How to Stop Dog Aggression Towards Other Dogs

by Katherine Barrington
Because dogs are descended from wolves, aggression is often an instinctive behavior.

Because dogs are descended from wolves, aggression is often an instinctive behavior.

Catching a stick action shot image by Gleb Semenjuk from Fotolia.com

Though many professional breeders selectively breed to remove aggression from dog blood lines, some breeds are still more naturally aggressive than others. Dogs that display aggression toward other dogs may do so because they feel threatened or because they are defending their territory. While this behavior is natural, it can be dangerous and you may find it necessary to take steps to control and correct your dog's aggressive behavior. If you are willing to put in the required time and effort, it is possible to mitigate your dog's aggression toward other dogs.

Step 1

Take your dog to the veterinarian for a check-up to make sure his aggression is not a response to a medical condition. Acute conditions that result in severe pain may cause a dog to become irritable or aggressive. If your dog is diagnosed with a medical condition, work closely with your vet to follow through on the recommended treatment protocol.

Step 2

Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a dog behavior specialist. Dog behavior specialists are different from trainers in that they are qualified to examine your dog's history of aggression and to diagnose the causes of aggressive behavior. A trainer can teach your dog basic obedience, but a dog behavior specialist may be required to get down to the root of your dog's behavior problems and to suggest an effective treatment protocol.

Step 3

Speak to one or more dog behavior specialists to assess their qualifications before taking your dog to meet with one. Ask the specialist about his prior experience and ask questions about the treatment plan - how long it will take, what steps will be involved and how much it will cost. Look for a specialist who seems knowledgeable about your dog's condition, who asks questions about your dog and who doesn't make any unrealistic promises or guarantees about being able to "fix" your dog.

Step 4

Observe your dog to determine the trigger for his aggressive behavior. Many dogs become aggressive when another dog enters their territory, when they feel their family is endangered or when they feel resources like food are being threatened. Dogs may also become aggressive around small children and in loud or frightening situations such as thunderstorms when they feel anxious or scared.

Step 5

Feed your dogs in separate rooms if you have more than one dog and one of them tends to show aggression during feeding times. If your dog tends to become aggressive during feeding times, he may feel that his food is being threatened by the other dog.

Step 6

Stay alert when taking your aggressive dog outside. Do not assume that just because your dog is acting calm one minute that his behavior cannot quickly change if his aggressive is triggered. Keep a lookout for possible triggers and avoid them if you can.

Step 7

Have your dog fitted for a muzzle or head halter. A muzzle will prevent your dog from being able to open his mouth so he cannot bite other dogs or people. A head halter will give you more control over your dog but will allow him to still open his mouth to eat or drink.

Step 8

Take your dog for a 30-minute walk once a day. Making sure your dog gets enough exercise is a good way to release any pent-up energy that could come out in the form of aggression. If you have more than one dog, walk the aggressive dog separately from the others so your attention is not divided.

Step 9

Avoid taking your aggressive dog to dog parks and similar places where dogs are not required to be kept on a leash. If there are other dogs running around, your dog may feel threatened or anxious and could become aggressive as a result.

Step 10

Keep your dog on a short leash when taking him for walks outside. This will not only make it easier for you to control your dog but it will also help you to establish yourself in the "alpha" position. If your dog sees you as the alpha he will be more likely to respond to training.

Step 11

Avoid showing fear or apprehension when another dog approaches while you and your dog are on a walk. If you remain calm, your dog may be less likely to feel that the other dog is a threat and he may not become aggressive.

Step 12

Teach your dog to make eye contact with you as a method of distracting him when other dogs pass by. Call your dog's name then quickly move away - if he makes eye contact and follows you, praise him and offer him a treat. Repeat this training exercise several times a day until your dog learns to make eye contact with you when you call his name. When you are walking your dog and another dog is approaching, use this exercise to distract your dog so his aggression is not triggered.

Step 13

Socialize your dog in a safe, controlled environment with one other dog at a time. So your dog doesn't feel territorial, make sure these encounters happen in a neutral area where your dog will not feel threatened by the presence of the other dog.

Step 14

Be consistent when making attempts to modify your dog's behavior. Do not let your guard down and assume that your dog's behavior has changed completely just because he hasn't had any problems for a few days.

Items You Will Need

  • Muzzle or head halter
  • Short leash
  • Dog treats

Tip

  • Keep in mind that dog aggression is not a condition that can be resolved completely - it can only be controlled. Even if you are able to reduce your dog's aggressive tendencies he may still respond aggressively to his old triggers at some point in the future.

Warnings

  • Never let dog aggression go untreated. Many dogs follow a sequence of increasingly severe aggressive behaviors ranging from growling or barking all the way to biting. If you do not correct your dog's aggressive behavior early it may get worse over time.
  • Never get in the middle of a dog fight. If your dog gets into a fight with another person's dog, do not attempt to grab the dog's head or collar to separate them. Rather, each person should pull on their dog's hind legs to separate them then quickly move the dogs away from each other.

Photo Credits

  • Catching a stick action shot image by Gleb Semenjuk from Fotolia.com

About the Author

Katherine Barrington has written on a variety of topics, from arts and crafts to pets, health and do-it-yourself projects. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a creative writing concentration from Marietta College.