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Dogs can be aggressive with other dogs, especially if they have not been properly socialized with other dogs in puppyhood.
Sometimes a dog who is naturally dominant has trouble with other dogs, especially in puberty. Sometimes a dog has a specific experience (e.g., a fight with another aggressive dog) that causes the dog to become aggressive toward other dogs in general as well. Whatever the reason, it is well worth your time working on your dog’s aggression toward other dogs.
You will probably get the best results, especially with a problem dog — extreme aggression, for example — if you contact a trainer (preferably one who specializes in problem dogs) for individual help.
However, there are some common-sense things you can do.
What to Do When a Dog Shows Aggression Toward Another Dog
First, a bit of basic dog psychology:
- Friendly behaviors include moving side by side, sniffing butts, and tails wagging at body level (not up high or over the back).
- Non-friendly behaviors include meeting face-to-face, especially a face-to-face approach, ears forward, and tail over back.
Force them into friendly behaviors as follows:
1. Walk the dogs in parallel on leashes.
It helps if you have a helper. The dogs should be close enough to see each other but not close enough to snap at or touch each other. Be careful when you turn that the dogs don’t tangle. Make sure one doesn’t get ahead of the other: Keep them parallel.
Keep this up until they relax. Slowly start walking closer together as behavior permits.
2. Hold one dog on the leash in a sit as you walk the other dog toward it.
Have food treats and a water bottle handy. Walk the other dog toward the first dog, to about 6 feet, then turn away. (Increase the distance if the sitting dog snarls.) The idea is to turn away before the sitting dog shows any aggression. If the dog shows no aggression, reward with a food tidbit or verbal praise.
Do not touch the sitting dog (stand on the leash or tie the dog down). If the dog does growl, spray with water.
3. Switch the dogs so that each experiences sitting or walking toward.
They are learning that good things happen without defensive behavior.
As they improve, start walking a bit closer before turning. If the sitting dog snarls, do not turn the other dog away: The person with the sitting dog should correct the dog and then the moving dog should turn away.
Finally, holding the head of one dog, but allowing the dog to stand, have the other dog investigate its rear briefly. This is really the extreme extension of the above.
Keep Practicing — This Isn’t a Quick Fix
These exercises have two purposes:
- To force the dogs to consider themselves friendly by engaging in the behavior of friendly dogs
- To teach both of them that an approaching dog is not necessarily grounds for aggression.
This will take a lot of work, probably over a couple of months, but it will work. What’s more, it should reduce tensions with other dogs as well — not only between the two specific dogs in the exercises.