helpful article. I think our dog is in the fear category. How do I find knowledgeable trainers in my area?

    • John Walton

      Hi, Laura,

      There are numerous groups and services online that offer dog training. Where are you located specifically?

  • Kelly

    Hi there, I have a 15 month old Labrador, we picked him up later at about 13 weeks, he got bit by a loose dog when we were out and has never forgotten it. I attended puppy class and was asked not to return after the second session because my dogs parking (not aggression). I have seen 3 specialists, the first felt it was aggression and taught corrections with a half check chain. After doing this for two months he did not get any better. I saw another that just said to have him castrated, took him to the vets and they refused to do it due to him being so scared rather than aggression. Saw the third who recommended I find a calm dog who doesn’t bounce or bark and work towards introducing them. This is easier said than done i have asked people however they don’t want to do it. My dog does not like dogs off the lead when he is in the lead running over to him, he will give a warning growl and bark and if they continue to run at him he will nip them as if a warning nip. Had a set back yesterday where 2 smaller dogs were circling him off the lead and nipping him despite me asking for them to put their dog on a lead. Irresponsible owner was threatening me rather than grabbing her two dogs. Should I muzzle him? Although yesterday the dog ran over aggressively so am I stopping mine from protecting himself when he gets bit? I’ve seen three specialists at £60 per hour and not had the level of training you have talked about. The last one didn’t come out with us to see how he was with other dogs. I don’t know what to do to try and help him, I have seen live ins for challenging dogs however I cannot afford £500 per week on a nurses wage. He also gets defensive when people come to the house who he doesn’t know by barking at them, he will relax after a while though of them being there. He is a fantastic dog with us or immediate family and my mums dog. Dread taking him out some days. Thank you for any help or advice offered. Kelly, Gloucestershire.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Thanks for sharing your story, Kelly. The important thing right now is that your dog is in good relationship with the immediate family and your mum’s dog. It would be a bigger concern if the dog is not cooperative with the immediate family. Now what we can do is to fortify the trust first. Allocate time for the dog (and this is not just for you, but across all the members of the family). Make him feel loved even more, and from this love, trust will follow further. You can slowly re-integrate him by finding a park with no dogs at all and allow him to walk there often as it promotes courage and territorial instinct without being too hostile. The option to find another dog that is not too cocky is good, but I understand why other pet parents won’t do it for you. Meanwhile, confide with your mum’s dog for now and slowly go for walking sessions with this dog. It will be the good distraction your dog needs especially when they are outside. Let me know how it goes.

    • John Walton

      Thanks for sharing your story, Kelly. The important thing right now is that your dog is in good relationship with the immediate family and your mum’s dog. It would be a bigger concern if the dog is not cooperative with the immediate family. Now what we can do is to fortify the trust first. Allocate time for the dog (and this is not just for you, but across all the members of the family). Make him feel loved even more, and from this love, trust will follow further. You can slowly re-integrate him by finding a park with no dogs at all and allow him to walk there often as it promotes courage and territorial instinct without being too hostile. The option to find another dog that is not too cocky is good, but I understand why other pet parents won’t do it for you. Meanwhile, confide with your mum’s dog for now and slowly go for walking sessions with this dog. It will be the good distraction your dog needs especially when they are outside. Let me know how it goes.

  • matan zagag

    dear john
    thank you very much for this article. I wanted to share my story and hear what you think.

    I have a 3 years cnaan shepherd, they are not very common outside my country — they have a strong body, between 30 — 40 kilograms for the males and 25 — 35 for females, resemble malinois dogs but a little sturdier and are usually found in the desert living in packs and hunting dears like dingos in Australia.

    I found mine when she was a month old and brought her home, she grew up with 2 other dogs that we don’t live with anymore, and grew up to be one of the kindest sweetest dogs I have ever seen,
    she made friends with almost any dog in the street.

    until 6 months ago, when she started developing an aggressive behavior to some specific dogs in the street, which she simply seemed to just not like,
    this behavior went worse and worse and now she can barely interact with new dogs and is almost always reacting aggressively which puts me in a really embarrassing situation.

    what can cause such behavior ? with a dog who was one of the friendlist dogs I have ever met?

    important to say that shes never aggressive to humans, and I have never had any issue like that with anyone,

    thank you very much in advance,

    matan

    • John Walton

      Matan,

      Thank you very much for your message. A Canaan Shepherd is a unique dog to begin with, and is one of the dog breeds that possess one of the strongest survival instincts in today’s lineup of dog breeds. The aggressive behaviour might be misinterpreted as «survival» behaviour.

      The thing is, you’ll never know what happened during its first month — which is the molding period of the personality of your dog. As you’ve mentioned that you got her more or less as a month old, and socialization is essential during this moment. I would like to ask if you’re always with your dog all the time, or was there a potential moment that triggered the worsening behaviour.

  • hasini

    I have 5 dogs,2male and 3 female….my two female Pomeranian dogs(one elder and one younger) fight each other very aggressively…they have now developed a sense of vigorous anger to fight with each other….I even made them to be together to atleast fight and reduce their anger….they stop fighting and when I enter that place again they start fighting again….how to make them friends

    • John Walton

      The best approach for this is to resocialize and re-acquaint them. Slightly modify your routine (like alternate their walking sessions or place them in opposite ends of the house. Make sure that there is a particular duration during the day (ideally several days) that they will not see each other. Then take the acclimation process one by one, step by step, with one dog at a time.

  • Chrissy

    John, thanks for your article, it has certainly enlightened me on several issues we have with our dog. I have a black lab, border collie mix. We adopted her, and she is about 8. She’s fantastic with people, always. Even very gentle with children that pull on her ears and obviously annoy her.

    However, ALL dogs she instantly gets into a fight with. I read through the causes in your article and can take a little from each category for her behavior. She basically pulls and frantically scrambles towards other dogs to then start a fight. She never growls, or barks. She whines, and once she gets close enough, goes postal.

    She does blow coat, and raise her hackles on purpose. I’ve seen her prep for fights with our neighbors dog through the fence.

    It almost seems like she’s excited to make a friend, but we know better now.

    We’ve taken her to a humane society class to deal with the behavior. Despite the work we’ve put in, she’s about the same.

    It’s easier to take her on walks, but I’d love to attempt some socialization. I’m just not sure about the safest way to do this. The behavior is the same whether we (her owners) are around, or not.

    Any good tips?

    • John Walton

      Chrissy,
      Thanks for dropping by. I do believe that this adopted dog had a better ownership history than most dogs because, based on what you’ve shared, she thrives well with people and even young children which is a great feat coming from a Border Collie mix (which is known to not blend well to families with younger children).

      Now, I think this amazing behaviour is also your problem. I believe she became to attached to humans that she thinks she’s actually one. It may sound funny, but I’ve seen a lot of dogs that are a lot more comfortable with humans around than dogs. This is why she tends to snap whenever other dogs are around. Taking her into a humane society class might work, but being an 8-year old dog, the saying goes that you cannot teach old dogs some new tricks. This is the same on her case. Several sessions will not yield drastic results.

      What I would recommend is to just keep her as she is. This problem is actually better than the other side of the spectrum where she loves to be around dogs yet she hates humans. You are her family, and it is to your family where she finds the sense of security and confidence. You can try slow reintroduction by doing casual walks and just let her see other dogs in passing. This can help even just a little bit to tone down her aggression towards other dogs.

  • Chris Ferguson

    Hi John.

    We have a German shepherd that we rescued from a local German shepherd specialised rehoming group.

    We weren’t told of his tendancies towards other dogs, but we persevered anyway, trying our best to get to the bottom of his behaviour.

    At first, after some «tests» and meeting with a very experienced owner that trains dogs too, we believed he just wanted to play.

    Then today, while he was outside, a pug walked past and he just went straight for it, and has caused a bite injury (the severity is unknown as the owner has complained to us, told us he is in the vet, but mentioned no more).

    Usually his first instinct is to bark and pull towards the other dog, usually much less severely if the other dog is off lead, but recently his reaction seems to have been worse, and reading your article here it appears to be more anger, especially with smaller dogs.

    Smaller dogs tend to make the fur on his back stand on end and his bark sounds significantly more aggressive, but other times it seems to be more excitement than anything else, in all cases he pulls towards them so intently that he has, several times now, worn his claws down enough to cause bleeding from the wick situated within them.

    As much as we love him, we are contemplating returning him to the rehoming agency as this is getting far too stressful for us and has caused several near incidents and has left us feeling incredibly guilty for the dog that he has injured.

    I understand that this is a lot to consider but Is there any advice you can provide to help with this situation at all?

    • John Walton

      Hi Chris, this is quite a little delayed but I would like to confirm if the situation progressed even by a little inch? There are a lot of things to be taken into consideration here. I understand where the frustration is coming from because it is becoming more and more destructive and stressful. Because we have to definitive and accurate historical background for your dog, it would be better for the meantime to keep him away from pets of any kind just to decrease the environmental stimuli because I think this is one of the primary factors where the aggression is coming from. Let me know how it goes after at least 3-5 days of preventative isolation.

  • Ofek

    Hi John.
    My dog is 4 years old and I’ve been taking him to dog’s group for 2 months .
    He used to play with other dogs when he was young but now he only sniff them and ignores them for most of the time .
    I try to be positive as much as I can when he is around dogs , and I give him treats when he behaves well around dogs or when dogs approach to him.
    He is aggressive to some dogs, he usually attacks the same dogs when they run near him or approach very closely to him face to face .He will manage to ignore other dogs .
    If a dog jumps on him (from playing) , he will attack , no matter what size or age.
    He has been with dogs for every day for the last 2 months and I haven’t seen any major improvement .
    He seems calm and curious with other dogs ,he doesn’t really show any fear , maybe nervousness sometimes but that’s it .
    I’m pretty lost and i’m starting to think it’s a part of his personality .
    I will appreciate if you could help me with this situation,
    Thanks in advance.

    • John Walton

      Ofek,

      First things first. I would like to know the breed of your dog. It seems that you have a one-person type of dog that prefers to be around humans than other, non-familiar dogs around the community. I appreciate that he is very protective at times but this irregular habit needs to be corrected the soonest.

  • Brooke

    Hi John

    We have two dogs (one a Great Dane cross mastiff and one a jack Russell cross Pomeranian). They are both rescue dogs. And neither of them are good around other dogs other than each other.

    Taking them on walks is a nightmare. And taking them to the beach/park is impossible.

    They usually don’t attack other dogs (they have bitten others dogs before but this is more rare) it’s usually more them just barking uncontrollably and doing everything they can to get free of the leash. I don’t know whether they’d attack more dogs if they were simply able to get close enough.

    Do you have any suggestions of what we can do?

    Thanks!

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