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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.