Dog to Dog Aggression –
Why and How to Stop It

When dealing with dog-to-dog aggression, it is important to listen to our dog.

There are many reasons why a dog may act aggressively toward another.

  • He may be afraid.
  • He may be stressed because his space is being violated.
  • He may feel the need to dominate.
  • He may be protective of us.
  • He may be very curious.
  • He may just be over-excited.

Sometimes, what we perceive to be aggression may be the result of hyper energy, eagerness, or natural inquisitiveness. Therefore, in dog-to-dog aggression cases, it is important to understand what our dog is feeling, and what he is trying to say.

When my dog meets a new dog, I observe both of them carefully. As soon as my dog starts to get stressed, I step in and interrupt before the situation escalates.

For dog aggression issues, it is best to take a dog’s age, health, temperament, and preferences into account, while coming up with appropriate solutions.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 1

Be calm and decisive.

Dogs are very sensitive to what their human is feeling. My dog picks up on my emotions and reflects them, except with much more intensity. Sometimes, I am not even conscious of feeling nervous or stressed, but my dog notices it and starts to act up. Once I consciously calm myself down, his behavior also improves.

A common mistake when meeting other dogs is to tense up, and get fearful of what our dog may do. If we are afraid, our dog will pick up on that fearful energy, and that will likely trigger an aggressive reaction.

Be careful not to put undue or continuous tension on the leash. Also, do not pull the dog straight back, as that will likely cause a lunge forward response. To remove my dog, I pull him to the side and quickly walk him past the other dog.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 2


Ignore, Ignore, Ignore – Teach our dog avoidance.

When I see another dog, I usually just ignore him and move along.

I have found that avoidance is most effective when I avert my eyes from both dog, as well as owner. I keep my eyes forward, and keep walking at a natural pace. In this way, my dog learns that when we see other dogs, we avoid rather than confront.

Be careful not to crowd our dog while walking. If he feels trapped between us and the other dog, he may think he has no choice but to react aggressively. Do not stand still while trying to tug our dog away. Move away, and he will come along with us. At the same time, we are creating space so that he will not feel trapped.

I do not let my dog obsess or stare intensely at other dogs. Sometimes, my Shiba Inu will drop into a stalking-down-position, stare, and wait for the other dog to pass. Some people think that he is such a good boy for doing a Down, when other dogs are coming toward him, but he is actually just waiting to pounce.

Do not allow this bad behavior, do not let our dog practice it, do not even let him think about it. Just move him along, and ignore. If the other dog is somehow blocking us (e.g. if the owner is unable to control his dog), then walk away in a different direction. Do not stare the other dog down and do not confront him, either through posture or by physically engaging him.

Challenging unknown dogs is a good way to get bitten.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 3


Create space or block the other dog.

We can do this by moving across the road or into a driveway, and waiting for the other dog to pass.

We may also move our dog behind a barrier, for example a car. If there are no barriers available, we can try blocking the dog’s view with our body.

By doing this, we avoid a head-on, more confrontational passing.

I have tried all of these blocking techniques, but what works best for me is to create space, and quickly move past the other dog. Whenever I wait for the other dog to pass, my Shiba uses that time to start obsessing.

Dog treats and trying to get his attention do not work at this point, because the other dog is too close, and Shiba Sephy is no longer listening. The advantage of walking Sephy briskly past the other dog, is that he has less time to stare. In addition, he cannot fully obsess, because he must partly focus on walking.

However, using barriers and blocking may work better for a fearful dog.

Some trainers suggest turning and walking away when we see another dog, rather than passing him or waiting for him to pass.

There are two problems with this method:

  • If we turn away, the other dog will be following us. This may cause some dogs to keep looking back, to make sure that the follower is not a threat. I have tried this, and indeed my Shiba keeps looking back.
  • If we keep turning away, we may meet other dogs and get boxed in; especially if there are many dogs in our neighborhood.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 4

Create neutral experiences.

I try to create as many neutral dog-to-dog meeting experiences as possible. If every time my dog sees another dog, we just pass by and nothing interesting happens, it will become a non-event.

Being consistent with neutral greetings will build our dog’s confidence. Through repetition, we are teaching him how to behave (just avoid and move along), and how not to behave (get over-excited, frustrated, lunge, and pull). He will be more calm because he is not waiting in anticipation of a highly charged encounter, either for play or for confrontation.

I try to set my dog up for success, and do not let him practice aggressive behaviors when meeting other dogs. The more he practices, the more aggressive he will be.

If my dog becomes agitated during a walk, I try to end the outing as soon as possible. Once in this mode, his adrenaline levels will be high for a fair duration, and he will likely react aggressively to all the dogs that we meet. In this state, he will no longer be capable of learning, and will only be practicing dog aggressive behaviors.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 5


Protect our dog from rude dogs and rude people.

I usually keep my dog away from people and dogs with weak energy (e.g. fearful, excited, or frustrated energy). In addition, I also try to keep other dogs and owners from coming into my dog’s space. I say a quick ‘hi’ to the people I meet, and move on.

If people with weak energy stop and want to meet my dog, I ask them nicely to please move on, because my dog is easily excitable.

It is fine and good to let a dog meet people with calm energy, but make sure to let them know how to best meet our dog. In particular, turn away when he jumps, no quick movements, and no petting from above.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 6

Use positive interrupts and keep encounters short.

While greeting another dog, we want to positively interrupt our dog every so often, and get him to refocus on us. Do this as many times as necessary, so that our dog does not get over-excited, and lose control of himself.

Whenever my dog is meeting a new dog, I interrupt him after a very short duration (2-3 seconds). I quickly move or jog away from the other dog, while giving the positive interrupt command, e.g. Hey, hey. Initially, I may have to lightly tug at my dog while moving away. I make sure to treat him well for moving toward me on a loose leash.

If our dog is too obsessed to move away and is strongly standing his ground, then we have waited too long to initiate the interrupt. Positive interrupts are also useful for dealing with human greetings, and getting our dog away from a dirty or unsuitable area.

The key to successful positive interrupts is to catch a dog early, before he starts to obsess on another dog or object.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 7

Be aware that our dog’s natural look may trigger an aggressive reaction.

Some dogs, for example Spitz-type dogs, have a natural look that may appear dominant (ears up, hair out, tail up). This dominant look may instigate other dogs to respond in kind, and start posturing as well. Conflicts may occur, and if neither dog is willing to back down, this may lead to a dog fight.

If I am unsure about a dog greeting, I just move on. Better to be safe than sorry.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 8

Desensitize our dog toward other dogs.

The problem with dog-to-dog aggression issues, is that in regular situations the “other dog” stimulus is too strong, and environment is too unstructured for any learning to occur. Often, our dog overloads quickly and becomes reactive, because the other dog is too close, is staring, is hyper, or is charging toward us.

In the desensitization process, we do training in a quiet, enclosed environment, and start with a very weak version of the problem stimulus. In terms of reactivity toward other dogs, we can use distance to weaken its effect.

In this way, we also weaken the strength of our dog’s reaction, so that he will be calm enough to listen and learn. This is necessary, to create opportunities where we can begin to teach our dog to be calm and relaxed, while in the presence of another dog.

I did quite a lot of dog-to-dog desensitization sessions with Sephy, when he was young, at our local SPCA. The trainers there had many balanced, friendly dogs, that we could do training with.

First, the trainer would engage the other dog in training exercises, so that he stays in a fixed position, and is not focused on Sephy (i.e., no eye-contact). Both dogs are on-leash.

I take Sephy a far distance away, far enough away that he is still calm and able to listen to me. Then, I get his attention by calling his name. If he looks at me, I praise, and treat him for behaving well. Sometimes, I also ask him to do very simple commands, e.g. Sit.

I let Sephy sit and watch the other dog as long as he is calm, and willing to give me his attention when I ask for it. Once we are both comfortable with this, I move one step toward the other dog and repeat the Focus and Sit exercises above.

Do not move too close to the other dog, too quickly. If we move forward too fast, our dog may become reactive, and will no longer be able to give us his attention. At this point, I no-mark Sephy (uh-oh) and move back a few steps. Once we are far enough away, I try to get his attention again. When he gives it to me, I stop, praise, and treat.

Note – for desensitization to be successful, we want to keep our dog below his instinct threshold as much as possible.

I always try to make sessions short, fun, and rewarding. This helps our dog associate other dogs with being calm, and with positive experiences. I make sure to stop before my dog shows any obsessive behavior, and long before he becomes aggressive. Once a dog becomes reactive or aggressive, it is usually best to end the session soon after.

As we make progress, we can slowly increase the strength of the problem stimulus. For example, we may allow the target dog to start moving around, or we may allow him to play with his handler.

The desensitization process can be long and difficult. Dogs with lower instinct thresholds (the point at which they lose control and switch to instinct) will be harder to desensitize. However, consistent practice will also help to raise this threshold.

What to Expect from Dog-to-Dog Aggression Training

Do not expect too much, too quickly, from our dog. Make sure to treat and praise him very well, if he voluntarily engages in avoidance maneuvers, when there are other dogs around. This includes looking away from the direction of the other dog, smelling and exploring the environment, or looking at us for direction.

Initially, treat and praise even small avoidance moves, for example looking away for just 1 second. If a dog will not accept treats from us, then he is too far gone and it is best to lead him away. Treats are only effective for shaping behavior when our dog is still thinking, and not operating on instinct.

If we keep practicing desensitization exercises, and teach our dog how to behave with other dogs, he will improve. As he matures, he will become more confident, be less dog aggressive, and be more comfortable around new experiences.

For aggression issues between two family dogs, please refer to Introducing a Second Dog into the Home.

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Comments

  1. Tom says

    My wife and I are caring for our son’s Sheba Inu while he is in college. She is extremely dog aggressive, and when we walk her, we try to follow some of the above advice in avoidance of other dogs, etc. The main problem is that she is also a runner, and escapes the house a few times a year, and runs at high speeds and attacks any dog in her path. She was a rescue dog, and then we got her from an owner who said she was too uncontrollable to keep. She is great with people, and hardly ever barks, but is a terror when she gets loose on the streets. I doubt an invisible fence would stop her (she is way too fast and would go through it very quickly), so should we seek some professional local help?
    Thanks!
    Tom

  2. Taylor says

    I just wanted to say thank you for the articles about your Shiba Inu. We got our Shar Pei while in Germany, on a military post, where there was not much interaction for him with other dogs. There are certain dogs that want to play with him and will not test his dominance, and he has found the best friends in those dogs. Other dogs test his dominance, and like your Shiba Inu, he will not back down. We try to take walks and practice avoidance and desensitization as much as possible. Your articles have made me feel like we’re not alone in the quest to find answers for our aggressive pup. I often get negative looks and responses from strangers and even my vet. Your articles have made me feel as though my dog is not the only one going through training and finding what’s comfortable for him.

  3. Skye says

    Hello!

    We have a 9 year old miniature Australian shepherd, who was raised by another until she was 3-4. We recently got a 6 month old pomsky puppy and are working on socializing them. They are about the same size. The Aussie does well out on walks, and will calmly walk beside the puppy, and often be okay in the yard/house. The puppy has no aggression, and is curious and playful. The aussie does not act aggressive towards the two house cats recently introduced. (My fiance had the cats, I had the dog and we recently moved into a house together). I am sure the new territory and rival are escalating the conflict. She acts aggressive towards the puppy when there are toys/treats/or the puppy receives attention or gets too close. It appears to be possessive, territorial, and dominance aggression. Are there any extra tips for socializing these two in the home? We keep them separated with a fenced baby gate. The puppy goes in the crate at night in a separate portion of the house, and the Aussie does not get a crate. A thought was to crate the Aussie again (she was crate trained as a puppy) to give her less sense of owning the property, however my worry is she could see this as punishment and generate irreversible resentment. Should we be socializing them completely on neutral ground with a trainer first until they show no more signs and then restarting in the home, or nipping it in the bud directly in the home with consistent training? Thank you for any tips. :)

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. I supervise them very closely during periods of interaction and make sure that everyone is following the rules. One very important rule is no-stealing. As soon as I notice the beginning of any anti-social behavior, I interrupt and redirect, before things escalate. In this way, all my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty, and certainty helps to reduce stress and conflicts.

      I also put my puppy on a fixed routine and I keep her away from my adult dogs when they want to be left alone. Puppies have a lot of energy and are infinitely curious. This can be annoying to an older dog, especially when he wants to rest or merely wants to enjoy chewing on a favorite toy.

      At the same time, I also try to create as many positive and rewarding together-time as possible. For example, I will do obedience exercises or structured play-exercises with my new puppy. I make sure the exercises are positive and very rewarding. This usually attracts my older dogs, who also want to join in on the positive experience. When they come, I make sure to reward then really really well. I get them all to focus on me, do work for me, and I reward them all exceptionally well (especially in the beginning), for being calm and listening to me.

      I want to not only maximize positive and rewarding time together, but also minimize conflicts and negative events. In this way, my existing dogs learn to see the new puppy as an enhancement to their lifestyle, rather than an annoyance who steals space, toys, and their people’s attention.

      I do not leave my dogs alone together until I am very very sure that there will be absolutely no issues.

      More on how I help my dogs get along.

      However, as you know, dog behavior is very context dependent and it sounds like there may also be resource guarding behaviors. To be safe, I would consult with a good trainer who can visit and observe both dogs, and help develop a good plan for integration.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  4. Lisa says

    Thank you for your article! I am fostering a 115 pound 3 year old male german shepherd (neutered). He is very dog aggressive and I have been unable to take him on walks unless we go to a deserted parking lot or similar. A trainer tried putting a small stuffed dog in Sampson’s field of vision and he immediately attacked it. From what I gleaned from the woman who surrendered him, Sampson has not been socialized much so I’m not sure if his aggression is based on fear, if its prey driven, or just being a shepherd. Is the training the same? Any suggestions for my work with him. He likes people and with me is obedient, loyal and quiet.

  5. Juliet says

    I recently rescued Cody, a 2 year old male Schnauzer/Poodle mix. We already had Luna, a seven year old labradoodle female. We introduced the dogs slowly and after some initial wariness the two get along fine. But we are learning that Cody can be dog aggressive with other dogs when they enter our house or if we encounter them in public spaces. I really appreciate your site and plan to work on socialization with Cody, but thought you might have an insight on his pattern. He is playful and usually focused on his ball and retrieving. He will ordinarily ignore other dogs unless they approach him, in which case he often overreacts and gets into a fight. He does not lunge after dogs when walking, and typically is not the initial aggressor. Rather, he seems not to know how to interact with other dogs, and reacts aggressively when approached by most dogs. I suspect that he was not socialized as a puppy. Unfortunately, this means we cannot have him off leash where there may be other dogs which is unfortunate because he loves to retrieve and we are accustomed to taking our dogs to off leash beaches and hikes.

    Also, we have many friends with dogs and have to shut Cody up when their dogs are over. In this context (in the house), what is your view on muzzles?

    Thank you!
    Juliet

    • shibashake says

      Rather, he seems not to know how to interact with other dogs, and reacts aggressively when approached by most dogs.

      Does he act the same way when he is not doing fetch and there is no ball around? When another dog approaches him, what is his body posture like? You say “most dogs”, what are the dogs that he seems more comfortable with? Is there a type?

      what is your view on muzzles?

      I think when used in the right context, muzzles can be helpful. However, when used in the wrong situation it can make things worse. It depends a lot on the temperament of the dog, why he is showing the aggression, the surrounding context, etc.

      What has worked well for my Shiba, in terms of his dog-to-dog reactivity, is to start small, go in small steps, and slowly help him associate other dogs with calmness and positive events. I manage his surrounding environment carefully, so that he is not exposed to situations he is unready for, and feels he must resort to aggression.

      The more positive and rewarding experiences he has with other dogs, the more confidence and trust he builds, and the more comfortable he becomes with other dogs. Similarly, reactive episodes will undermine that trust, significantly set back retraining, and worsen his behavior.

      A muzzle prevents a dog from doing physical damage to others, but it does not alleviate the underlying anxiety, stress, frustration, etc. A fearful dog may become even more anxious if muzzled, and then put in a stressful social situation with a group of unknown dogs.

      Here are some articles on dog social tolerances and socialization –
      http://www.badrap.org/dogdog-tolerance
      http://www.badrap.org/smart-socializing
      http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

      http://shibashake.com/dog/my-dog-is-friendly
      http://shibashake.com/dog/dog-socialization-what-why-how

      With Sephy, we did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises in a controlled and structured environment, under the direction of a trainer, and with trainer chosen dogs. A good professional trainer can help with first identifying the source of the reactive behavior, and then crafting an effective and safe plan for retraining.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  6. Andrej says

    I have a 2 year old lab,when he was about 1 year old i put him in the backyard, My neighbors also have a dog,and when he was about 1 year old he didn’t hate the dog and he was friendly toward other dogs. About 6 months ago,he started barking growling and trying to bite the dog,and he started barking and growling at other dogs. They actually got clipped 2 times,nothing serious but i think it might have made him aggressive towards other dogs. I’m going to move to a an apartment now,and take him with me,if it’s aggression,how can i help him get over it,help please.

    • shibashake says

      What is his daily routine like? How long is he alone in the backyard?

      Dogs may develop barrier frustration if left unsupervised for too long in the backyard. If untreated, barrier frustration can lead to negative associations with other dogs and then aggression.
      http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/how-do-i-manage-my-dogs-barrier-frustration
      http://www.bigdogsbighearts.com/Leash_Aggression_Barrier_Frustration.pdf

      With my dog, I do dog-to-dog desensitization exercises to help him be more calm around other dogs, and to reassociate other dogs with positive and rewarding events. We did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises in a structured environment, under the direction of a trainer, and with trainer chosen dogs. The key thing during the desensitization process is that I must protect my dog from further negative experiences with other dogs, including barrier frustration episodes, bad greetings, etc.

      Positive experiences help my dog to gain confidence and learn to trust other dogs. Similarly, negative experiences will undermine that confidence, significantly set back retraining, and worsen his reactive behavior.

      I talk more about the desensitization exercises I did with my Shiba Inu in the article above. However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so the dog’s temperament, environment, routine, past experiences, and more will all play a role. This is why especially in cases of aggression, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  7. Michael says

    This article is giving me new hope…. I have a golden retriever who is now 10; up until a couple of years ago he related wonderfully to other dogs. For reasons not entirely clear, he started to become hostile and now will attack other dogs if not restrained. When I walk him I have to choose routes carefully so there will be few if any dogs; I do cross the street to avoid them and I bring in his leash very, very tight as he strains to get at closer dogs (he will actually strangle himself trying to get to other dogs).

    I had him to the vet to see if there was a health issue causing this and nothing was found. I actually think it’s a little more subtle – about three years ago he had a change in living arrangement when he and my ex were divorced. We share him now but I wonder if the back and forth is just too disruptive for him.

    I look forward to trying more of the hints you’ve outlined above. I’m working hard on not being stressed when we come up on other dogs, but it’s difficult, particularly with people who let their dogs approach you/your dog and don’t first ask permission.

    • shibashake says

      One thing that has been helpful for me is to use my own body language to let people know not to approach. For example, I usually lead my dog into a driveway, especially when I notice a reactive dog or uncontrolled dog coming. If there are cars in the driveway, I use that as an barrier.

      Then, I face my dog, focus on him, and do simple commands with him. When people see that I am focused on training my dog, they usually do not approach. Some people may say hi or something, in which case I raise a hand and wave at them, but I always continue to keep eye-contact and focus on my dog, and keep him engaged with me.

      Another suggestion that I thought was interesting is to put an “in-training” vest on our dog, similar to the vest that guide dogs wear. The hope is that people will understand that the dog is working, and not to disturb when they see this. I have *not* tried this, so I am not sure how well it works.

      Desensitization exercises were also very helpful with my Shiba Inu in terms of helping him to be more calm around other dogs.

      Finally, yeah, uncertainty and changes to my dog’s environment and schedule can definitely cause stress, anxiety, and changes in behavior. Is your dog on a fixed sharing-schedule? What is the environment like at your ex’s place? Is it very different from things at your place? Are there other dogs around? Does she walk him in the same way? Does she have the same training rules etc.? Did he have any bad experiences with other dogs?

  8. Colburn says

    I have 3 rescue dogs. The first dog is a hound mix of some sort that is 60lbs. She is super energetic and leaps our 6ft fences like puddles. She now has a shock collar because nothing else worked. The collar does keep her in the fence. The second rescue is some other terrier mix at 18lb. They “seem” to get along and play fine. One day the battery died in Kipper’s (60lb) collar and she jumped the fence. She grabbed the neighbors shitszu and shook it until told to stop like she does a toy that looks similar to the puppy. We thought maybe she was confused. Now we have a 3lb rescue that is maybe a chi mix. We introduced by scent on us, then briery meeting in the yard on the porch, smelling through the door, etc. over a span of several days. Yesterday, Kipper got the 3lb pup and shook her too. We went to the emergivet and she had a broken rib and collapsed lung. Today she is doing fine and on the mend in our bathroom. Kipper did not growl or seem “aggressive” just curious I thought. My concern now is do I need to relocated Kipper because she could hurt another animal or perhaps even a small child. I know she doesn’t have the best yard. It is in a neighborhood so it is smaller that what I would like so I know she would like more room. Advice???

    • shibashake says

      Some dogs have high prey drive, and some dogs view little dogs as prey. Both my Huskies have high prey drive and they do not generally do well with little dogs, especially the ones who run around and bark a lot. They will also go after squirrels, deer, and cats.

      I manage their environment and set them up for success. I do not expose them to situations that they are not ready for. I pick their playmates and housemates carefully, set up clear interaction rules, and I always supervise very well during play. I also do desensitization exercises to help raise their prey threshold. I exercise them very well daily, and help redirect their prey drive into structured and safe activities.

      ASPCA article on dog prey drive.

      In their evolutionary past, dogs were predators. This may be a disturbing realization to pet parents, but almost every dog has a natural tendency toward some predatory behavior.
      ~~[ASPCA]

      Going after prey is a natural instinct in dogs. However, it can be managed, trained, and redirected so as to make things safe for our dog and for the people and animals around him. To do this, I would consult with a good professional trainer/behaviorist and also read up on prey drive and how it can be managed and safely redirected into positive and structured play.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

      I always keep my dogs on-leash and under my control when there are young children about. I would do this for any dog, because even friendly excitement behaviors and play may sometimes result in harm to a young child. I do not let my dogs meet children who are overly excitable or too young. I only let them do greetings when I am very sure that it will be successful and safe.

      More on how I deal with my dogs’ prey drive.

  9. Jane Stratton says

    I have a 8 yr old lab/springer mix. Up until recently she has always socialised well with other dogs. We socialised her through puppy training classes when we first got her. I have been able to walk her off the leash in open spaces knowing she will pass other dogs after a brief greeting and a play, and then come to call.
    Recently our neighbour got 2 border collie cross dogs. We introduced the dogs on leashes originally and all seemed ok, and they got on well. We did this only once, and in hindsight should have done more with the 3 dogs together.
    Now, a few months have passed, our dogs cannot go out together in our separate gardens as they try and get at each other through the fence, which is getting broken. Our dog is now aggressive to others on walks, has attacked and bitten one of our neighbour’s dogs through a gate when she escaped one day. I now have to muzzle our dog on walks. A local trainer has suggested we swap dogs for the afternoon as the aggression is all about territory and defending the humans on their pack. This seemed like a good idea, and we plan to do it tomorrow. Having read your previous advice I am now worried how we should do this.

  10. Arianne Joy Castillo says

    Hi,
    My 4year old German mixed dog has been aggressive after giving birth. The pups are now 7month old, and she attacks the youngest and weakest pup. She’s so fierce now, that even us are scared of her. What can I do?

  11. Katie says

    Hi,
    i give my dog cookies when he plays at the beach and comes to me when i call him. He’s been doing great but recently he shows aggression when other dogs also comes checking or asking for food. My dog doesn’t want to share so he would growl and got twice in ”fight”. Luckily no dogs ware injured. I wonder what i should do now. Maybe next time i should call my dog and go another direction then reward my dog when he comes along when there’s no other dogs around? Do you think that could be a good idea?

    • shibashake says

      What you describe sounds like food guarding behavior.

      Guarding possessions from humans or other animals is normal behavior for dogs. Wild animals who successfully protect their valuable resources—such as food, mates and living areas—are more likely to survive in the wild than those who don’t.
      ~~[ASPCA]

      In general, I do not use food when there are unknown dogs around, especially in off-leash public places. If I move away, all the dogs may start following me. I was in a puppy play-group one time, and this guy came with a bag of smelly treats. As soon as he brought it out, all the dogs started following him around. It created a stressful situation for him and for the dogs as well.

      I do a lot of exercises with my dogs so that they do not guard food with each other, and they are pretty good about not guarding food with other dogs. However, this just means that they have a higher tolerance and are less prone to guarding. If there is a high enough priority item around that they truly want, they may start to guard too, especially from unknown dogs.

      In addition, there may be other dogs in the group who may be prone to guarding food from other dogs, or even people. Therefore, even if my dog doesn’t initiate the guarding behavior, another dog may start the fight. If I accidentally drop food on the ground, that could trigger something bad as all the dogs in the group will probably try to get it.

      Dogs may also guard toys and other items that they see as a resource.

  12. Mariella says

    Hi,

    First of all thank you so much for sharing so much with us.

    I am currently living in South Africa and have four dogs (17yr old border collie, 12yr German shepherd, 7yr Australian cattle dog x and a 2yr small border collie x with something like a corgi).

    My dogs are all rescues except for the 17yr border collie who was a working dog – police drug dog… Despite his age and being deaf he is the alpha in the pack although I have got all dogs in good control.

    Anyway, 3 days ago I took in another dog from a friend who was leaving to Japan and could not take her 1.5yr old dog with her. She was flown to be a few hours away. Is very cute. But…is constantly growling at my other dogs…

    There has already been s little scuffle with my gsd who is rather anxious herself and with my 17yr old BC. I worry about my BC because he cannot hear the warning snarls and growls…

    So… I am wondering if you have any advice as to how to go about this without traumatising my new arrival and my pack of 4.

    One thing I’d like to mention is that my new dog has a bad limp due to an accident late last year and do I think she may feel even more vulnerable due to this…

    Is the growling a phase? Will it pass? What can I do…

    Thank you so much for any thoughts.

    Warmest regards from South Africa. .

    • shibashake says

      One thing I’d like to mention is that my new dog has a bad limp due to an accident late last year and do I think she may feel even more vulnerable due to this…

      Is she still in pain? Has the vet done all that they can for her? I have a three legged dog and she definitely feels more vulnerable with dogs that she does not know well, especially larger dogs. Some dogs may also treat her differently because of her disability. I always make sure to protect her, and I manage her environment carefully. I do my best not put her in situations where she feels stressed or threatened. Dogs who have hearing or vision loss may also feel more vulnerable around other dogs. Very close supervision and management are key.

      With my dogs I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules, and I supervise closely to make sure everyone follows the rules. As soon as I notice the *start* of any anti-social behavior, I redirect my dogs so that things do not escalate into anything more.

      I always try to set my dogs up for success by managing their environment, and managing their excitement levels. I make sure not to expose them to situations they are not ready for, where they may feel that they need to use aggression to protect themselves or their stuff. I set up a fixed routine and schedule for all my dogs, and I make sure that my new dog does not bother my existing dogs when they want to rest or want to be alone (and vice versa). In this way, my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. Routine, rules, and consistency help to create certainty and certainty helps to reduce stress and conflicts.

      I do not let my new dog mingle with my other dogs unsupervised until I am very very sure that there will be no conflicts or issues. I actually do not leave my tripod Husky alone with my other Husky (Lara). Lara is still young, she is pretty big, and often does not know her own strength. She has accidentally hurt Shania before during play, so I keep them separated when I am not around to supervise.

      I want to maximize positive interactions so that my dogs learn to trust each other, and learn to see the new dog as an enhancement to their quality of life. Similarly, I want to minimize reactive and negative events which will undermine their trust, create anxiety, and worsen their behavior.

      More on how I introduce a new dog.

    • mariella says

      Thank you so much for your advice and so sorry for not seeing your response sooner… i thought I would get an email! Anyway I will try what you suggest and hope for the best :)

  13. Erlina says

    Hello, i’ve a 3 years old dog. He’s Beagle and Basenji mix. I got him from my friend when he was 1 year old. He used to be a home dog.
    He never go out from my house without me or my family, but sometimes we take him for a walk. We ever tried to take him to go by car, but when the machine turned on, he was so nervous and look like frightened.
    One day when i took him for a walk, we stopped for a while in my neighbor’s house who has a new dog (actually a female dog) and suddenly my dog have slammed the pity dog and i just shock. I dont know if it was such a play or fight.
    Last week, my neighbor’s dog walked in front of my house without her owner. My dog was barking moreover shaking his body and i dont know that was kind of frightened or desire to attack (aggresive) or desire to the female dog (because my family never let him mate).
    So, Do you know what happen with my dog? What do you recommend for me to train my dog?
    Thanks

  14. Isabel says

    hello, a few days ago I adopted a 5 years old dog, I wouldn’t know the specie because he is mixed and they didn’t know what to tell me, I’m trying to learn dog’s language but I’m failing, I need a lot more training myself, but I need a tip, I can’t afford professional training session from professional trainers, ecceterà….
    But he doesn’t like other dogs at all, he stares, I call him he ignores even as soon he peeks a sight of another dog I tried to call him to get his attention, nothing worked he kept staring and pulling towards. He is a medium sized dog, has a great dominant posture, ears flopped up, weight forward, looking as big as possible I giggle because when I look at him he is cute yet I know is not good.
    This morning around 7am we went out for a routine walk, in the park he stopped to do his big business and with the corner of my eye I suddenly saw another dog approaching, looking curious, I couldn’t move him away because he was doing his business, the other dog was alone and un-leashed, I tried to stay calm and not signal my dog about my fear of what comes out of this. Well the other dog approached, as soon my dog heard him coming he looked at him I tried to call my dog he didn’t respond and once finished he launched himself barking and pulling, growling towards the other dog, I tried to walk away, meanwhile my dog was standing on hind paws trying to attack the other dog which started to bark and growl aswell, I have to admit I started to feel uncomfortable because I’m not a dog trainer and if something would come to happen I wouldn’t know how to break them apart.
    Fortunatelly insisting and forcing myself to take a calm state, I kept pulling him behind me until the other dog intimidated by me and by the barks of my dog walked off a bit, fortunatelly the other wasn’t stubborn. But I really want my dog to get along and not be so dog aggressive everytime he meets or sees another dog.
    As I said earlier I can’t afford all those exercises, also because I don’t know any other owners with balanced calm dogs, I live in a neighborhood where all owners babytalk their dogs and every dog is spoiled and hyper…
    Is there any other way I can control my dog from responding to another dog’s challange? or stop him from trying to challange another dog too?

  15. Eman says

    hi, ive yorkie terrier shes 8 years old, i adopted her when she was 5 years from family, she get used to me too much, sharing my bed, going out with me and acting with her like a real baby. but shes very agressive with other dogs, i brought yesterday puppie 5 months old, i kept him Inside the crate but shes attacking him for no reason. every time shes bitting him and i should interfer and separate them. this evening she bite me when i tried to stop her from attacking him and shes hiding from me in the other room, shes not letting me approach her and she will be grawling or even bitting me. the new one am keeping him Inside but he want me to stay in the same room, he start barking if am leaving for even 30 seconds, plz help am desperate

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules and I supervise closely to make sure they follow the rules. In this way, each dog understands exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty, and certainty helps to reduce stress and conflicts.

      I use leashes, baby gates, and other management equipment as necessary. I use these to make sure that all my dogs and all the people around them are safe. For example, putting a leash on my dog allows me to more easily and quickly control him, with less risk of him biting at me. I only use a regular flat collar. More on structure and drag-leads.

      In general, I try to set my dog up for success and prevent bad behaviors *before* they escalate. As soon as I notice the start to any anti-social behavior, I no-mark, and stop it before it escalates into anything more serious. The more negative events or fights there are, the more negative associations are formed, and the more likely it will happen in the future. Therefore, it is important to maximize successes, minimize negative events, and *not* expose my dogs to situations that they are not ready for.

      Supervision, structure, and management are all very important in ensuring that my dogs get along.
      More on how I help my dogs get along.

      Based on what you describe, I would get help from a good professional trainer. Dog behavior is very context dependent, and it sounds like there are many issues here. A good trainer can help with reading the dogs’ body language, understanding the source of the aggressive behavior, management, safety, timing, etc.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

      Where I get dog training and dog behavior information.

  16. Danny says

    Hi, My female Kelpie 8 yrs old is a beautiful natured dog who has been non aggressive to any dog at all before , but recently i brought another pup, a female Mastiff into our home and she plays non stop with her and has no aggression towards the puppy ,She will walk with no problems and listens to all commands , But when we go to the of leash area dog park she wants to attack every dog that comes near , I don`t think it`s her being protective over the pup because the pup wonders off to play and she will still be aggressive towards any other dog that comes near her still . I have friends that bring their dogs over to my house and they play together with no aggression at all.
    What are your thoughts on this ?
    Regards
    Danny

    • shibashake says

      Before you got the puppy, how was her behavior at the dog park? Is that an enclosed dog park? If you bring her to the park without the puppy does she act the same way? How often does she go to this park? Did anything unusual happen at the dog park?

      I have friends that bring their dogs over to my house and they play together with no aggression at all.

      Was she previously familiar with your friends’ dogs?

      I know that my dogs are a lot more confident and sure of themselves on home turf. They also feel very safe there. On the other hand, the enclosed dog park environment can be very high stimulus and can be stressful for a dog. There are often many strange, new dogs around, engaged in chasing, wrestling, and other high energy behavior. Usually, there is not much structure or supervision. My Shiba Inu picked up a lot of bad habits at the dog park, and his behavior and social skills suffered as a result.
      Our enclosed dog park experiences.

  17. Katelyn says

    Hi, I have a five month old female pit bull, who is currently at the vet now getting spayed, and she is perfectly fine with the three other dogs I have in the house. but as soon as we go on a walk, and she sees another dog, she pulls, lunges, and barks like crazy. I try to pull her away and tell her no, but she pays no attention to me. But I have noticed, that If I go up to the dog and associate then she is perfectly fine with that dog. I understand she is getting over excited over the dog, which can lead to the aggression. but I don’t understand why she acts the way she does. I just want to be able to take her for a walk and pass dogs without any issues. and I would like to get it fixed now since she is still a puppy, please, I need help!

    • shibashake says

      My Shiba Inu, Sephy, was a pretty reactive dog when he was young. He is curious and very dog focused. Also, at the time, he was an only dog. As a result, when he saw another dog during walks, he would get really excited and pull to get over to smell and possibly play.

      However, since he is on a leash, he is prevented from going. His excitement becomes frustration and he pulls harder and starts of vocalize. Ultimately, he redirected all of that frustrated energy onto the leash and started to do leash biting.

      I helped Sephy to be more calm around other dogs by doing dog-to-dog desensitization exercises. We did desensitization training in a structured environment, under the guidance of a professional trainer, and with trainer chosen dogs. I used distance and barriers to create neutral experiences during our regular walks. We drove him to quiet, low stimulus areas to walk, and did it during off hours as necessary.

      I talk about what I did with Sephy in the article above. However, just like people behavior, dog behavior is complex and will take time, patience, repetition, and consistency to change.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

      The most important thing with Sephy is not only to maximize positive events, but also to minimize reactive episodes. Reactive episodes will significantly set back our training, undermine his trust, as well as cause him to associate other dogs with frustration and crazy behavior. Therefore, I had to manage his environment carefully and set him up for success by not exposing him to situations that he is not yet ready for.

  18. Lara says

    okay so, Me and my fiancé own a pitbull Australian shepard mix, and he has food aggression with only one of the other dogs, I am wondering if it’s a dominance thing toward him or is it just the fact that she gets to close to him… I have done everything I could, did research…and yet no result has appeared…

    • shibashake says

      How many dogs are there? Which other dog is he food aggressive with? Age? Breed? Temperament? How long have they been together? What is their history? What are their daily routines? What are their interactions like when there is no food? What retraining exercises have you tried? For how long? What is the situation like during feeding time?

      With my dogs, I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules and I slowly teach each new dog what the rules are. I supervise well during meal-time to make sure there is no stealing and that everyone is following the rules. I try to set my dogs up for success by managing their environment, and not exposing them to situations that they are not ready to handle. I supervise closely and redirect questionable behaviors *before* they escalate into anything more serious. More on what I do to help my dogs get along.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so a dog’s past history, temperament, routine, environment, and more will all play a role. Things become even more complicated when there are multiple dogs involved. This is why in dog aggression cases, it is usually best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer/behaviorist.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  19. Jennifer says

    I own a Shiba Inu (Leon). He is a great dog except for his aggression towards other dogs, and his tendency to pull when on leash. There are a few dogs that he knew as a puppy that he still gets along with. But any new dog we pass on our walk he immediately stands guard and will attack. (He once slipped off his collar and tried to pick a fight with a great dane)
    There has also been an instance where we came across a dog unleashed and he attacked that dog as well. It scares me now more than ever because I usually have my 2 yo son with me. We switched to an easy walk harness, but nothing seems to help, he still lunges at other dogs.
    He has always been very hyper, so not going on a walk isn’t an option. Not sure what to do at this point.

    • shibashake says

      I did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with my Shiba and that was helpful. I talk more about desensitization at the end of the article above.

      With Sephy, management is key. The more structured, positive, and calm experiences he has with other dogs, the more confidence and trust he gains, and the better his behavior becomes. However, reactive episodes (e.g. where he lunges or loses control) will undermine his trust, significantly set back training, and worsen his behavior.

      Therefore, I need to manage him carefully so that I do not expose him to situations that he is not ready to handle. I drive him to quiet trails if necessary, and we walk during off hours, etc. I use distance, barriers, and more to weaken the other dog stimulus and set him up for success. At the same time, I do desensitization exercises in a structured and controlled environment, with a trainer, to help raise his reactivity threshold.

      I talk more about what I did with Sephy in the article above.

      More on desensitization and counter-conditioning.

  20. DogPerson says

    Hi,
    Thanks for your article. I thought it was helpful, however I do still have some questions. I have a three year old male Texas Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog and Australian Shepherd cross) who is extremely reactive towards other dogs (and people in some instances). He was from a backyard breeder and has genetic fear aggression issues. Dogs (big or small) who show up on walks are instantly growled and lunged at (interestingly, he doesn’t bark). Sometimes he will hide behind me as they approach before lunging out. I never allow interaction with unknown dogs. He pulls like crazy on the leash, but once the dog passes us, he is completely fine. People can walk by and, as long as they say nothing to him, he doesn’t seem to care (if a person does speak to him, they are immediately growled at). This makes walks very stressful. Would you please offer me some advice? Sundance (the dog) doesn’t like other dogs… period, but he can be around them (like in a house or in someone’s yard), though I have to be alert of his body language and make sure no toys or food are around. Thanks again for taking the time to help me.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    • shibashake says

      In terms of other dogs, I create distance to weaken the other dog stimulus, I use barriers if they are available, and I also do dog-to-dog and dog-to-people desensitization exercises to raise my dog’s reactivity threshold.

      The more calm or successful events my dog has in the presence of another dog, the more confidence he gains, the more he associates other dogs with positive events, and the better his behavior becomes. Similarly, reactive events (where he becomes fearful and starts lunging) will undermine that confidence, significantly set back desensitization training, and cause his behavior to become much worse.

      Therefore, it was very important for me to minimize the number of reactive episodes that my dog has. To do this, I manage his environment carefully, and I make sure not to expose him to more than he can handle. I drive him to more quiet areas if necessary, we walk during off-hours, etc. I need to start small, and in an environment that sets him up for success. As he progresses with desensitization and gains more confidence, then I can very slowly increase the environmental challenge.

      Desensitization exercises need to be carried out in a very structured and specific way, so it was helpful for me to get guidance from a good professional trainer/behaviorist, especially in the beginning. We did desensitization at our local SPCA, under the direction of a trainer, and with trainer chosen dogs. I talk more about what I do with desensitization and creating neutral experiences in the article above.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

      More on desensitization and counter-conditioning.
      More on dog socialization.

      As for food and toys, that sounds more like resource guarding.
      http://shibashake.com/dog/why-dogs-get-aggressive-over-food-toys

  21. CJ says

    We have had our malinois for four weeks now, she is a 6 year old rescue dog and until she has been settled in her new home we have been trying to avoid other dogs until we could take her to a socialisation class. .
    At first we thought her problem was that she would be aggressive towards other dogs if she was on the lead and the other dog was not (despite our efforts to keep her away from other dogs this has happened a couple of times where the other dog has been off the lead and trotted right up to us. In one case she knocked a newfoundland to the ground, in the other she snapped at a boxer. Neither dog showed aggression towards her at all)

    We have been taking her to a field where we have been letting her off the lead to run around, since she needs plenty of exercise we’ve been there about an hour each day, there’s plenty of space to avoid other dogs and you can easily see all around you. So we can see other dog walkers before she can and avoid them easily. She’s good on recall and always comes back to us. She did this even when she saw a Black lab she came back when I called.
    Unfortunately she did not come back to me when she saw two dogs that I had failed to see because they were hidden in the trees. She’s as fast as a greyhound so she was over there in an instant. I couldn’t see what was happening due to the trees but I heard the other owner shouting. She’s gone over, started a fight and from what I can tell, injured the other dogs leg.

    She was rehomed shortly before we got her but then taken back to the shelter, we were told this was because she was fighting with that woman’s other dog. This woman had her for three weeks and couldn’t stop her fighting. We were lead to believe that this was just a problem with that specific dog. From what we can glean, it is every dog. Unfortunately we live in a built up area. We can’t avoid other dogs, but I’ve been doing everything you said in this article about moving away from the other dog if I see them on the street. We can’t distract her with treats as she has little interest in food.

    Any advice would be seriously appreciated. We are not letting her off the lead again. And before she goes out again we are getting a muzzle since we can’t guarantee that another dog who is off the lead won’t come up to her. I wasn’t nervous about walking her before, I’ve dealt with dogs that have bad socialisation skills so I’m pretty laid back when avoiding other dogs. Now I’m worried about her hurting other dogs. Please,Any help to avoid any harm to someone else’s pet would be really appreciated

    • shibashake says

      With my Shiba Inu, I did dog-to-dog desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises to help him be more comfortable around other dogs. We did the exercises in a very structured and controlled environment, under the direction of a trainer, and with trainer chosen dogs.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/desensitization-and-counterconditioning

      The key with desensitizing Sephy is in managing his environment. I want to not only maximize positive and controlled events with other dogs but also minimize bad or reactive episodes. The more calm and successful experiences Sephy has in the presence of another dog, the more comfortable he becomes, and the more he associates other dogs with something positive. Similarly, reactive events will undermine his comfort level, significantly set back training, and worsen his behavior. I talk more about what I do in the article above.

      For dog-reactivity issues, I would get help from a good professional trainer who has access to dogs that can be used during training. We did training at our local SPCA and it was great because they had many different dogs that they can use to help Sephy with desensitization. In addition, the trainer helped us to keep things safe for everyone, and ensured that we carried out the steps for desensitization in an effective way.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  22. Anita says

    Thank you so much for this article. I have a 1 yr old rat terrier chihuahua mix that is in obedience class right now, and although I was told his aggression would be addressed, it is absolutely not (which is quite frustrating). My dog has aggression issues with people as well, and any doors that go to the outside, and a male member of my household (whom he barks at agressively and attempts to bite whenever he comes home). This means he barks at strangers and dogs outside, strangers inside, and even a family member. I try to walk him calmly by but it does not work too often.

    Do you recommend this type of training for his aggression towards people as well? I have tried both positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, but I must be doing something wrong for it not to work. I appreciate any help and advice you have to offer.

    Thank you!!

    • shibashake says

      With my Shiba Inu, I did desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises with other dogs and with people. However, the process requires a lot of management and must be done in a specific and structured way. To do it right, we did private sessions with professional trainers at our local SPCA, with trainer chosen dogs.

      The more positive and calm experiences my dog has, the more confidence he gains, the more he associates other dogs with good things, and the better his behavior becomes. Similarly, reactive events will undermine that confidence, significantly set back our training, and cause his behavior to worsen. Therefore, an extremely important part of my dog’s training involved managing his environment carefully, so that I do not expose him to situations that he is not ready to handle. I want to not only maximize positive experiences, but also minimize reactive events.

      More on how I did people desensitization exercises.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and situation are different. For something like this, I would get private lessons from a good professional trainer, who has access to dogs that he can use to help with training.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  23. Jeanine says

    I understand that judging a dog by its breed is predjustice but my 5 year old lab/terrier mix (65lbs) does not interact well with small breeds particularly chihuahuas, shit-shuz, and other companion breeds. If the small breed is calm and uninterested in my dog Foxy than everything goes well. But Foxy has been aggressive towards 2 chihuahuas now, one requiring medical needs and neither instances was she the initial aggressor. I need advice and help to train Foxy to relax and stay calm when small breeds become aggressive towards her. She is stocky and very strong with the potential to seriously injure or kill a small breed. Large breeds she is calm, playful, and sometimes intimidated by but I have never had to seriously correct her behaviors before with breeds her size.

    I don’t want anyone’s dog to get hurt, especially at the mouth of mine. But when a small breed acts aggressively I’m not sure I have the knowledge to help Foxy.

    I can’t help but feel that small breeds get away with being undisciplined and poorly trained too often because their size makes them manageable to pick up and remove from situations. That because they’re small they really can’t do much damage. But acting aggressively has lead my dog to dominate and inflict pain causing damage to a small dog. Someone’s baby.

    I need the dog on dog aggression to stop. I need to become a stronger leader with clearer expectations for my dog. But now everyte even we see a small breed, I become nervous.

    Some Tiny Aggressive Yappers

    • shibashake says

      Are the little dogs loose?

      In general, I try to set my dogs up for success by staying away from reactive dogs and reactive people. I also did structured desensitization exercises with my Shiba to help him be more comfortable around other dogs. We did desensitization at our local SPCA, with a trainer, and with trainer chosen dogs. In this way, we are in control of the environment and the experience.

      The more positive experiences Sephy had with other dogs, the more comfortable he became and the more he associated other dogs with something good. Similarly, reactive experiences will undermine his comfort level, make him be more reactive, and significantly set back our training. Therefore, I manage Sephy carefully and I do not expose him to situations that he is not ready for.

      I talk about what I did with Sephy in the article above, including creating neutral experiences and desensitization.

  24. Heidi says

    I have a sheba/chow mix. Starr… She is 11 and I love her!!! A few months ago she was attacked by a lab who almost tore her ear off. Now when I walk her she is extremely aggressive towards other dogs…. I keep her on her leash but she will lunge and growl and bark at other dogs. She has never done this before… HELP!

  25. R.Lawrence says

    I have a 1 yr old boxer/pitbull mix who is fear aggressive towards other dogs. When he first came into my home, my 4 year old female Carolina dog was very aggressive with him–She is a very dominant dog with other dogs–she injured him pretty badly a couple of times. Since then my boxy boy gets very aggressive (snarling, barking, pulling, lunging) when he is around or even sees other dogs. I have not let him off leash near another dog since the first time I noticed this behavior. He is such a loving pup and very social, but because my other dog made him so scared of dogs, he assumes all dogs will be hurtful to him and immediately goes on the defensive. Is there something I can do to get him over his fear without him hurting another animal? He is great and gentle with my cats, by the way.

    • shibashake says

      I did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with my Shiba Inu to get him to be more comfortable with other dogs. The key is to start small, with a very weakened version of the “other dog” stimulus and slowly build up from there. I talk more about how I did desensitization at the end of the article above.

      The more positive and calm experiences my dog has in the presence of another dog, the more confidence he gains, and the more he associates other dogs with good events. Similarly, reactive/negative experiences will undermine his confidence, significantly set back training, and worsen his behavior. Therefore, it was very important for me to manage Sephy carefully and make sure that I do not expose him to situations that he is not ready for.

      I talk more about what I do in the article above. Desensitization and counter-conditioning is best done under the direction of a good professional trainer. We did desensitization at our local SPCA where they had a variety of trainer chosen dogs that we used during training.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  26. Crystal says

    I appreciate this article. I have a pitbull, about 4 years old (he’s a shelter dog so I am unsure of his age or background). I’ve had Max for almost two years and we have been through alot together. Together, we have gotten over a short period of male aggression and he welcomes male family members and friends with high energy affection! I continue to struggle with his fear/aggression while on walks and at the vet. He was with another dog in my home for about a year, previously, and the two always got along well. He and the neighbor dog run up and down the chain link fence in what a previous dog trainer described as play, and I do not note any growling or aggressive behavior. However when I walk Max, or take him to the vet, he exhibits behavior that I cannot distinguish between fear and aggression. After several encounters of this behavior, my anxiety is high in these situations which I know is bad and I try to control. I do my best to remain calm and ignore his behavior, but if it wasn’t for the halti collar I have on him I fear he will get out of my grasp and I don’t know what he would do. When he is in these situations, He begins to wine and not exactly growl, but make a noise between a wine and a growl. He then jumps, twists, shakes his head back and forth in what I think is an attempt to get out of the halti. I can’t observe any aggressive body posture such as a stiff tail or raised fur or low head and neck because he jumps and twists and pulls so hard. Today this happened at the vet. I remained calm and safely removed him from the office with the help of staff but the other owners had to move aside with their dogs from us and I was extremely embarrassed. As soon as we were outside he calmed down and I made him sit and relax a bit before we left. I did not yell or pet him, I remained as calm as I could. How do I tell if this is aggression, fear, or just over stimulation? He has never attacked another dog; he was great with my old dog; he is great with my cat; and he lived with other animals in foster care before I got him. Sometimes I feel if he was off a leash he would be fine but of course am too afraid to test that theory in case he hurts someone’s pet. I’ve spent $600 for 2 training sessions and the trainer simply said “he’s tough” after spending several hours working with her dogs and seeing no progress.

    I will try your tips on our next walk, with space and trying to remain calm myself. I can definitely say I do not exercise him enough, and that is something I am working on. Any other advice or pointers would be appreciated. Max is sweet, he loves to play and he loves me and I just want him to be happy and healthy. I would love for him to have a play friend; I work 2 jobs and live alone and I try my best to exercise him on my days off. A play friend may help with that but you can see my dilemma.

    Thank you.

    • shibashake says

      My dogs generally hate going to the vet because when they are there, they get needles poked into their skin, they get poked at, prodded, and more, by people who they do not really know or trust. My Huskies will pull back, twist, and do everything that they can, not to go into the vet’s office. When we get in, all they want to do is leave. It is difficult to get a dog to “enjoy” the vet, when what happens in there is usually pretty negative from their point of view. Some dogs may get aggressive due to fear (fear aggression).

      When animals and people are afraid of something, they prefer to get away from that thing. This is called the flight response. But if escaping isn’t an option, most animals will switch to a fight response. They try to defend themselves from the scary thing. So a dog can be afraid of a person or another animal but still attack if she thinks this is her only recourse.
      ~~[ASPCA]

      Some things that help with my dog for the vet-
      1. I need to control my own energy. This is very important. My dog is very sensitive to the energy of the people around him, so if there is stress, he will pick up on that, get even more stressed himself, and become even more reactive.
      2. I try to find a vet who is also calm and confident. The energy of the other people around my dog is also very important.
      3. This is harder to do, but an experienced vet who knows something about dog behavior and training helps a lot. There were a few vet visits that went well, and these were with experienced vets who knew how to calm my dog, and who were willing to spend the time to get to know him. This is much harder to find because most vet offices are under time constraints.
      4. For my younger Husky, I wait outside the office and have the receptionist come out and call me when they are ready. Then I go in by the side door so I don’t have to subject my dog to the added stress from other dogs, who are probably also feeling highly anxious.
      5. I have tried doing desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises, but that is difficult to do properly because I cannot get access to the vet or vet techs for training. Plus vet techs tend to change a lot, and sometimes even the vets.

      Desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises were also useful in helping my dog be more comfortable and calm around other dogs. I talk more about desensitization at the end of the article above. It was a crucial part in improving my dog’s reactive behavior.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/desensitization-and-counterconditioning

      Finally, the dog training field is not well regulated, so finding a good trainer/behaviorist can be challenging. I first quizzed the trainers over the phone pretty extensively, then we did single consultations with a pared-down list. When we found some good ones, who actually understood the science behind dog psychology and had good experience with reactive dogs, it was very helpful. They taught me how to properly do desensitization exercises, how to read my dog’s body language, and helped me better understand the source of my dog’s reactive behavior.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

      I also read up a lot on dog behavior. That helped me to better understand and help my dog, and also helped me identify trainers who knew what they were talking about.
      More on where I get information about dog behavior.

      As for exercise, hiring a dog walker may be helpful. However, finding a good dog walker can also be a challenge.

  27. Laura Cardozo says

    U just adopted a 6 ur old boxer , she’s pretty good with ppl a little afraid of guys and. Does not really get along with other dogs, her previous owner couldn’t keep her anymore cause she attacked twice one of her smaller dogs ( female as well) however, this didn’t till 7 months after she adopted her . I walked her for the first time and she mostly did pretty well until other dos would bark at her . I couldn’t help but to get nervous when one of the big dogs kept barking at her so I started walking in the shoulder of the street .. I couldn’t cross the st cause of traffic . Anyway the dog we encounter got out at the end of the fence and they sniffed eachother and walked off eventually… But my dog wouldn’t move on and I got scared there would be a fight… She med my friends dog the other day and something didn’t click with them two and a fight broke out and my grinds dog got hurt.. And today I was in my front yard and my neighbors little yappy dog got out charged right at my dog… My boxer charged too at that point… I’m pretty new at this and I’m trying to read some literature but I’m just nervous of loosing control of my boxer . She listens to me mostly… But I do loose her attention with other dogs… I really hope you can give me some input…. I would love to keep my dog… She’s so mellow and good with my kids … :)

    • shibashake says

      With my Shiba Inu, I did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises to help him be more comfortable and calm around other dogs. With desensitization, I start small, with a very weak version of the stimulus, and in a structured environment where I am in control. The “other dog” stimulus has to be weak enough that my dog is able to remain calm, and learn positive behaviors from the experience. I talk more about desensitization at the end of the article above.

      Successful, calm, and rewarding experiences with other dogs help Sephy to build confidence, learn good social behaviors, and form positive associations. Similarly, negative or reactive experiences will undermine that confidence, significantly set back our desensitization training, and worsen Sephy’s reactive behavior. Therefore I manage Sephy’s environment and routine carefully, so that I always keep him below his reactivity threshold and so that he is not exposed to situations that he is not ready for.

      With Sephy, we did desensitization training in a structure environment, under the direction of a trainer, and with trainer chosen dogs. The desensitization process can be counter-intuitive, especially in the beginning, so it was helpful for me to consult with a good professional trainer/behaviorist.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

      To help Sephy stay calm, I also needed to control my own energy. If I got stressed, worried, or fearful, Sephy would easily pick up on my energy, get stressed himself, and become even more reactive. I talk more about my experiences with Sephy in the article above.

  28. Danijela says

    I have a 6 month old pug. Every morning we spend about 30min to 1 hour at dogs park. There are 3 to 5 dogs she meets and play with them every morning for the past two months. They are all young female dogs so there is a lot energy but they get along really nice. However, there’s a 1 year old bulldog which acts like a real bully and attacks all of thee dogs from time to time. She is not too aggressive/strong, but she starts the fight every time. It’s same with my dog. First few times, she attacked my puppy, we stopped the fight and that’s it. Of course, after like 10 times, now my pug won’t run away any more but she stops and fight back. I try not to over protect her and allow her to socialize, but also I don’t want my dog to get hurt or learn to be aggressive. Any advices how can to protect a dog in a dog park from dog bully, but still not over protect her, or allow her to accept this type of behavior as normal thing at the park. Thank you so very much!

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, I used to take my Shiba Inu to the dog park a bunch when he was young, but we stopped going after a while. Dog parks are often very high stimulus, unstructured, and sparsely supervised. In addition, there is no proper separation of the dogs into appropriate and manageable groups.

      Sephy ended up learning a bunch of bad habits, and his social behaviors with other dogs worsened as a result. He does much better in smaller, structured, and highly supervised play-groups, with dogs that match his temperament and play style.

      I set up a consistent set of play rules and I supervise. There is absolutely no bullying behavior, I manage excitement levels, and I make sure nobody gets overwhelmed. This teaches Sephy good social behaviors. He gets to play and have fun, but in a structured environment.

      The key with proper dog-to-dog socialization is not only to maximize positive events and good social behaviors, but also to minimize negative events that lead to reactive and aggressive behaviors. The more positive and structured experiences Sephy has, the more confidence he gains and the better he behaves with other dogs. Similarly, reactive events will undermine that confidence, teach him bad social behaviors, and result in negative associations with other dogs.

      While Dog Parks can be fun, they also bring plenty of NEGATIVE interactions by forcing your pet to come up against dogs that might be overly stimulated, short-tempered, outwardly aggressive or otherwise badly managed. Smart Socializing means keeping your friend dog-tolerant, and that involves AVOIDING dicey situations where conflict can spark.
      ~~[Smart Socializing]

      More on our dog park experiences and why we stopped going.
      More on dog socialization.

      He Just Wants to Say Hi by Suzanne Clothier.
      More on dog tolerances.
      ASPCA article on puppy socialization.

  29. Emily says

    Thank you for the article, I will start practicing what you have posted. I have a 6 month border collie/blue heeler mix who is just fine with both my other dog and my moms dog, but I took her to a dog park for the first time and she was extremely aggressive towards other dogs. Snarling, lunging, and backing away towards me which made me think she was fearful, but even a small weiner dog that was just as nervous as her even looked in her direction she was aggressive towards. I hope she gets better after following your tips! Any other advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Emily

    • shibashake says

      Dog-to-dog desensitization exercises were helpful with my reactive Shiba Inu. The more positive and calm experiences that Sephy had with other dogs, the more confidence he gained and the more relaxed he is in the presence of another dog. Note, however, that fearful or reactive experiences will undermine that confidence, significantly set back retraining, and make him more reactive with other dogs.

      Therefore, I had to carefully manage Sephy’s environment so that I not only maximized positive and calm other dog experiences, but also minimized reactive or fearful episodes.
      – We did desensitization in a structured environment, under the direction of a trainer, and with trainer chosen dogs.
      – We start small and go at a pace that Sephy is comfortable with so that I always keep him calm and well below his reactivity threshold.
      – At other times, I make sure *not* to expose Sephy to situations or environments that he is not ready to handle.

      As for dog parks, we went to a bunch of them when Sephy was young, but he ended up learning a lot of bad habits there. Sephy does better in more structured and supervised environments, with a much smaller number of dogs. He does best in small playgroups with dogs that suit his play-style and temperament.

      More on our enclosed dog-park experiences.
      More on dog socialization.
      More on dog social tolerance.

  30. Kati says

    Hello, I have a small beagle mix named Casper. He is about a year old and he is not yet neutered. He is not aggressive at all and he listens very well. I am a dog walker and sometimes I bring him along on walks. Well, I walk one dog and he is a Pitt/Lab mix and he is never aggressive on walks towards other dogs, not even towards Casper. Diesel (the Pitt mix) has an owner that works very long hours so I am there a lot and he asked if I could bring my dog on a play date and just let them play in the yard and the house since it was rather cold outside for a long walk. I agreed since it had never caused any problems before. His owner had told me that he gets aggressive about treats and food but toys should be fine. So I removed all bones, treats, and food from the area they would be playing in. Diesel is almost 2 years old and he is fixed. As soon as we walked in the door with Casper on a leash, Diesel cornered him and started growling. Casper rolled over to show him dominance and he kept growling. Diesel has a vibrating collar and I put that on him. They were fine for a little while, until Casper tried to pick up a squeaky toy from under me. Diesel growled and I gave him a warning verbally and on his collar and he did not stop. Casper picked up the toy and Diesel snapped at him and continued growling even after he had dropped the toy and rolled over and even yipped. Could this be because Diesel sees that Casper is not fixed and he sees that as a sign of dominance, or is it because Casper was showing that he was afraid? He did not even react to the collar. What should I do in that situation if it were to ever happen again?

    • shibashake says

      Some dogs get protective over their home area and over objects in their home. Does Diesel show any aggression over toys outside his house? Aggressive behavior can be caused by many different things. This article from UC Davis has more on dominance and aggression.

      True dominance aggression is very rare. Most often aggressive acts are based out of another type of motivation.
      ~~[UC Davis]

      With my dogs, I try my best to protect them from bad dog-to-dog experiences. Negative events may cause them to become fearful or mistrustful of other dogs, learn inappropriate social behaviors, and cause them anxiety and stress.

      It sounds like Diesel has some guarding behaviors, so if I were the owner, that is the thing that I would address. With my dog I did structured desensitization exercises under the direction of a professional trainer, in a controlled environment, with trainer chosen dogs. I also carefully managed my dog so that I do not expose him to situations where he feels he has to resort to aggression to protect his stuff. Reactive experiences will undermine his trust, form negative associations with other dogs, significantly set back retraining, and cause him to become more protective of his belongings.

      To help my dog I want to maximize positive and structured experiences, where he can learn good social behaviors and make good associations with other dogs. At the same time, I want to minimize aggressive experiences and events which will create negative associations, and undo all our desensitization work.

      Why dogs guard their food and toys.

  31. Christine says

    I have a mixed breed male (neutered). He has really been a great boy, and I am working with him to be a traveling companion. He is a little shy of people and children, but we are working on that and he is coming along well. He doesn’t seem to be aggressive towards cats, nor does he have a particularly high prey drive. He is very interested in new dogs, and any time we have visitors at the house he does well with them, the problem that I have run into is when we are out and about any face to face encounter with another dog turns very quickly into growling/snapping. I have started trying to work on this with him with some desensitization exercises. (ie. having him sit, down, stay when another dog is nearby) and rewarding him when his focus stays on me, rewarding him when he gives visible relaxation cues while in sit or down position. I am not sure if this is just a matter of stress and new experiences on his part or if this is the beginning of a real problem. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • shibashake says

      Does this behavior only happen on-leash? When he sees another dog while on-leash, what is his reaction? Is he still relaxed or does he get tense? At what distance does he start to react, or is it only when they are face to face? Does he act this way with all dogs while on-leash or only with certain types of dogs? Does he approach the other dog, does the other dog approach him, or are both dog approaching each other?

      Face-to-face greetings can sometimes be stressful and confrontational, depending on the temperament and body language of both dogs. In addition, when a dog is on-leash, his freedom is limited which can introduce more stress to the situation because he is not able to move away or flee.

      In general, when out on walks, I teach my dog avoidance. We only meet dogs that we have seen a bunch of times, who show relaxed body language, are friendly, and are under control. I also observe each of my dogs closely, and I take note of what dog types they are most comfortable with, and what dog types they do not enjoy. For example, my Shiba Inu does not get along with dominant dogs. He also does not like new dogs sniffing his butt. Therefore, we only meet with relaxed and more submissive dogs, and I make sure they do not go into his rear region, until he gets to know them better. 😀

      When it comes to dog-to-dog socialization, I want to not only maximize positive and successful interactions, but also minimize bad greetings. The more positive experiences my dog has, the more confidence he gains, and the more he views other dogs as friendly and non-threatening. Similarly, negative events will undermine his confidence, significantly set back desensitization training, and cause him to get more wary of other dogs.

      With Sephy, I managed his environment carefully, and I always try to set him up for success. We ignore most dogs during walks, we meet some that I am sure he will do well with, and at the same time we did desensitization training in a structured environment, with trainer chosen dogs. In this way, he never gets exposed to situations that he is not ready for, and he stays below his reactivity threshold, so that he can learn to be calm and to stay relaxed.

      More on dog social tolerances.
      More on the friendly dog.

    • Christine says

      Thank you for your very informative reply! In response to your questions, other than at our home he has not been introduced to new dogs off leash, and even the at home the introductions we have had are with puppies under 12 weeks. Generally he is curious about new dogs enough to go check them out while on leash, but I wouldn’t say that he is excited or wound up. I will say that a certain degree of wariness does seem to be present in his posture. The reaction so far is always when face to face, and I am not really sure what the trigger is for him, because they can be politely sniffing at each other for several moments and then I will see him tense up if I watch closely and from there I can still distract him and move away without any resistance. He is generally the one approaching, but he does not like a strange dog approaching him. Again thank you so much for the info!

  32. Danielle says

    I have a 10mo th old Jack russell Pip he is very fearful of so many things he is tiny and as a small pup out on walks larger dogs off there leads would come up to him and get too close he now has built up a fear of other dogs and shows real aggression . My mum has a parson Jack russel who is 2weeks older than pip they were great friends always playful and good 2g. We didn’t see them for a 4week period due to my mums dog being neutered when we last saw them pip was awful he growled and when she got close he bit her you could see his fear he kept running and hiding behind us. I’m at a loss with him, he has always shown aggression towards us but this is mainly if he is touched whilst napping. Walking him is awful h is scared of cars and no pulls at them barking. I’m temped to try walking him with a muzzle so he can’t hurt anyone and can’t bark at everything but don’t want him to feel in more danger. We have been to ouppy classes he was always great until one day a new dog came they both had a real problem with each other I had to stop going due to work but now feel I’m stuck I don’t feel he could now go back he would be awful I’m starting to fear leaving the house with him . Pleas give me some advice

    • shibashake says

      With my Shiba Inu Sephy, we did a lot of dog-to-dog desensitization exercises. Desensitization was helpful because it addresses the anxiety, and teaches my dog to be more calm and comfortable around other dogs. I talk more about our desensitization training at the end of the article above.

      With anxiety issues it is important for me not only to maximize successful and calm encounters, which help my dog to build confidence, but also to minimize bad encounters and panic attacks. Negative events will undermine my dog’s confidence, significantly set back training, cause him to become more fearful/anxious, and result in even more extreme behavior.
      More on how I desensitize my dog to scary noises (for example from the garbage truck).
      More on dog anxiety.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and situation are different. In addition, desensitization can be counter-intuitive and requires good timing, technique, and management. When I had problems with my Shiba, I did private consultations with several trainers. In this way, they can observe and evaluate my dog, help me come up with a good plan for retraining and management, as well as help me with timing, technique, and more. I find that private consultations are best for addressing behavioral issues with Sephy.

      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

      A training class is not the place to try to solve a behavioural problem with a dog. Aggressive or nervous dogs need individual attention away from the class environment.
      ~~[Choosing a Dog Trainer]

  33. Kasey says

    Hi there,
    I have own a 1year old bitch PureBreed English Bulldog. I have had to leave her with close relatives for a couple of months now untill we find a new house suitable for her. We just picked her up, and I have notice a change in her behaviour. When she was with us, she was playfull, relaxed. I could take her anywhere with us, was good with other dogs as well as people. As the family members had her with their dog a (German Sheperd bitch) my dogs come back with wounds all over her face I swear she looks like shes been in a dog fight ring. Shes become very aggressive towards other dogs, and barks at everything now.
    Is there anyway to undo the damage? Please.

    • shibashake says

      With my Shiba Inu (Sephy), I helped him to be more calm and relaxed around other dogs by doing dog-to-dog desensitization exercises. The key thing with Sephy is to not only maximize positive structured greetings, but also minimize reactive encounters, where he loses his cool and starts to bark, pull, or lunge.

      I talk more about desensitization exercises at the end of the article above. I also talk about what I did to avoid reactive encounters.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, and desensitization exercises can be counter-intuitive and complex. When I started retraining Sephy, we got help from several professional trainers. They were able to evaluate and observe Sephy within the context of his regular environment and routine. Together, we identified the source of his reactivity and then came up with a good plan for retraining. They also helped me to properly manage the desensitization training, and guided me on timing and execution, which are very important.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

      For aggressive behavior, it is usually best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.

  34. Kelly says

    My 2 yr old rescue lab mix seems to be getting dog aggressive. I have had her for 6 months and she was so sweet went to dog park every day and always played well. The park is closed. For the winter and now when she meets other dogs she seems to be aggressive. I feel she might not be exercised enough without daily trips to dog park and it’s hard for me to go on long walks in the very cold weather. I want her to be able to play at dog park again In the spring but afraid she may be a bully by then. I take her to dog friendly stores or wherever I can take her to keep her socialized but her hair stands up on her back now. I want to put her in a class but just had neck surgery and need to wait about a month. I don’t want her to become aggressive what do I need to do

    • shibashake says

      How was she when meeting other dogs on-leash previously? What was the context when she met other dogs previously and now – i.e., what are the differences? Was she on or off leash? Was it in the same location?

      One of the key things with socializing Sephy to other dogs is this – I need to not only maximize positive interactions with other dogs, but also minimize bad experiences.

      In the beginning, I tried to introduce Sephy to as many dogs as possible, but that turned out to be a mistake. This was because he was having a lot of so-so and not very good experiences, and he ended up being even more reactive to other dogs.

      What works best for Sephy is to do more controlled greetings and play, so that he learns good interaction behaviors from each experience. I still try to introduce Sephy to a variety of other dogs, BUT only in a structured, controlled, and positive way.

      Dog-to-dog desensitization exercises were also helpful for Sephy. I talk more about desensitization and what I did with Sephy in the article above. We do structured play, structured walking, and structured desensitization exercises.

      More on dog socialization.
      More on how what I do during dog playtime.
      More on our enclosed dog-park experiences.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, and things become even more complicated when multiple dogs are involved. Therefore, in cases of aggression, especially those involving multiple dogs, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer. We visited with several trainers during Sephy’s difficult period.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      http://www.apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  35. Cindy says

    I have had 4 doodles for many years. All mellow and have gotten in routines and used to a simple way of farm life.
    They all are trained pretty well and get along. Each have a very distinct personality. Three of them are 6 and one is 11 years old. The 11 year old is Alfa of the group (and starting to fail) besides us humans are top Alfa). They are also all females.
    This past summer we adopted a unique little creature and she desperately needed a home. She is a mix Austrian Shepard and long hair terrier. Half the weight of the bigger girls

    She is a bit of a handful. Energetic and lively. She had come with zero social skills or training and was 9 months old when we got her.
    We have had her for 3 months now. Smart as whip. She has learned basic skills of demands and many tricks ( sit up- wave- high five- crawl-rollover- etc!)

    My problem;
    She is very pushy with the other dogs. She can get aggressive if she wants a toy. A few times the other dogs have layed into her- with respect- but have corrected her- and she wants to fight back and not back down. I’m worried about pack mentality if she doesn’t cool it. I’m not alarmed with any of these spats – yet. They don’t happen often. That’s what I want to stop before it could get out of hand.

    Any suggestions on how to handle this?

  36. Sabina says

    Hello!
    I have a one and a half year old male dog, he is a teckel mix, we have had him since he was two months old. For the last few months he has been showing signs of aggression towards other dogs and towards people.

    The aggression towards dogs appears when they approach him too fast and I think he gets scared, although they do not show any sign of wanting to attack him. The problem is that he enters this attack-mode where he barks and bites uncontrollably, and I have yet to learn how to stop him. He has also bit me while trying to calm him down, as if he didn’t know who I was. I must mention that this does not happen with every dog, only with the ones that approach him too rapidly.

    The aggression towards people has come up in a number of instances. The most recent one is having guests over, it is really hard to stop him from barking at unknown people that come over, and if these people try to approach him he will not hesitate to bite. Also while trying to stop him from barking he has bit me because once again he had entered that aggressive-mode where he does not seem to realize who is touching him.
    Another situation where he was aggressive towards me is an older one. While trying to pick him up for a bath he will lay on the floor and begin to bite if picked up. This happens only when he realizes that I want to give him a bath.

    I personally think that all his aggression is fear-induced. Fear of other dogs, fear of new people, fear of getting a bath. Generally he is an active dog, he does play rough (we have yet to teach him how to not bite while playing, but these bites do not compare in intensity with those from when he enters his attack-mode), but overall loving and not unusual in any particular way. He is stubborn, but does not show other signs of aggression around the house (except for the bath thing).

    What advice could you give me? How could I make him more relaxed and not afraid of new dogs and people? Do you think obedience training could solve any of these problems? I have found that for the bathing problem I can make him go in the bathtub on his own with a treat, but if I try to put him in there by picking him up he becomes aggressive once again…maybe I am triggering some sort of fear?

    I eagerly await your answers! Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      Did anything change when this behavior started to show up? Was it a sudden change in behavior or was it gradual? Is he showing any other changes in behavior? Is he playing and moving normally? Eating, drinking, and eliminating normally? Have there been incidents with other dogs before this change? How was he with people and other dogs prior to the last few months? Was he relaxed and confident, or has he always been fearful?

      When there are *sudden* behavioral changes in my dog, I rule out physical issues first. If my dog has a physical issue or is in pain, her behavior will change because she is not feeling well and is feeling more vulnerable.

      After I rule out physical issues, then I can look at other possible triggers and come up with a plan for changing my dog’s behavior. To help my dog be more comfortable around people and other dogs, I do people desensitization exercises and dog-to-dog desensitization exercises. I talk more about dog-to-dog desensitization at the end of the article above. I also slowly desensitize my dog towards handling and grooming. More on how I bathe my dog.

      In terms of play-biting or accidental, I do bite inhibition exercises with my dogs to teach them to control the force of their bites. More on how I train my dog not to bite on people.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent and aggressive behavior can come from many different sources. Therefore, each dog and situation will be different. This is why especially in cases of aggression, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

      When I had problems with my Shiba Inu, we visited with several trainers. Each trainer observed and evaluated Sephy, and we came up with a plan for dealing with each of his problem behaviors.
      More on how I deal with bad dog behavior.

  37. Meesha says

    Hi. I had gotten a rottweiler male pup who is now almost 5 months old. I now got another rottweiler female puppy and there is a big size difference between the two. The male pup just wants the female to stay near him at all times and this offends the female. This usually causes the female to get aggressive. Even when they are playing the female ends up biting the male and making him scream in pain. I have to keep them separately because of this. What do u recommend I should do?

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, I set up clear and consistent dog-to-dog interaction rules. In this way, they know what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty and certainty helps to reduce stress and conflicts. If one of my dogs needs some alone time, I make sure that my other dogs leave him alone. Each dog has a safe place that he can go to, to rest or chew on toys.

      When they are together, I supervise them well, especially in the beginning. I try to create positive and calm together experiences, and try to minimize negative interactions. The more positive together time there is, the more my dogs learn to be calm and relaxed together. Similarly, bad experiences will undermine trust and acceptance, causing stress and more conflicts in the future.
      What I do to help my dogs get along.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and situation is different. In cases of multiple dogs, there is even greater complexity. This is why especially in cases of aggression, it is best and safer to get help from a good professional trainer.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

  38. Jessica says

    I have a blue heeler “Percy” that I have had sense birth. I had no other dogs at the time so every where I went she was with me. I have an incredible bond with this dog. I would trust her with my life. She does anything that I ask of her and is my best friend. She listens, and is just an amazing dog that I could take anywhere and do anything with.
    Because we have such a bond she is extremely protective of me. Even around people she has to be in my lap or close to me but she never is aggressive to people, just dogs.
    Recently I got an australian shepherd “Fisher” who she thinks she is the mother of. She loves him and shows the same signs of protection towards him as well.
    Here recently we decided to breed him and we got another shepherd, a femal “maggie”
    This threw Percy over board because I spend a lot of time with Maggie and extremly baby her because like Percy I Have a strong bond with her.
    If I sit out in the drive way to love on all the dogs Percy will not allow any dog near me, not even Fisher whom she actually really likes. She isn’t mean and starting a fight with them. Just letting them know that I am off limits and when I do go to the other dogs she stays right next to me just to make sure.

    Recently this acts of agression have gotten much worse. Percy now has a death wish for maggie. She has gotten her down on the ground by the throat and I believe had no intention of stopping, but of course we broke up the fight. This has been the worse but she has been attacking her for a while now. With the last go at the throat being the most recent and worse attack she has done.
    I don’t want to punish Maggie by keeping her away from the other dogs. It’s percy but I do not know how to handle it.
    They are all outside with each other all day, none are allowed in the house and have houndreds of acres to roam on because I live on a farm.
    I do not want to get rid of Percy because I love her so much, but I love Maggie too and I’m not going to let her attack her like she does.
    Every time I witness an attack i try to show dominance over Percy and let her know what she is doing is not tolerated, but in this area she shows no signs of regarding anything I’m saying or doing.
    Do you have any advice? Any would be much appreciated.

    • shibashake says

      What helps with my dogs is to set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. When a new dog comes along, I teach him what those rules are. In this way, my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty, and certainty helps to reduce stress and conflicts.

      I do this right from the start so that I am fair and consistent with my dogs. I usually set up more rules and structure in the beginning, and then I can relax some later on as my dog matures.

      When I get a new dog, I try my best to keep routine and rules consistent with my existing dogs, so that there is as little disruption as possible. I want to maximize positive interactions, while at the same time minimizing negative experiences so that they learn to associate my new dog with good things and an enhancement to their life and routine. Therefore, I make sure *not* to cut down on people time with my other dogs.

      I supervise my dogs closely so that I can teach them what the rules are and redirect bad behavior *before* it escalates.
      More on what I do to help my dogs get along.

      I also do dog to dog desensitization exercises to help my dog be calm around other dogs and to teach them what to do in the presence of another dog. I talk more about desensitization at the end of the article above.

      When I am not around or am too busy to closely supervise, I keep the new dog separated. I do not let my dogs together unsupervised until I am very sure that there will be no negative incidents. This is not a punishment. It is a safety measure to keep all of my dogs safe, and to prevent my dogs from practicing undesirable behaviors. The more bad behaviors they practice, the more likely it will happen in the future, and the worse things will become.

      Based on what you describe, I would get help from a good professional trainer. Dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and situation are different. Things become even more complicated in a multi-dog household. In addition, while engaged in a fight, a dog may redirect that aggression onto nearby people, especially when we physically try to restrain him (redirected aggression). In such a situation, I would want to start off right and safe by getting help from a good trainer. With my dog, I also use management equipment such as leashes, gates, etc., to keep everyone safe.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      http://www.apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

  39. Taylor Newell says

    i have a walker puppy about 3 months old and i have a older dog and she attacked the older dog the other day for no reason and today while i was outside with the 3 month old puppy i also have a chihiua about 4 yrs old and she attacked him for no reason……… What could be causing her to be doing this

    • shibashake says

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, so when I want to identify what is triggering my dog’s behavior, I try to remember all the details of the situation. For example, what was the puppy doing prior to the incident, what were you doing, what was the older dog doing? Did the older dog approach the puppy? What was the body language of the puppy and the older dog? Were there any toys or food around? Were you close to the puppy? Anybody else around? Any other dogs around? What is the daily routine of the puppy? Have there been any play or interactions among the dogs? What kind? How did it go?

      When in doubt, I get help from a good professional trainer, especially in cases of aggression.
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

  40. angie says

    I’m so glad I found you. I have a 8 months old Shiba “Hachi” and she is very social with human and dogs. She comes to work with me which is grooming shop and loves to play with other too. However the problem I’m having is I have 3 other mixed breed at home, they all get along but once in a while Hachi and one of dog would start fighting. Hachi become too excited when Bobby plays with her and she gets too rough and Bobby just wants out and hachi won’t listen. Then Bobby growl at hachi and she will start fight. Also they are free feeder out of one bowl but not at the shop. I would put hachi ‘ s food by my table and she gets overly protective the space with other dogs comes around even there’s no food. Today Hachi bit Bobby ‘ s ear and I’m afraid what would cost next. Please help.

    • shibashake says

      What helps with my dogs is to set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules and play rules. During play, I supervise and throw in many play breaks, to manage my Shiba’s excitement level. He can get pretty extreme when over-excited, and overwhelm my other dogs.
      More on what I do during play-time.

      As for food, I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program, so all my dogs work for their food by doing simple commands, following house rules, following play rules, etc. Whatever is left over, I put in interactive food toys, so they work for that too. During meal-time, I supervise and make sure they give each other space. If one gets too close to another, I redirect him away.
      More on what I do during meal-time.

      Big hugs to your furry gang! 😀

  41. Pat says

    I have a Jack Russell x whippet . Sometime when I let him off the lead and he plays with another he gets aggressive by growling and trying to bite the other dogs neck whilst they are running . He does not respond to any commands when he is like this .
    Desperate for help as he is a lovely dog.

    • shibashake says

      Is this at the park? How is he when playing at home in a more structured setting? Is the other dog high energy/excited as well? Does he get this way with all other dogs or with just certain other dogs?

      When my dog gets over-excited during play, he goes rear-brained sometimes and no longer responds to commands. I help control this by managing his excitement level. I have play rules, create a structured play environment, and throw in many play breaks.
      http://shibashake.com/dog/second-dog-introducing-a-second-dog#play-time

      The enclosed dog park environment is too high stimulus and unstructured for my Shiba. Therefore, I do small play-groups at home, where I can properly structure the environment. I pick dogs whose play-style and temperaments fit well with Sephy, and I supervise closely during play to manage excitement levels, and make sure that everyone is following play rules. In this way, everyone has a good time, nobody gets overwhelmed, and play does not escalate into aggression.
      More on our enclosed dog park experiences.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and each situation is different. When in doubt, I consult with a professional trainer, especially in cases of aggression.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help

  42. Roxy says

    My dog, Siberian/Alaskan Malamute mix has been attacking my poodle, we have other dogs but doesn’t attack them only this particular dog when we are at home. My poodle is usually frightened around her for no reason and I don’t know if that is what triggers the aggression. We try to let my dog (poodle) be comfortable around her but we decided that it is probably bad and that we have to let them get comfortable at their own pace or she (Siberian/Alaskan Malamute) might be frustrated. She isn’t aloud to be around her when she is alone because we can’t trust her so it’s made our life very difficult. Also, when she is out walking she wants to attack other dogs or just growls at them but they just want to sniff her tail and if any dog sniffs her tail she quickly growls and we tell her “no” or “bad dog”, but she is very well with her commands. I try to avoid dogs when I’m out walking with her. She sometimes doesn’t listen to the commands at home, I don’t know how to make her listen to the commands established. She attacked a German Shepard (my brothers girlfriends) and left him a wound. Of course, we weren’t around but she only responds to my dad as the pack leader but I don’t know if the whole family has to be understood as the pack leader or just one. I try to become her pack leader but I think she believes she is the pack leader of us. We try to set boundaries and rules but she is stubborn and doesn’t listen sometimes. What do we do? How do I fix this problem, I don’t want it to be too late, she is four years old and I know I’m a horrible owner because I don’t know the breed or understand it but I love her to death and been learning about her breed and try to cooperate with her. Our past is the reason why we are inseparable. I try really hard and would do anything for my dog. All suggestions are welcome and even criticism.
    Side note: When my dog was a puppy, my other poodle who was sixteen at the time, growled and barked but aggressively like she was about to bite when she sniffed her tail when I tried to introduce them. I don’t know if this is what made her hate other dogs. Ever since then she has never been friendly with other dogs.

  43. Silver says

    Hello, I’m on the verge of a melt down. I’ve just recently taken in a 3yr old Chihuahua mix. Her owners could no longer take care of her, plus she lived outside and it was getting cold. So, being the Dog lover I am, I took her in expecting no problems, seeing as how her owner had said she had no issues towards other Dog’s or Cat’s.

    But upon getting her home, I am mortified to see that wasn’t the case at all. My Youngest Pup Katsu, who just turned a year old in October. ( He’s a medium, to small Dog. Dachshund and Beagle. ) He’s overly excitable, and loves to play. He’s a little loud, and I think he startled her a bit. That started her whole, snarling and snapping, and growling fits. She’s also not very fond of the Cat’s. I have a 7 year old Chihuahua mix, who is very small. And I’m afraid she’s gonna lash out at her soon.

    She also has a bit of food aggression.

    I don’t think her current owners, had allowed her any interaction with other Dog’s at all. She’s fine with people.

    I don’t know what too do…. I don’t want to have to be the bad guy, and find her a new home…. Can you please, help??

    • shibashake says

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and each situation is different. In cases of aggression, it is best to get help from a professional trainer who can visit with all of the dogs, observe them in their regular routine and environment, read their body language, and provide safe guidance on how to retrain the problem behaviors.
      http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/finding-professional-help
      http://www.apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/

      I help my dogs get along by-
      1. Setting up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. I teach each new dog what those rules are. In this way, my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty, and certainty reduces stress.

      2. I want to create positive, calm, experiences together and at the same time minimize bad interactions. Success will help everyone gain confidence and learn to relax with each other. Similarly, stressful or fearful experiences will undermine that confidence and set back training.

      3. I supervise my dogs well, manage their environment, and set them up for success. I do not expose them to situations that they are not ready for and I do not leave them together unsupervised until I am very very sure that they can be calm together.

      More on how I help my dogs get along.

      ASPCA article on how to introduce a cat to a new dog-
      https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/introducing-your-cat-new-dog

      However, given the complexity of the situation, with multiple dogs and cats, I would really get help from a good professional trainer.

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