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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  1. Bowsmommy says

    Very interesting, I can now understand some of my Dogs behaviors.
    I have a question, My female beabull (beagle American bulldog) is four, she has not been spayed but it’s definitely a must now! Recently I moved to a neighborhood where theres a nice park one block away so of course we run into several dogs during our walks. My dog has an extreme aggression issue with ALL dogs (&stollers) that are in sight. She barks pulls towards them but at first she gets really low, as if she’s going to creep up on them! And when they come close or if I try to avoid the dog by walking the opposite direction she goes nuts! She’s a very strong dog & honestly Im scared of her now. She’s no longer my sweet little dog. She’s a hassle to take out on walks and Im rather petite….im overwhelmed by her actions during her walks. Is there anything I can do? I don’t know where to start. I feel like I can’t ignore other dogs because it has previously ended up with my dog harming a puppy; It was a very scary situation to say the least. Any type of advice would help. Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      When dealing with my Shiba Inu’s reactivity issues, it was important for me to start small (in a low stimulus environment) and to take prevention steps early (while I am still able to redirect and prevent him from going into reactive mode).

      At first, I start leash training him in my backyard, which is very low stimulus and where I am in good control of the environment. In this way, I get him used to walking on a leash together with me, without pulling. Once we are good with that, then I *very very* slowly increase the environmental challenge. For example, I walk him outside but in a very quiet part of the neighborhood and during off hours so that I set him up for success. We drove him to quiet areas or *on-leash* hiking trails when necessary.

      At the same time, I also did a lot of controlled dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with him, in a structured environment, with an appropriate dog, and under the direction of a trainer. I talk more about desensitization at the end of the article above.

      The key with Sephy is to maximize positive calm walk experiences, while at the same time minimizing reactive episodes. The more calm experiences Sephy has, the more he learns to stay calm while in the presence of another dog. Similarly, reactive experiences will undermine what he has learned, significantly set back training, and cause his behavior to become worse.

      Therefore, I always try to set Sephy up for success by carefully managing his environment, I do not expose him to more than he can handle, I create distance to weaken the other dog stimulus, and I redirect and avoid early on, *before* Sephy goes into reactive mode.

  2. Cameron says


    Thanks so much for all your hard work responding to people and outlinning all your tips. This is really great for dog owners all over the world who are trying to train their dogs!

    I have a 14 month old American Staffy/Pitbull (whatever you want to call it) but have the 3 following problems –

    1) She steals toys when off leash in the park
    2) Her recall isn’t great when there are distractions
    3) Her manners aren’t great off lead and at times this has gotten her into trouble – she has punctured 2 dogs in the last month because she has been harassing them and then they retaliate but because she is the bigger dog can do more damage.

    We go to the same park every morning for 45 minutes. I am worried because this is the only time slot I have but she has had some altercations with other dogs and typically they remember her now and are scared/defensive which further escalates problems if we want to share the park. I practise training every day with her at home and take treat to the park to try and enforce good behaviour too. She has been through a number of obedience courses but I can’t seem to shake the habits.

    I have sought the expertise of a professional trainer now to do some sessions with us.

    From reading your blog, I am going to try and do the following –
    1) Train on the lead in the park with a lead – working on eye contact and focus
    2) Slow introductions for 2-3 seconds and then “hey hey”
    3) Don’t let her adrenaline get too high when training
    4) Find another dog and walk them both on the lead and practice training around just 1 dog

    Is there anything I have missed? I really want to enjoy the park off the lead with my dog but I am scared now that she could hurt another dog.

    What would you recommend I do to stop her from stealing toys in the park? If another dog resources guards she is typically the more dominant one and this can cause trouble.

    Any help would be much appreciated!


    • shibashake says

      Hello Cameron,

      Yeah, in general I start small and slowly build up my dog’s tolerance. With my Shiba Inu, the park environment was too high stimulus for him, so I started training in a much quieter environment first, and only very slowly increase the challenge. I try to set him up for success as much as I can, so that I can keep reinforcing good behavior.

      In terms of off-leash exercises, this ASPCA article has a good list of recall training techniques.

      Recall is probably the most important thing for an off-leash type park environment. The most successful dogs that I see at the park, are those with extremely solid recall. In the park that I used to frequent, there was this fireman with an Australian Cattle Dog. His recall was just superb. Every time the owner saw that trouble was about to start, he just recalled his dog and leashed him up. He was also great about watching his dog so that he can recall before things escalate.

      Sephy also used to steal toys at the park. It is a self reinforcing behavior because every time he succeeds, he gets rewarded with a fun game of chase with dogs and people; which encourages him to keep repeating the behavior. To stop such self-rewarding behaviors, I need to make sure that he *never* gets rewarded for it, i.e. I have to make sure Sephy never succeeds in stealing a toy and that he loses something good (e.g. play stops) when he tries to steal. At home or in a smaller and structured environment, I am able to do this. However, doing this in a park situation was much harder ~ unless there is good recall.

      I no longer take my dogs to enclosed dog parks. The environment was just too unstructured and chaotic for Sephy, and he was picking up a lot of bad habits. Here is a bit more on my enclosed dog park experiences with Sephy.

  3. ♥ my girls says

    Thank you for your information. Trying out some walking techniques, but I have a question. I have 2 litter mates adopted. I was told they are boxer lab mix but who knows for sure :) Both female and one is clearly dominate and the other is A ok with it. They are about a year and a half. When I walk them they do great until the submissive dog sees another dog. She will stare and then bark and try to lunge. When she does this my dominate dog will jump at the submissive dog and snarl and growl until it breaks her attention and then we keep walking. At least I think that is what’s happening. Eventually will the sub dog learn from the dominate? And could this be what my dominate dog is actually doing? She is really smart :) lastly… Should I let her correct her sister? I try to correct but she does get beyond listening to me so her sister steps in. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

    • shibashake says

      In general, I *do not* let my dogs correct each other because-
      1. I set the human-rules, so I decide when to correct and how best to correct.
      2. I do not want my dog to over-correct or try to correct in the wrong circumstance.
      3. When one corrects, the other has to submit. If the other chooses not to submit, then things may quickly escalate into something more.
      4. I do not want my dog practicing ‘aggressive’ behavior or behavior that may lead to aggression with each other. If they keep doing this, they may repeat it in other contexts that may not be appropriate.
      5. I want to maximize positive interactions between my dogs so that they learn to trust each other, to relax with each other, and to associate other dogs with positive experiences.

      In addition, I have a three legged dog, and it is important that I set clear interaction boundaries for my dogs so that they do not accidentally hurt each other.

      When I leash train a new dog or a reactive dog, I walk her by herself first. My younger Husky, for example, is a lot more reactive when walking together with one of my other dogs. This is because she is a lot more excited and bold when we go out in a group, and sometimes the dogs may amp each other up. I talk more about how I deal with my dog’s reactivity in the article above.

      In general, I start small, manage my dog’s environment, and do my best to set my dog up for success.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, therefore each dog and each situation is different. When in doubt, especially in cases of aggressive behavior, I consult with a good professional trainer.

  4. Loyde says

    Hi Shibashake

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge in doggies. =) I had a little bit of an “incident” a couple of days ago with one of my dogs:

    He’s a mix lab/beagle neutered super friendly one year old doggie, but we were in the park nearby my place throwing the ball and looking at our dogs play nicely with the other dogs there and a lady passed by with a dog on a leash (wearing a muzzle) and my dog went running towards the doggie and actually bit his leg. I’ve never seen him like that before. His way to be friendly is running towards the dogs and just be playful (I didn’t even tell him to stop because of that) but this time was different. =(

    Now I really don’t know what to do to “educate” my dog better, or am I over-reacting?. He’s well socialized, zero violence until now, but maybe something in us is missing to educate our doggie in a better way?


    • shibashake says

      What seems to work well at my local park is that people keep their off-leash dogs away from on-leash dogs, unless the owner says it is ok.

      Different dogs have different tolerance levels, and my dog reacts differently depending on the temperament and actions of the other dog. Some dogs may be fearful of other dogs, some dogs may not be tolerant of other dogs invading their space, etc.

      My dog is also sensitive to the energy of nearby people and dogs, and will react differently to calm energy vs stressful energy.

      He Just Wants to Say Hi by Suzanne Clothier.
      More on dog tolerance levels.

  5. Talia says

    Thank you for the information. We have a large neutered 7 year old Lab and a medium size two year old spayed pit bull, both rescues we adopted when they were one year old. The very wizened lab promptly put the pit in her place when we brought her home and continues to be very patient and tolerant but dominant with her. She has made doggy buddies, but meeting in our yard first is imperative. She has developed strong alpha male behaviors outside our home/yard. She is aggressive towards strange dogs (particularly submissive ones), marks and even lifts her leg when she does her business, pulling, attitude etc., more so when our male dog and her male owner are present. She is also much less attentive when we walk as a family. We have been working to desensitize her to other dogs, but it has been a tough road. Just when she starts to show improvement walking with me (I am female), she turns into a monster dog again when we walk as a family. Do you have any suggestions regarding increased aggression and general “tude” when particular people and sibling dogs are present outside the house/yard? Thank you!

    • shibashake says

      My young Husky, Lara, is also a lot more reactive when we walk her with our other dogs. I think that is common because –
      1. It is more exciting when everyone is out together on a trip.
      2. She is more confident and sure of herself when out in a larger group.
      3. Their excited energy feeds off each other.

      With desensitization, I always start small and very slowly build up Lara’s tolerance and reactivity threshold. Therefore, I start training with just her. The key with desensitization is not only to maximize calm and successful experiences with other dogs, but also to minimize reactive encounters by always keeping my dog below threshold. I talk more about how I teach my dog avoidance, and how I create neutral experiences, in the article above.

      The more calm experiences Lara has, the better her behavior becomes. Similarly, reactive events worsen her behavior and sets back our desensitization work. Therefore, I very slowly increase the environmental challenge, and I only increase one thing at a time. I did not attempt to walk Lara with my other dogs until she was already very very solid with singleton walks.

      Currently, we only walk Lara together with our Shiba, who is now very Zen during walks. This helps to set Lara up for success, because the two dogs do not amp each other up. In the beginning, I walk Lara and I get somebody else to walk Shiba Sephy. In this way, I can focus solely on training, redirecting, and controlling Lara.

      Since walking together with Sephy is more exciting and therefore a greater challenge for Lara, I set her up for success by tuning down the environmental challenge. We start walking them in the backyard first, then move on to quiet areas of the neighborhood during off hours, and slowly build up from there again. This is similar to what I did during our single walks.

      Desensitization can often be counter-intuitive and is dependent on timing, reading my dog’s body language, and managing his environment. When I was doing desensitization work with Sephy, it was helpful to do the exercises under the direction of a professional trainer. We did a lot of exercises at our local SPCA, with one of their trainers, and with appropriate dogs that were chosen based on Sephy’s temperament. I talk more about our desensitization experiences at the end of the article above.

      More on finding a good trainer-

  6. Jamie says

    Hi Shibashake – I rescued my mini aussie and border collie mix puppy when he was 9 weeks old. He is now 7 months old and was neutered 2 weeks ago. About a month ago, I started fostering a 10 month old border collie/husky mix female. She was spayed prior to her arrival. She is very sweet, and also very confident and seeks a lot of attention. I had my resident and foster dogs meet on neutral grounds before letting her into my home. The two dogs get along well for the most part – they love running, chasing each other, and wrestling; however, my resident pup was getting very territorial over his toys, and began showing aggression toward my foster pup during toy play. I have since removed all toys, and they are only allowes to play with toys when in separate rooms. Recently, I have noticed more dominant behavior from my resident pup. He uses his body to block the female from rooms or from seeing what I am doing if I leave a room. Over the weekend, I brought him to our local farmer’s market where he met a small dog about half his size. They sniffed each other and then became uninterested in one another. No problems until my puppy took a leaf in his mouth. I made him drop it, and as soon as the small dog walked close to “his leaf” he lunges, growled, and became aggressive. This morning he found a chicken bone outside that I made him drop. He dropped it, and when my foster pup went to sniff it, he lunged at her very aggressively. Just now, I came home and was petting my pup. My foster pup came for her usual greeting, and he lunged at her again. I do not think either dog is willing to step down from their desire to be the alpha. The female will be adopted soon, and will not be with us for much longer, but I need to figure out how to correct this aggressive behavior. It seems like his aggression has intensified since he was neutered 2 weeks ago. He is becoming less tolerant of the female, and my efforts to remain calm and authoritative seem to be doing no good. When he is aggressive I pull him aside and make him loom at me while I express my displeasure. He looks remorseful at that time. If we are inside, he will go in his crate for a short time. I do not think the crate is a punishment to him, though, because he likes his crate. I am at a loss of how to help him, and I am worries this is my fault for bringing in a foster pup while he is still so young, learning about his world and how to behave in his world. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    • shibashake says

      What you describe sounds like guarding behavior. More on why dogs guard their resources.

      With my dogs, I help them get along by setting up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules, and one very important rule is “no-stealing”. When they are playing or eating, I supervise them closely and make sure that they do not steal each other’s stuff. If one of them starts showing an interest in burglary, I no-mark and redirect him into doing something else. Prevention is best with my dogs.

      If I miss something, and an item gets stolen, then I make sure to give the victim adequate compensation. The thief goes to time-out in a very low stimulus area. I do not use a crate for time-outs. More on how I do time-outs with my dog.

      In this way, my dogs learn that I will settle resource conflicts in a fair and consistent manner. They do not need to protect their stuff from each other because they know that I will be there to redirect and prevent stealing. If something gets stolen, they know that I will give them back something of equal or better value, so nothing is truly lost. On the other hand, the thief will temporarily lose his freedom to play, his access to food, his access to people, etc. Therefore, it does not pay to steal.

      When I bring home a new dog, there is a lot of uncertainty and change, which will create stress. A fixed routine, close supervision, as well as clear and consistent rules help to create certainty and reduce stress for everyone involved. In addition, I also try to create as many positive and rewarding instances as I can between my existing dogs and the new dog. I want to maximize positive and successful interactions, as well as minimize negative events so that my resident dogs quickly see that the new addition is a big enhancement to their lifestyle.

      More on what I do to help my dogs get along.

      However, as you know, dog behavior is very context dependent. Therefore, in cases of aggression, it is usually best to consult with a good professional trainer.

      More on dominance and aggression.
      More on dominance and bad dog behavior.

  7. Cindy Taylor says

    We just adopted a 1 yr old westie/schnauzer mix. She is intelligent and full of energy. She loves people, but is aggressive with other dogs. I don’t understand this since she came from a rescue being fostered with 5 other dogs, they seemed to have gotten along well. When we walk, if she sees another dog even in the distance she stops, digs in, and stares. Then the growling begins. If they get too close she lunges. I have been making her sit down, be calm and focus on me until they pass, praising her for cooperating. My husband is frustrated and it seems I have more control over her than he does. Any advice?

    • shibashake says

      Dog-to-dog desensitization exercises helped with my Shiba Inu (Sephy) in terms of reactivity towards other dogs. The nice thing about desensitization is that it helped him to be more calm and raised his reactivity threshold. However, it took time, repetition, and a lot of management.

      I also make sure to stay calm at all times. If I am frustrated, angry, or stressed, Sephy will pick up on my energy, get stressed himself, and act even more crazy.

      The key with my dog is to maximize positive successful sessions and walks, while minimizing reactive episodes. The more success we had, the more Sephy’s behavior improved. Similarly, reactive episodes made his behavior worse and significantly set back retraining.

      I talk more about desensitization and what I did with Sephy in the article above. Consistency is also very important, so I got everyone that walked Sephy to follow the same techniques.

      In the beginning, I also competed with my partner. I think it is part of human nature. However, I realized that this just hindered Sephy’s progress and also my own progress. After I realized that everyone is part of the same “Sephy” team, things got a lot better. :D

  8. rachel says

    hi there, I have a 2 year old female German shepherd .
    Her first year she was fantastic and non agressive to people or other dogs.
    After she hit 1 it seemed to have gone down hill, she sees a dog walk by the house she is trying to bust out the window, walking her outside in parks or around town she is uncontrollable when another dog approaches or walks by . she will not listen to any commands when barking.

    I have called a trainer and it does not seem to be doing anything,
    Guests that she does not know cannot come over without giving notice becuase she will bark her head off if she does see them,

    Any suggestions? please help!

    • shibashake says

      What kind of training exercises has the trainer suggested? What was your dog’s response? What is her daily routine like? What kind of training is she used to? What was her reaction to other dogs and people in the past? Did her behavior suddenly change or did it happen gradually? Did anything unusual happen around the time of the change? What were her past experiences with other dogs like?

      Dog-to-dog desensitization exercises helped to teach my Shiba to be more calm around other dogs, and helped to raise his reactivity threshold. However, it took time and a lot of management. Desensitization and counter-conditioning helps to raise the tolerance level of a dog and helps the dog to re-associate a previously negative stimulus with positive events. For it to be effective, it was necessary for me to keep my Shiba (Sephy) below his instinct threshold at all times, and to prevent further reactive episodes.

      I carefully managed my dog’s environment and surrounding context so that I set him up for success. I also try to remain calm, and I make sure I have a good plan of action to prevent his behavior from escalating. For example with other dogs, distance helped a lot in weakening the stimulus, so I used distance as much as possible to ensure that Sephy does not go into reactive mode. We walked in quiet areas first, at off hours, so as to maximize success.

      In general, I do not expose him to more than he can handle. The more successful walks and training sessions we had, the more calm Sephy became. Similarly, the more reactive events there were, the worse his behavior became. I talk more about how I did desensitization with Sephy and how I create neutral experiences in the article above.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, and timing, technique, repetition and consistency are all very important while I was retraining Sephy. Therefore, each dog-trainer pair will be very different. When I was having issues with Sephy, we visited with several professional trainers who helped me with timing, technique, reading Sephy’s body language, keeping things safe, managing his environment, and more.

      Finding a good professional trainer is not always easy, because the field is not well regulated. However, it was helpful for me, especially in the beginning, to have someone observe Sephy within the context of his regular environment and routine, and point out areas that I could change for the better.

      I also read up a lot on dog behavior, which helped me to better filter out bad trainers and also better read and respond to Sephy.

  9. Stacie says

    I have a 15 year old Pekingese. I had another 15 yr old Pekingese that passed a year ago. I just had a 14 year old chihuahua mix pass away last month. He was left alone. Didn’t eat much. Seemed to age overnight. He has never been super friendly with other dogs. Just ours. We have a 4 yr old daughter who is an only child and full of energy. My husband came across a 1 1/2 year old boston terrier/ English bulldog mix that needed a home. She’s spayed and trained. We weren’t looking for a dog but decided it would be good for our daughter and we have always been dog people and a dog family. We brought her home. Did all of the complete wrong introductions. It has been three weeks of hell. The new dog loves everyone, is not aggressive. We have taken her on walks to the dog park etc. our older dog HATES her. Since he has been about 12 we haven’t taken him on many walk because his back and joints are bad. The older one has bit and snapped at the new dog. She doesn’t do anything. She could literally snap him in half. He has bitten us when we step in and he literally growls for hours and hours straight. Even if the new dog isn’t around. We don’t know what to do. We love them both. The older one walks around and looks for the new one and wags his tail until she actually comes to him. Is it hopeless? Did we ruin our chances of being a pack family? Please help???

    • shibashake says

      Some things that helped when I introduced a new dog-
      1. I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules.
      I supervise my dogs closely and slowly teach them what the rules are. In this way, they know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. I also set up a fixed routine for all of my dogs, including my new dog. All this helps to increase certainty, and certainty helps to reduce stress and fear.

      2. Supervision and management.
      I supervise and manage my new dog very closely, especially in the beginning. I try to set my dogs up for success and create as many positive experiences as I can. At the same time, it is important to avoid negative experiences, so I supervise, keep my new dog on-leash with me, and use other management equipment such as crates, pens, baby-gates and more as necessary. I make sure that my new dog does not bother my existing dogs when they want some alone time or rest time.

      I do not leave my new dog alone or unsupervised with my other dogs until I am very very sure that they can be calm together.

      More on what I do to when introducing a new dog.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and each situation is different. In a multi-dog situation, things become even more complicated. This is why in cases of aggression, it is usually best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.

  10. Georgia says

    Whatever I do my dog, (11 year old Cocker Spaniel) is still aggressive towards other dogs. Usually male dogs, with puppies and female dogs he is OK.
    I have tried the barriers, but he is still barking, pulling, and going round and round, making it difficult for me to control him. There must be someway to calm him. Thank you

    • shibashake says

      Distance and desensitization worked well with my Shiba Inu. Barriers didn’t work well for him either.

  11. Karina says

    Thanks so much for all of this practical and well-written advice. Learning about your experience is very helpful for other dog owners like me.

  12. SibeNoob says

    Oh my gosh, wow thank you so much for writing such a detailed article! I was able to apply a few of the suggestions and noticed immediate results on our walk with my 2yr old female Sibe companion. We passed by two different small dogs within inches and she didn’t even look at them or tug on the lead. Looking forward to applying the other advice at the dog park so hopefully I’ll be able to let her romp around even when someone brings in small breeds.

  13. Margaret says

    Hi, looking at websites to see if could work out why an older Great Dane Max(3) who we see at a Great Dane play date twice a month has on the last 2 occasions attacked my 11mouth old Great Dane pup Merlin. Max is neutered and Merlin isn’t yet. Last time we thought it was because another persona came with the scent of her female Dane in heat on her and most of the males entire and not where a little crazy! but today Max again fixated on my boy and had a go at him 3-4 times the last time quite aggressively but never breaking skin etc. Merlin is already a little timid around new people etc and I am also worried this will not help him. Any idea’s why Max has fixated on him suddenly? Merlin see’s him and hides behind us or runs to us and Max will come after him. His owners are now aware and follow him but today not quite quick enough to stop him from the attacks. Spoils the day out for us and him. We have an older female Dane who is neutered and have no issues. Thanks.

    • shibashake says

      Being un-neutered *can* be a factor. Here is an excerpt from an ASPCA article-

      Social problems. Other male dogs can easily detect an unneutered dog’s high testosterone level and become aggressive. This can make your intact dog a target of harassment by other male dogs. Neutering can reduce or eliminate this undesirable attention.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent so there could be other factors at play. Some dogs may target more vulnerable dogs, or dogs who are nervous/fearful.

      With my dogs, I always try to maximize positive experiences and minimize negative encounters. Therefore, I pick their playgroup buddies very carefully. Sometimes, the temperaments of certain dogs are just not compatible.

      For example, my Shiba Inu does not do well with dominant dogs because if another dog comes over and tries to bully him, he will fight back. He also does not do well with smaller dogs, because they get overwhelmed by his more intense play-style and become afraid of him. I only let him play and interact with larger dogs, who are more relaxed and playful. He does well with them and everyone has a positive experience.

      More on dog socialization.
      More on dog tolerance levels.

  14. Christina says

    Hello I agree with all your advice but my dog is a Newfoundland and unfortunately now he is 4 years old he has become aggresive with dogs tha he doesnt know, he lives with 4 labradors and a cat, but when i walk him he has become very aggressive and dominant and will pull with all his strenght, i have tried all of the above, he is very obedeient and listens to me in all cases except the agression with strange dogs.

    • shibashake says

      i have tried all of the above

      Dog behavior is very context dependent so details are important. How far away was the other dog when your dog gets reactive? Does he fixate on the other dog first? What do you do when he starts to get reactive, what is your dog’s response, what do you do in response to that?

      Have you tried structured desensitization exercises? What kind of dog did you practice with? How many desensitization sessions? What are the details of the exercise?

      Desensitization exercises were helpful for my Shiba Inu. However, I had to start with a *very weak* version of the “other dog” stimulus. I do that by using distance, using a calm “other dog”, and having the other dog be engaged with his handler and not on my Shiba. I talk more about what we did at the end of the article above. We did desensitization training under the direction of a handler at our local SPCA.

      As for controlling a large dog, some people use the head-halti. However, just like any piece of equipment, it has its pros and cons. It is important to read the fitting and use instructions carefully for proper use.

      Note that dog behavior is context dependent, therefore each dog and each situation is different. This is why in cases of aggression, it is usually best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.

  15. Tim Rebel says

    Dear Shiba Shake,
    One of our dogs got killed today in our garden by one of the others or perhaps a group attack.
    It is not the first time it happened. We had three dogs, a German Sheppard not pure blood, a Labrador also not pure blood and finally a Mini Schnauzer. Once grandpa could not take care of his dogs, four in total, we took care of those dogs since we have the space. A little later an English Sheppard who was also living with those four from gramps joined us still a puppy. Those four dogs are all smaller dogs and all from the street. So in total we had eight. Those smaller dogs were isolated from the others out of fear that something could happen to them since they were so old and formed their own pack. The English sheep dog joined our three dogs. So we had two groups of four. In that setting three of the smaller dogs were killed in a short time frame by one of the others or like I wrote before perhaps more than one. The remaining one joined our pack after that and all went well for year without any problems or aggression towards one an other.
    The German Sheppard very docile and timid (male).
    The English Sheppard is still juvenile and wants to play all the time and very protective of our property (female)
    The Labrador (female) was the dominant one but due to some allergic health issues had to step back and was replaced in order by the English Sheppard.
    All the dogs were by alone outside the house without human observation when it happened, the Schnauzer was inside the house.
    All are great with kids and other humans. I observed them all closely since we have a six year old daughter and also since six dogs came from the streets. I myself have been living with dogs since I was eight and although I am not Cesar Milan I have experience handling and correcting unwanted behavior.
    I am drawing a blanc at this one and need some advice as to what action to take. My wife suspects the German. I suspect the English one. Please help.
    Best regards, Tim from Chile

    • shibashake says

      Given the seriousness of what you describe, and the complexity of situation, I would get help from a good professional trainer.

      With my dogs,
      1. I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules and I teach each new dog what the rules are. In this way, there is certainty, and each dog knows exactly what to expect from me, what to expect from the other dogs, and what I expect from him in return.

      2. I carefully manage my dogs’ environment and I set them up for success. Smaller dogs, older dogs, and dogs with disability are more vulnerable, therefore I make sure to supervise my dogs when they are together. If I cannot supervise, then I separate them so that the more vulnerable dog(s) cannot get hurt accidentally or otherwise by my other dogs.
      More on dog predatory behavior.

      3. I redirect my dogs and manage their excitement levels before things escalate into anything serious.

      4. I use management equipment such as gates, leashes, a basket muzzle, and more as necessary to keep all my dogs and the people around them safe.

      5. Structure, rules, a fixed routine, supervision, management, and training, are all important in keeping my dogs safe and helping them get along.

      How I help my dogs get along.

      It is important to note, however, that dog behavior is very context dependent. Each dog and each situation is different. Which is why in serious cases of aggression, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.

  16. James Lamb says

    I’d be interested in hearing your response on this: My Aussie Shep. / Cattle Dog mix was well socialized as a pup. I took her to obedience classes, and we even did agility at a local animal shelter with a training center. We also frequently visited a local dog park. Early on, I was concerned about her tendency to be too submissive, as I had heard this could “flip” into aggression later. Fast forward to about 1.5 to 2 years, and she first attacked a larger dog while both were practicing obstacles on the agility course. The attack was the circle and strike kind, not the dominance kind, and the trainer told me that this was very serious. She is no longer able to do agility. About a year later, she again attacked while I was playing frisbee with her (wounded other dog on leg, circled, then tried to attack again). She has been in an obedience class specifically for dog aggression and had a visit from a private trainer. I always carry treats on our walks and practice the “look at” behavior, and generally try not to allow her to fixate on other dogs. I also try to give her a reasonable level of exercise, including daily bike rides using a device that keeps her secure on the bike; however, this problem behavior has seriously constricted my ability to give her a variety of stimulating exercise, because I have only a small yard, cannot take her to the dog park, and can never allow her off leash.

    I’ll close by saying that she is unpredictable. Sometimes, when off-leash dogs run up to her on hikes in the mountains, she is as friendly as can be, perhaps on account of being away from familiar territory. On other occasions, she is highly aggressive.

    I have not been able to figure out the specific triggers, and I am worried that at some point her behavior could expand to aggression against humans. She is a very loving dog and in general very obedient, and I would hate to have to put her down.

    • shibashake says

      Well, the circle and strike sounds like part of a prey drive sequence. Did she fixate on the other dogs first? What was her behavior like before the attacks? Were the other dogs nervous or fearful? What did the private trainer say? What did the trainer suggest in terms of rehabilitation?

      What were her interactions like at the dog park? Did she try to herd other dogs? What kind of play did she do with the other dogs? Were there any negative incidents? Does she usually fixate on other dogs? Does she fixate on all other dogs or only particular types of other dogs? What is her behavior when she sees cats or squirrels? What type of training is she used to?

      With a more submissive dog, aggressive behavior can sometimes be fear based. However, the circle and strike behavior that you describe sounds more like prey drive sequence. This ASPCA article has more on predatory dog behavior. It is difficult to say given the very limited context here.

      With my dog, the first thing that I do is try to ascertain the source and triggers of the aggression. This is where a professional trainer can be very helpful. I try to remember as many details as I can from when the behavior occurred, I try to look for similarities not just in the dogs, but also in the surrounding context, I try to look at my dog’s past experiences, and I try to identify predictive signals. For example, does my dog get stiff, fixate, change posture, etc. With my dogs, there are usually signals that indicate they are starting to prey-stalk, or that they are nervous. If I know what those signals are, then I can take steps early on to prevent escalation.

      I also manage my dog’s environment and use leashes, gates, or a basket muzzle to always ensure the safety of everyone.

      When I was having issues with my Shiba Inu, we visited with several professional trainers. There were some duds, but I learned a fair amount from the good ones. For dog reactivity issues, I tried to find trainers who had access to balanced dogs that can help with Sephy’s retraining. For a herding dog, it may also be useful to find a trainer who has herding experience. Teaching a dog to properly herd gives him an outlet for his prey-drive, while at the same time putting the prey behaviors under command control.

    • says

      Thanks for the reply. The private trainer suggested redirection and desensitization. Her training has always been positive feedback, with and without clicker. The trainer also recommended the class that I attended. The problem I had was that the humane society was so concerned about liability that we were never able to work the dogs in close proximity, even with muzzles and cages available. She was completely relaxed the entire time — not so much as a muffled growl over the 3-week course.

      She will often fixate on other dogs before becoming aggressive. However, in both instances where she attacked, there was almost no warning. In the first case, we were actually doing weave poles at the time, and I believe that she ended up face-to-face with the other dog, which was coming off another obstacle. In the second we were playing frisbee — the other dog appeared from behind some shrubbery very nearby and started barking at my dog.

      She grew up with two other dogs and still remembers and likes both of them. She also seems to like certain other dogs that she knew when she was young. Any dogs that display tense energy, like terriers and huskies, are a big problem. However, with certain unfamiliar dogs, she is very gentle and friendly — my only observation is that it seems depend on where the dog is when she first sees it and perhaps also on its body language. She becomes more aggressive when she is in the car or running on the bike attachment. She is generally, but not always, less aggressive when in unfamiliar areas, like hiking trails.

      Basically, I have had a hard time sorting out the triggers. Some of the aggression seems to be territorial (car, bike, backyard), some of it fearful (other dog’s body language, how the dog approaches, whether it is coming down a hill from above, size of dog, etc.), and her pattern of attack, as you noted, resembles a hunt. She has a very strong prey drive and, without leaving the backyard, has managed to kill several times, inc. a skunk.

      All of this built up gradually over a single summer — she went from being very submissive at the dog park, to gradually more reactive, up until the point where I had to stop taking her because the only thing she would do is growl. Negative incidents usually involved other dogs dominating her. I tried to create positive experiences and to keep her involved with responsible owners and familiar dogs.

      I actually feel that working with balanced dogs could help her — it’s just not an easy opportunity to find. On one occasion, for example, she had the opportunity to meet a very well-balanced sheltie, and did just fine.

    • shibashake says

      Hmmm, could it be that she is trying to protect herself, and views other dogs as possible threats? Could seem more so when the appear suddenly, startle her, and invade her space.

      For example, my Shiba Inu (Sephy) can be protective of his personal space. He doesn’t like new dogs coming in and sniffing his butt, because he sees this as a threat. When he was young, we used to take him to the dog park frequently, but he became more reactive because of it. More on our dog park experiences.

      Sephy does much better in small, structured, and highly supervised play groups. I set clear play rules, and I pick dogs that I know he will get along with. I also manage excitement levels by throwing in many play-breaks. This refocuses Sephy’s attention on me, and helps to calm him down so that play doesn’t escalate into something else.

      The key with Sephy is to maximize positive encounters and minimize negative events. I do my best to protect him from rude behavior by other dogs, we avoid dogs that I know will result in a bad encounter, and I stop bullying behavior during play. I leave at once if my dog becomes nervous, uncomfortable, or starts to fixate. The more positive experiences we had, the more calm and relaxed Sephy became. Similarly, bad experiences made him become more reactive, so avoidance and creating neutral experiences were also important for Sephy.

      More on dog tolerance levels.
      More on dog social boundaries.

      More on prey-drive training-

      All of this built up gradually over a single summer

      Did anything unusual happen in that summer?

      With Sephy we did desensitization exercises at our local SPCA and then later some sessions at a local daycare center. We did private sessions. He didn’t “meet” all the dogs that the trainers picked for training. Some of them we used just for avoidance training. The ones that he met and played with, they specifically picked to suit his temperament, play-style, and energy.

      Hope this helps. Hugs to your girl.

    • says

      Thanks — I appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond, and the links you’ve provided, which I am going to have a look at. I’ve started taking her to a local dog park. At this point, we just loiter around outside to get her used to wearing a muzzle around other dogs.

      I agree that she is probably fearful / protective of her people and territory. This would jive with her other peculiarity: she grew up with two other dogs and still gets along with them when she goes back for visits. And so, we shall see how this journey goes…



  17. Anu says

    Hello, I’ve read some of your tips and comments from other dog owners. I have a 14-month old miniature poodle, Zoe, who goes to doggie day care 2-3 times a week and goes to a playgroup for an hour for a couple of days a week. She also gets walked in the morning and evening by me. I’ve noticed in the last 2-3 weeks, that when she meets another dog, she is her curious, excited self. She even whines to go meet them. Then she has a sniff and the so does the other dog. I can’t tell what the trigger is that she quickly turns aggressive and starts lunging at the other dog. I have a feeling that something in the past is triggering it. But not sure how to correct it when her temperament changes so quickly. Any tips? Thank you, Anu

    • shibashake says

      What is Zoe’s behavior at the day care and playgroup? Does she enjoy being with other dogs? Does she interact and play a lot? Has she had any bad experiences at the daycare or playgroups? What type of dogs are in the daycare and playgroups – e.g. larger or smaller, high or low energy? Does she only ever show aggressive behavior while on-leash? Has she shown any aggression at all during daycare or the playgroups? Are there particular types of dogs that she shows this behavior with, e.g. larger dogs, smaller dogs, loud dogs, nervous dogs?

      My Shiba, Sephy, gets along best with playful, non-dominant dogs that are larger than he is. Smaller dogs get overwhelmed by him very easily and do not enjoy his play style. He also does not like new strange dogs sniffing his butt. Here is why.

      With Sephy, I figure out exactly what his social tolerances are, and I make sure to protect him from encounters that will have an undesirable outcome. At the same time, I desensitize Sephy to the trigger stimuli that he is most sensitive to. I talk more about our desensitization experiences at the end of the article above.

      The key with Sephy was to maximize positive encounters and minimize reactive experiences. Successful calm experiences help to improve his future behavior. Similarly, reactive events make him less calm and sets back training significantly.

      Note that dog behavior is very context dependent, therefore when in doubt, I consult with a good professional trainer who can observe Sephy’s behavior within the context of his environment.

  18. Alexis says

    Hello! I adopted my dog about a year and a half ago. She is now 10. When I got her, the shelter said she was dominant around other dogs but that’s it. Come to find out, she is very dog-aggressive. Immediately when she sees a dog she goes from 0-100. Even when I try to keep her moving, she will keep looking back, and sometimes when she is very into it, she will be up on her hind legs on her choke chain and it doesn’t seem to phase her a bit. I have to restrain her while her claws scratch at the concrete trying to get to the other dog. She is 45 lbs and half pit bull half Aussie cattle dog. The strangest thing though is that she is only like this when she is with people she knows! When no one she knows is around and another dog comes around, she couldn’t care less and it’s as if the other dog doesn’t exist! It’s so strange to me!!! Any advice? I’ve tried distracting her, making her sit, which she does for a few seconds then gets right back at it. Her energy level just gets so high and I can’t calm her down for a while after we have left the other dog. I don’t want people with dogs to be afraid of her, and I want our walks to be enjoyable. Any help?

    • shibashake says

      My Shiba Inu, Sephy, was pretty reactive to other dogs when he was young. Some things that helped with Sephy-
      1. Distance weakens the other dog stimulus.
      So I always create as much space as possible, and we ignore and move on. I talk more about what I do in the article above. Once Sephy goes into reactive mode, it is too late. For him to learn, I need to keep him below his reactivity threshold, by managing him, his environment, and not letting him escalate. Once he becomes reactive, I can only remove him from the trigger as quickly as possible so that I can calm him down.

      2. I did desensitization exercises to raise his reactivity threshold.
      Desensitization needs to be conducted in a structured environment. I start by only exposing Sephy to a *very weak version* of the other dog stimulus. In this way, Sephy is calm enough to listen, learn, and re-associate other dogs with being calm and positive rewards. I talk more about the desensitization exercises that we did at the end of the article above.

      3. I try to stay very calm.
      My Shiba, Sephy is very sensitive to the energy of the people around him. So if I am stressed or nervous, he will pick up on my energy, get stressed himself, and become even more reactive. After I controlled my own energy, Sephy’s behavior also improved. He behaves best when I am calm and decisive. In this way, I can prevent him from escalating or quickly remove him from a bad situation.

      The key with Sephy is not only to maximize successful encounters, but also to minimize negative experiences. The more successful and calm walks we have, the more Sephy’s behavior improves. The more reactive events we have, the more likely he is to become reactive in the future.

      I use a 6 foot leather leash with Sephy and a thick no-slip collar. Choke chains and aversive corrections may make the situation worse.
      More on collar corrections.

      Note though that dog behavior is very context dependent. Each dog and each situation is different, therefore when I am in doubt, I consult with a good professional trainer.

  19. Georgina says

    Hey Shibashake,

    I have recently rescued a 5 year old unneutered pug. He is a delightful family dog and is obedient, as far as respecting house rules and waiting for food etc goes. Pugs are not the best for doing tricks though and as we haven’t had him since a puppy it’s a little more of a challenge. We know nothing about his past.

    We live in a city with lots of dogs, a lot of which are off lead. Whilst this is not always a problem, I have in the past 3 weeks encountered 3 dogs (a french bulldog male, a beagle cross male and a jack russel male (all neutered)) that came bouncing over to him, attacked him (two gave him a warning bite on the neck that did not draw blood). The first one crouched down and then floored him with his jaws on top of my dog. The second sniffed his butt and then nipped him on the neck and walked off and the bulldog came running at him and the owner didn’t have any control over her dog, it wasn’t even wearing a collar. In this case, I decided that picking him up was the best solution because I simply wanted to avoid the confrontation. I know this is not the best thing to do, but in the moment I had no alternative and it was my instinct that told me to do this.

    What is the best thing to do in these situations? The thing I find the most upsetting is that my dog doesn’t react, he simply ignores the other dogs because he isn’t interested in them, which could be infuriating them more but it could also be something from his past that we are not aware of. He isn’t fearful, but he isn’t at all aggressive towards other dogs either.

    Any help would be much appreciated, you seem to know so much!

    • shibashake says

      my dog doesn’t react, he simply ignores the other dogs because he isn’t interested in them

      Wow! He sounds like a really balanced dog. I think ignoring is a good response, because that is probably the best way for the other dog to lose interest and leave.

      I decided that picking him up was the best solution because I simply wanted to avoid the confrontation. I know this is not the best thing to do, but …

      Hmmm, why is it not a good thing to do?

      Personally, if I could pick my dog up and spare him the stress of a bad encounter, I would do that as well. Based on what I have read, I think that picking a dog up *can* be detrimental when the dog is already reactive and behaving badly. If we pick him up in such a state and comfort him, then we may be rewarding his reactive behavior, which could possibly reinforce it in the future.

      However, if a dog is calm and simply ignoring the rude dog, then I am not sure why picking him up would be an issue, as long as we are calm about it. In fact, if my dog remained calm, I would want to reward his good response and protect him from rude behavior.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and situation is different. When in doubt, I consult with a good professional trainer.

      Suzanne Clothier has a great article on dog social boundaries titled “He Just Wants to Say Hi”.
      Here is my take on the friendly dog.

  20. Cheryl says

    I have two male dogs (Jax is 6 years and not neutered and Ryu is 2 years and has just been neutered). They are cross-breeds (Jax is German Shepard/ Whippet-cross 25kg and Ryu is Jax’s son/Lab 40kg. We live in a tourist resort in the mountains and during the summer months lots of people come here with their dogs. Both of them are worse during this time (barking at other dogs, dominant etc) as they come across a lot of dogs they don’t know. I was going to try all of your advice mentioned above. However they do feed off each other, would you recommend me training them individually or together? Thanks

    • shibashake says

      For reactivity issues, I start training a new dog separately. My youngest Husky, Lara, is pretty vocal and easily excitable. However, she is a lot more calm when I walk her singly, so I start small and slowly build up her tolerance.

      Once she is more calm and able to handle situations in single walks, then we started walking her together with our Shiba Inu, who is now very calm during walks. I would handle Lara and I got somebody else to walk Shiba to that I can devote my full attention to training Lara.

      What is key with my dogs is to maximize successful outings and minimize negative or reactive encounters. The more successes we have, the more their behavior improves. Similarly, reactive events undermine the desensitization process and sets back our training. Therefore, I always try to set them up for success by starting small and not exposing them to more than they can handle at each step.

  21. Jessie says

    I recently adopted a 4 year old dog when I moved. He seems to get along with most dogs, usually smaller ones. I also have the family dog that stays with my parents who is the same age and is a lot more larger not so much in height but way more bulky than my new one. I’ve taken my newer dog, who I’ve had for about 4 months now to my parents house to try and interact with the family dog and at first it seemed like he liked him because he was wagging his tail but then when my family dog got closer Harley got defensive and started growling. My family dog axel seems scared of Harley and tries to avoid him. It seems like he has a complex now. They can be in the same house and be on a walk together. It just seems like when axel gets too close that’s when Harley goes after him kind of biting him but not doing any damage. One day in the yard Harley was playing around and axel stated to as well but got to close again and Harley went after him. Axel doesn’t show any aggression. Is Harley eventually going to stop or is it just a lost cause?

    • shibashake says

      With my Shiba Inu, desensitization exercises were helpful in getting him to be more calm and relaxed around other dogs. I talk more about what we did at the end of the article above. The key with desensitization is to always start small (with a very weak version of the problem stimulus), and to only very slowly build up my dog’s tolerance for it. At the same time, I make sure not to expose my dog to more than he can handle. The more successes we have, the more Sephy learned to be calm around other dogs. Similarly, each reactive episode undermined his progress and set back our retraining process.

      Desensitization took time and management.

      Another thing that helps with my dogs is to establish clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. In the beginning, my dog did not know what to do and got stressed with a new dog. Setting up clear rules reduces uncertainty, and that reduces stress.

      I supervise them closely during interaction so that I can slowly teach them what the rules are, and redirect questionable behavior before it escalates into anything more.

      More on what I do to help my dogs get along.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent. During Sephy’s difficult period, we visited with several professional trainers who could observe and evaluate Sephy’s behavior within the context of his regular routine and environment. In this way, I could better ensure that everybody stayed safe.

  22. nicole says

    Hi, I was wondering if I could get some help/insight? I have a shiba she will be 6 in dec we also have a rat terrier that will be 7 initially we didn’t have any problems with them together once we moved the first time she would randomaly attack the small dog, usually after I would yell at the little dog for being bad learning that that triggered her I stopped doing that.. we since then moved again and on our move across country she attacked her in the parking lot she needed staples and it took everything we had to get her off of her.. once we got to our new home we had one attack 2 weeks after .. then everything was good for a while almost 2 years then the other day for no reason that I can think of I let her outback and the small dog was back there with our other med size dog and she just jumped on her.. It was scary my screaming and trying to pull her off did no good took a few mins she finally let her go .. our little dog went into surgery for some lacerations she received mainly on her back .. Just wondering is there something I can do or do differently to get this to stop like I said It stopped for a while, IDK if she was mad because there was a bunny in the front yard she couldn’t get to it or what? Shes a great dog great with the kids and everything but every so often she goes psycho on our smaller dog? she hasn’t tried to attack our med size dog an American eskimo which we got thinking maybe she needed a dog more her size to play with, she is also spayed for a few years now as well .. any ideas or tricks we can do to change this behavior? We don’t want to have to surrender her but if it happens again I don’t think we can keep her for the sake of our small dog her life means just as much as hers… Sorry for the long post im just really clueless as to what to do!

    • shibashake says

      My Shiba really likes routine and consistency. Whenever there are big changes to his schedule or environment, he gets really stressed. Stress can cause changes in mood and behavior.

      When we moved to a new house,
      1. I made sure to quickly re-establish a fixed routine and a consistent set of house rules. I have dog-to-dog interaction rules and also dog-to-people interaction rules. I slowly teach the rules to my dogs so they understand what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty, which helps to reduce stress. More on what I do with my dogs.

      2. I make sure to increase my level of supervision, and I do not leave my dogs together unsupervised until I am very sure that there won’t be any problems. I make sure to set my dogs up for success by minimizing bad experiences and maximizing positive together time. I also make sure that everyone is safe by using management equipment such as leashes, gates, a basket muzzle, and more as necessary.

      3. My Shiba is very sensitive to the energy of the people around him. If I get stressed, fearful, or nervous, he will pick up on that, become more stressed himself, and act even more crazy. To calm him down, I make sure that I am calm and in control.

      Note however, that dog behavior is very context dependent and aggressive behavior can be the result of many different things. ASPCA article on the different types of dog aggression.

      When I had problems with my Shiba, I visited with several professional trainers who could look at Sephy, understand his temperament, and view his behavior within the context of his regular routine and environment. I wanted to make sure that I properly diagnosed the source of Sephy’s reactive behavior, so that I can keep everyone safe and start re-training in the right way.

  23. Carly says

    My mastiff/lab mix is extremely dog aggressive. It does not matter who is walking her, where she encounters the dog(at home or out) or if she knows the dog. She loves our dogs but that’s it… I have tried everything. She even reacted this way towards another dog with a trainer…HELP!

  24. Lindsey says

    My dog has had issues with my neighbors dog for quite some time now. We think that when she was younger and we left her outside in her kennel while we were at work, the neighbors dog (who has free reign of the neighborhood) came over and harassed her. Every time our dog sees the other dog she barks and lunges. There have even been a few instances where they began to fight. Things have been going well until the neighbor cleared out the trees between hour houses. Now my dog is back on the prowl and after the other dog. We considered having the dogs meet in a controlled environment, but we are afraid that might make it worse. To make things worse, the neighbor kids runs away yelling for his dad every time my dog even looks his way. I am afraid that she is going to think he is playing and chase after him. The kid is afraid of her because she recently showed her teeth to the neighbors dog when he was around. Is there anything we can do to alleviate the situation? We are planning on putting up a fence as a barrier, but it would be nice if we could have some peace for her.
    Thank you

    • Lindsey says

      I forgot to mention that she attends doggy daycare regularly with no issues. We also used to take her to the dog park but stopped going when she met another dog she did not get along with (he was there three times a day- pretty much every time we tried to go).

    • shibashake says

      Our backyard is next to some nice public trails, but there are deer, coyotes, and sometimes goats who come by. :D It helped to put a 6 foot, solid fence around our backyard. The solid fence helps with my dogs, because it cuts out the visual component of the outside stimulus.

      They still get excited, especially when the goats come around because they can smell and hear them, but a lot less so without the visual and motion cue.

      As for kids, I am very careful when there are kids around. My dogs are very attuned to motion, so a running kid will be very tempting to chase. When there are kids around, I always supervise very closely, and I have my dog on-leash so that I can keep him under control. I do not let my dog meet over-excited or fearful kids. I always try to set them up for success, so we only meet calm, older kids. Even if a dog just accidentally hurts a kid or if the kid should fall from running, it will be very bad news, especially for the dog.

      Desensitization exercises also helped with Sephy, in terms of helping him to stay more calm and less stressed around other dogs. I talk more about what we did with Sephy in the desensitization section at the end of the article above. We did the exercises at our local SPCA, under the direction of a trainer. In cases of aggression, it was safer and helpful to consult with a professional trainer, especially one with balanced dogs that we could train with.

      I also did people desensitization exercises with Sephy, which I talk more about here. I always have my dog on-leash, I make sure to set my dog up for success, and I make sure that everyone is safe.

  25. Jessica says

    HELP! I am in desperate need of advice. I have a 2 yr old german shepherd who has only recently begun to show aggression toward other dogs. We never thought to actively socialize her because she has always gotten along great with my dad’s two dogs. Recently though she has become aggressive towards our neighbors dogs. Both the Rottweiler next door and the shepherd across the street and last week there was an issue with our friends put bull while we were camping. I plan on taking her to a trainer next month to work on this as well as some other commands but there is one major problem. We are leaving this week to go visit my mom out of state. We have no one close who will be able to care for our Nikki while we are gone so we must take her with us. My mom has a 6 yr old shepherd mix. I am concerned that they won’t get along and I have no idea what to do about this. What is the best way for us to introduce our dogs to ensure they will get along, or at the very least, tolerate each other without fighting? Please any advice you can offer will be greatly appreciated. I am terrified Nikki will hurt my mom’s dog. Nikki has never shown any aggression towards people in case that information is helpful. Thanks again for any advice you can give me on how to handle this situation.

    • shibashake says

      Introducing a new dog into a new household can be very stressful for everyone involved, and it will take time. When I introduce a new puppy to my adult dogs, there is usually an adjustment period.

      Husky Shania is usually very good with puppies, but she is wary of new adult dogs. She was well socialized when young, but since then, we have been charged several times by loose dogs in the neighborhood. As a result, she has gotten somewhat wary and so have I. Sephy gets a lot more stressed with big changes, so with him, I have to slowly get him used to the new puppy in a very positive, safe, and structured way.

      My dogs are also very sensitive to the energy of the people around them. If I am stressed, nervous, or anxious, my dogs will quickly pick up on that, become stressed themselves, and their behavior will worsen.

      What is the temperament and training of your mom’s dog? Is he/she well socialized? How does he/she respond to new dogs in the house? Has Nikki stayed over at someone else’s house before? What is Nikki’s reaction to dogs who visit your house? Is it possible to delay the trip?

      Based on what you describe, it sounds risky to me. Personally, I would look for safer and less stressful alternatives. For example, when I leave on trips, my partner stays behind to take care of the dogs. Another possibility is to try and find a trustworthy dog sitter.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, and I have very little context of your situation. When in doubt, I usually consult with a good professional trainer who can observe my dog’s behavior and environment firsthand.

  26. Sue says

    My daughter infrequently brings her mixed-breed dog to visit. On the last visit, my Flat-Coated Retriever and her dog were playing with a ball, which is one of my own dog’s most prized possessions. Unfortunately, her dog managed to retrieve the ball about 5 times in a row. My dog suddenly and viciously attacked her dog. He has never shown a slight bit of aggression in the past so I’m wondering if somehow we managed to exceed his frustration level. Should I have my daughter bring her dog back, and have her play with her own dog fetching the ball while my dog and I sit back and try to calmly watch? Would that desensitize my own dog? Any other suggestions? This is really bothering me because I’ve never seen this in him in the past 4-5 years I’ve had him. Thanks~

    • shibashake says

      Hello Sue,
      What you describe sounds more like resource guarding.

      With my dogs, I set up clear play rules and I supervise during play. I do not allow any stealing, I manage their excitement level with play-breaks, and I make sure that play is fair, positive, and inclusive. I try to set my dog up for success by removing high priority objects, and redirect his behavior before any conflicts arise.

      With desensitization, I start with a very weak version of the trigger stimulus. If the trigger is an object/toy, then I do desensitization with my dog by starting with a very low priority toy, in a quiet area, and without any other dogs around. I start small and then very slowly build up.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent. A dog’s behavior depends a lot on his temperament, past experience, surrounding environment, daily routine, and more. When trying to change my dog’s behavior, I first try to understand the source of his behavior – what triggers it, whether it is from stress, fear, anxiety, protection, or something else. The more I understand where my dog’s behavior is coming from, the better I can manage, redirect, and retrain it.
      More on how I change my dog’s behavior.

      In this article, I talk about Sephy’s dog-reactive behavior. In this case, the trigger is another dog, and not anything else. Sephy gets over-excited when he sees another dog, doesn’t know where to put his energy, and starts acting crazy. Other dogs may become reactive out of fear or nervousness. However, aggression can also arise from *many other sources*, including protecting resources, physical vulnerability, etc. Retraining behavior depends a lot on the source of the behavior.

      This is why in cases of aggression, it is usually better and safer to get help from a good professional trainer. We visited with several trainers during Sephy’s difficult period.

  27. sarah says

    hi i heard about this website i thought it was cool because i need help with my dog her name is misty and she is part begal and we think collie mix and she has a problem with other humans and dogs at my aparment area but what is strange i let her have a puppy sitter with other dogs she was fine even with her other people with dogs there and she almost hurt a tiny dog i was walking her at my m oms andall the sudden one tiny dog went rushing torward her i hold her and kept her head up so she couldnt bite the puppy she almost got its side of its body and this dog to misty it could be a chew toy not that she is really large but her agresion i saw all her back hair up please help im 11 soon to be 12 and i dont know if im strong in oder for her not to hurt or to get hurt by other dogs she thinks she is tough im worried she gose to a mean dog who is large and dose that stuff

    • shibashake says

      Have you talked to your parents about this? What did they say?

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, i.e. it depends a lot on the temperament of the dog, his past experience, his surrounding environment, daily routine, and more. To keep my dog safe and to keep everyone else safe, I got help from several professional trainers when dealing with my Shiba Inu’s aggressive behavior.

  28. Kazza says

    Hi, my Yorkshire terrier has become very aggressive and even went for another dog, this has been since he was attacked by a dog that said hello and then turned on him, what’s best for me to deal with this?

    • shibashake says

      Dog behavior is very context dependent – so each dog and each situation will be different. This is why in cases of aggression it is usually best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.

      When I was having issues with my Shiba Inu, we did private lessons with several trainers so that we could focus on his most difficult issues. It also allowed them to observe Sephy, read his body language, and guide us in retraining his behavior. With Sephy, I wanted to make sure everybody stayed safe, and that we properly diagnosed the source of his reactive behavior.

      Desensitization exercises helped Sephy to become more calm around other dogs. I talk more about desensitization and the other things I did with Sephy in the article above.

  29. Steve says

    I recently adopted a 3 yr old from a local shelter (they claim she’s an akita mix, but she looks like she has some pit, and other breeds in her as well). She’s very good around people, but very excitable. Unfortunately we soon discovered that she has major aggression problems with other dogs. If the dog is far away, she’ll pull, or at least stare. If the dog gets close, she’ll instantly start barking and growling, and trying to lunge at the other dog. I haven’t even been able to have her successfully meet another dog, because this happens every single time. This makes it very hard to socialize her, as I can’t safely get her close to another dog. Would you recommend starting off with the desensitization exercises as you talked about above? Thanks!

    • shibashake says

      What I learned, the hard way, with my Shiba Inu is that I want to maximize successes and minimize reactive or negative encounters. With Sephy, socialization is not just about meeting lots of different dogs, but about meeting them in a positive, structured, and calm way. The more calm successful events we have, the more Sephy learned, and the more he improved. Similarly, the more reactive encounters we had, the worse his behavior became.
      More on dog socialization.
      A good article on dog social boundaries.
      An article from BadRap on dog tolerance levels.

      In the beginning, I took Sephy to the dog park, but his behavior quickly became much worse. The environment at the dog park was often chaotic, unstructured, and mostly unsupervised. Sephy would get over-excited, become reactive, and he was starting to get rough even with me.

      Therefore, I stopped going to the dog park and started doing desensitization training. Desensitization exercises were helpful for Sephy. During regular walks we avoid and create neutral experiences. Structure, consistency, and routine also helped.

      Note though, that dog behavior is very context dependent, so I always make sure to adapt strategies according to Sephy and based on our particular situation. For this reason, we also visited with several professional trainers to get advice, a new perspective, and also to train with balanced dogs.

    • says

      Thank you for asking this question! For our three years with Mifflin (a 5 or 6 year old female American Bulldog), we simply avoided other dogs on walks and kept going and she did just fine.

      Then, a setback: she spent a bit of time with our brother in law’s dog over last Christmas, a smaller dog who ate her food and nipped her heels, and since then she’s been VERY reactive on walks. Her previous owner had a small dog that bit and scratched her, and it took a lot of work to get her calm on walks again around other dogs. We recently tried a “meet and greet” with our new landlady’s dog, a smaller dog (smaller than Mifflin, at least), who is allowed off-leash sometimes (something we don’t like) and Mifflin lunged and barked, flanking the dog. Luckily, she responded to me and calmed down, but not without leaving my landlady feeling like our dog is “aggressive and dominant.” I feel very sheepish about Mifflin’s bad reaction.

      I’m going to take your advice and continue as we were, to walk her assertively and gently, crossing paths with other dogs but not pausing. We’ve heard that her breed tends to not like other dogs once they get older. :( She’s so good with people, though!

      Also wanted to say thank you for your candid and thorough writing here! I’m finding all of your training advice extremely helpful.

    • shibashake says

      With Sephy, we also did a lot of desensitization training to raise his reactivity threshold and to teach him new ways to cope with his over-excitement and stress. We did the training at our local SPCA, under the direction of a trainer. The trainer would pick appropriate dogs that we could train with, and then we would train several times a week under the trainer’s direction and guidance.

      Desensitization was a very important part of Sephy’s re-training process. Creating neutral experiences and minimizing bad encounters prevented his behavior from becoming worse. Desensitization helps to improve Sephy’s behavior, by helping him to be more comfortable and calm in the presence of other dogs.

  30. Brody says

    The article was very helpful. A few questions about my two year old lab/hound mix. We rescued our dog when he was very young, we were told he was 9 weeks, but when we first brought him to the vet she said it was closer to between 5-6 weeks. As a puppy we had him around many dogs and he was always good with them, he would play and not be aggressive. Lately, around some dogs, when I take him on walks he gets aggressive and lunges toward some dogs, but not all. He gets along great with say 75% of the dogs we encounter, especially the ones he knows and has played with. What can I do to help my dog feel more comfortable and safe and not be aggressive toward the other 25% of dogs he lunges at?

    • shibashake says

      Different dogs have different social tolerances, and that may also change with experience, maturity, etc. Here are two articles that I like on dog social tolerance-

      My Shiba Inu was a pretty reactive dog when he was young. He got too excited, and as a result, many dogs did not like him invading their space. At the same time, he has certain interaction triggers such as butt sniffing, which he views as a threat when coming from unknown dogs. If he feels under threat, and his warnings are ignored, he will use force to protect himself.

      He gets along well with larger, easy-going, playful dogs.

      With Sephy, the first thing that I did was observe his interactions closely and try to identify his social boundaries. Then, I set him up for success and I do not expose him to situations that I know he cannot handle. The more calm encounters we have (even if we are ignoring and just passing), the more likely Sephy is to stay calm in the future. The opposite is also true.

      Most of the time, we just move along and ignore other dogs. I use distance and barriers as necessary to weaken the “other dog” stimulus. When he was an only dog, I set up structured and supervised play-groups with friendly neighborhood dogs. We don’t go near dogs or people with nervous energy or over-excited energy. Sephy still does not like strange dogs butt sniffing him, so I also protect him from that.

      When he was young, we did a lot of dog-to-dog desensitization exercises. This helped him to be more calm around other dogs, and it also taught him what to do when around other dogs. I talk more about that at the end of the article above.

      Another related article I wrote on the friendly dog.

  31. danielle says

    I have a 5yr old rotty X akita. She has been the perfect dog up until about a month ago when she developed a chest infection. Since taking her to the vets (without any problems with other dog) shes had 2 fights where shes fighting to kill. Then straight after shes wagging her tail and back to normal. She didnt give off any warning signs prior to the events. Now she has to wear a muzzle on walks. I cant work out what could be the trigger. I also have a 2yr old son which im scare of walking the dog with him incase she fights again. She knows that im top dog and try to reassure her without speech or touch. But now suddenly shes not reacting to it. And i certainly dont want her to suddenly feel the need to challenge my son.

    • shibashake says

      Did the other dogs come over to her and invaded her space? What were both dogs doing leading up to the fight? What was the body posture of both dogs like? Was your dog staring at the other dog or doing something else? Is she fully healed from the chest infection or is she still recovering?

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, so when troubleshooting my dog’s behavior, I try to observe very closely and take note of as many details as possible. I also use distance and barriers to weaken the “other dog” stimulus and most of the time, I find that it is best to avoid and create neutral experiences.

      Given that there is a young child in family, I would get help from a good professional trainer. A good trainer can meet and observe the behavior firsthand, within the context of our dog’s regular environment and routine.

      More on dominance and aggression.
      More on dominance and bad dog behavior.

  32. Sofia says

    I recently adopted a male German Shepherd (5 Months old) and whenever he sees a dog he stands there staring or he either try’s to bark at it and go to it. Recently when I was walking him with my brother there was a dog walking freely (my neighborhood has a lot of dogs and they don’t use leashes.) so the dog came up to my dog in its face, at first my dog was wagging his tail then he stopped and lunged to bite its face but it escaped fast enough not to get bit by my dog. I don’t know if he’s playing with the other dog or actually trying to hurt it. He’s not aggressive at all with people and is very calm.

    • shibashake says

      Each dog is different and will have different social boundaries.

      For example, my Shiba Inu is generally calm and friendly with people. However, when we go to the vet, he will not let strangers stick needles into him. If he thinks he is under threat, he will fight back.

      Sephy is very good with dogs that he knows and trusts. He is calm with new dogs, but there are certain things that he does not like, such as butt sniffing. Here is why. I try to observe each of my dogs, and understand their social boundaries. I protect them and make sure *not* to expose them to situations that they cannot handle, and feel they have to resort to aggression. In this way, I set them up for success.

      The more successful experiences we have, the more positive social lessons they learn, and the better their behavior becomes. Similarly, reactive/aggressive encounters will worsen their behavior and set back training.

      I talk about some of the things that I do with my dogs in the article above. Here is more on dog socialization.

      When I have having issues with Sephy, I also visited with several professional trainers. Because dog behavior is so context dependent, it was helpful to have a professional observe Sephy and help me come up with a good training plan.

  33. Oliverious says

    Your article is really intresting! i have a male goldenretriever, he is 2 years old! he is really calm and NOT aggressive! though at my place we have many dogs in our neighbour that they obviously have owners, cause they wear collars though they are free on the streets! most of them become really aggressive and sometimes i have used water to make them go away! that works most of the times but they are others who do not fear it! today we came face2face to a male german shepard! i said my dog to sit and i stand in front of him to make them avoid “contact eye” and the gs left! i ll try to use next time most of your tips :) thank you!

  34. Donna says

    My Shiba is a female, 5 yrs old, she has always dominated my 7 yr old male Lab. Very snippy, vocal, aggressive over toys, food, me, my food, my space. She does not like other dogs either. Last year she was viciously attacked ny a pitbull, he had her by the throat shaking her, when I was able to get him to let her go, she had a large hole in her throat. I took her to the ER, there was bruising & internal tissue damage. In October, she was spayed, in November we moved out of the house she was raised in, left the state, moved in with 2 roommates, she didn’t know & another dog lives there as well. She has been attacking, biting, drawing blood, screaming, at almost every turn lately. She has attacked my dog, the roommate’s dog, a neighbor’s dog & has even been snapping at me. Something has to be done or we are going to lose out place to live, she is going to get impounded, possibly put down. I love her to death, I can’t stand the thought of losing her. Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    • shibashake says

      Dog behavior is very context dependent. For serious aggression issues, it is best to get help from a good professional trainer.

      Sephy, my Shiba, really needs his consistency and routine. Whenever there are changes in his environment and routine, he gets really stressed and his behavior changes.

      When we moved houses,

      1. I quickly set up a consistent set of rules and a fixed routine in the new place. I have house rules, dog-to-dog interaction rules, dog-to-people interaction rules, walk rules, play rules, etc. In this way, Sephy know exactly what to expect from me, from the other people around him, from the other dogs around him, as well as what we all expect from him in return. This creates certainty and helps to reduce stress – for everyone.

      2. I increased the amount of positive, structured exercise. We went for long walks in quiet hiking trails, which are low stimulus, low stress, and where Sephy can have fun exploring and smelling. This gives him a place to put his nervous, stressful energy, and helps him to relax.

      3. I increased the amount of supervision so that I can properly manage Sephy’s day and environment. I make sure to set him up for success, provide him with enough positive structured activity for his Shiba energy, and at the same time, I can redirect undesirable behavior before it escalates.
      What I do to help my dogs get along at home.

      4. I also did desensitization exercises with Sephy to help him cope with his stress triggers.
      More on dog anxiety.

      5. The key with Sephy is not only to maximize successes but also to minimize failures. Management of his environment is very important, so that he does not keep practicing bad behaviors. We also visited with several trainers, and spent a lot of time desensitizing him to other dogs, under the direction of a trainer.

  35. Rolyat Ybba says

    Hi i have two dogs, one is the mother, she is nearly ten, and the other is the son, he is nearly 4. When walking them, being aggressive towards other dogs isn’t a problem, and I’m always confident when I walk them that we’ll pass by other dogs without any problems. However I really want to start letting them off the line, but can’t because they’ll attack any dog passing by. Even when I pass other dogs the younger one will try to attack. Usually he never gets far but when he does he will attack any dog that crosses his path. And the mother will join in. They’re Goldens, so no one really expects them to be aggressive and are completely unprepared. We recently moved in to a neighborhood with lots of other dogs, and I just want to know when they are not in my control, how can I make sure they and the other dogs are safe?

    • shibashake says

      To keep my dog and other dogs safe, I need to make sure that I am there to supervise, and that I am in control even when my dog is off leash. Some things that help me stay in control when my dog is off-leash-

      1. Very strong recall training (come when called). Here is an article from the ASPCA on recall training techniques.

      2. Management of my dog’s environment. I do not let my dog go off-leash in high stimulus areas that I know he cannot handle. I always start small, and very slowly build up his tolerance.

      3. Desensitization training. I did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with my Shiba Inu to teach him to stay calm while in the presence of another dog. I talk more about what I did at the end of the article above.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent. Therefore, for aggression issues and dogs with a bite history, it is best to get help from a good professional trainer.

  36. Glen mcclellan says

    Ihave two labs that are almost 4 years old. Ihave a electric fence up to keepthem in the yard, the other day a little dog came by the house with its owner. They were walking in the street both batteries must of been bad in there collars., I opened up the back door to let them out and both of them took off for the street to attack the little dog. Kobe and Tucker are there names. Tucker is the dominant one. I yelled at Kobe to stop and he did butTucker got ahold of the dog and I thought he was going to kill him, At first Tucker would not listen to me but I finally got him off the little dog .They both have showd aggression to little dogs in the past. The little dog is going to be allright but ended up costing me around $400.00 to fix the hole in the neck that Tucker did to him. I have lost all trust in my dogs know and don’t know what to do. Most the time the dogs are very awesome dogs. Luvable and like to layclose to me. I don’t want to put them down but Iam afraid whats next hurt a little kid or something. Ineed to mention I leave right behind a school and ther is a lot of kids outside all day . Help me please What to do? Thank You Glen Mcclellan

    • shibashake says

      In terms of escapes, we put up a solid 6 foot fence. A physical fence is much more reliable and less risky. The solid fence also blocks visibility, which helps to reduce the strength of the outside stimulus. I also put concrete blocks all around my fence line so my dogs can’t dig out. More on electronic collars and the risk of aggression.

      I also did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with my Shiba Inu who was very reactive to other dogs when he was young. I talk more about that at the end of the article above.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent though, so for more serious aggression issues, I would get help from a good professional trainer. When I was having troubles with my Shiba Inu, I looked for trainers who had access to calm, balanced dogs, so that we could do structured training exercises with them.

  37. Lulu4 says

    Hi the problem I’m having is that we have a 1 year old husky and she is very playfull, and we frequently go camping with these people whom own 2 dogs, one of them is agressive towards other dogs and protective towards them and the other dog. So when we are camping and our dog, which is always on leash ( cause otherwise she’ll take off the campsite ) this dog is constantly walking around our dog growling at her, if our dog plays with their other dog or if ours gets close to their camping trailer this agressive dog attacks ours. And we tell this dog to stay away from our dog ( at first we let the dog get close to ours to smell her but she starts growling inmetiately and if our dog makes a move she just attacks her that’s why we always keep an eye on them).
    Sometimes this agressive dog comes close to our RV where our dog is, like waiting for our dog to do something or us not to be paying attention to attack ours. So I really don’t know what to do to stop it because this agressive dog is not ours and at he same time we don’t want our dog getting attacked on every chance the other one has, also we like going camping together that’s why I’d like to approach it properly☺️

    • shibashake says

      This sounds more like a people issue rather than a dog issue. With loose neighborhood dogs, I sometimes talk to my neighbors about it *if* I think it will help. I make sure I am in a calm state of mind, and prepare what I want to say. Sometimes, it can create awkwardness and bad feelings, so it really depends on the situation and people involved.

  38. Sandy says

    Hi, please help me to control my dog, he is a Stanfordhire Terrier ,3 years old. I don’t think I have strong energy to control his agressive stubborn behavior. I am living in NYC and he is terrified to go out, even in the elevator he shakes. I used to bring him to Central Park early in the morning so he can run free off the leash but once is time to go home he ignores me and go away, I offered him treats before so I can put his leash back , but now he ignors them and runs away. Just today he escaped from the leash when I force him to go out to pee, a neighbor stop the heavy trafic on the street ,with his hands wide open so my dog won’t get hit by a car. I am very upset trying to think what to do with him or with me. I don’t want to return him to SPCA again, please help me. Thanks

    • shibashake says

      Hello Sandy,
      I had a lot of difficulties with my Shiba Inu (Sephy) as well. He was crazy stubborn and pretty reactive. It took some doing, and a bunch of time, but he really has changed a lot, for the better, and so have I. :D Here are some of my early experiences with him.

      This article on zen dog training tips may also be interesting.

      In terms of training our dog to come when called, here is a good article from the ASPCA.

      Sephy has always been a very independent minded dog though, so I always keep him on leash during neighborhood walks. I usually only let him off-leash in safe, fully-enclosed, areas. For walks, I use a properly fitted Premier no-slip collar, and he has not slipped out of his collar since. The problem I found with regular clip-on collars is that they can slip a lot just from regular use, so I had to frequently keep readjusting them or they would get too big.

      Another thing that is very important with Sephy is to control my own energy. If I get fearful, frustrated, or stressed, Sephy will pick up on that, get stressed himself, and act even more crazy. After I started to control my own energy, and became more decisive (always have a plan of action), Sephy’s behavior also improved.

      As for fear issues, I try to start small and go in small steps. The key to helping my dog build confidence is by maximizing positive experiences and minimizing negative ones. For example, I first start leash training my dog in a very safe, low stimulus area, such as my backyard or even inside my house. This gets him used to walking on a leash without having to deal with other dogs, noise, people, etc. Once we are good with walking in the house, I *very slowly* increase the environmental stimulus.
      More on dog anxiety.
      More on dog desensitization.

      Finally, we also visited with a bunch of professional trainers during Sephy’s difficult period. Dog behavior is very context dependent, so it really helped to have someone come over to watch Sephy, give me pointers on his body language, identify problem areas, and help me develop a plan for retraining. Since you got your dog from the SPCA, I would give them a call and see what they suggest. I have had pretty good experiences with my local SPCA.

      More of my training experiences with my dogs.

  39. BigL says

    We just adopted a 2 year old Akita Inu named Pearl just a few days ago. Pearl is well behaved with all people she comes in contact with but very aggressive around any dog that comes near her. She is fearless and when going for a walk we will just walk by any dogs on their leash in their yard or if a dog is being walked across the street with their owner. Unfortunately we live in a community where there are alot of either stray dogs or unattended dogs off of their leash walking around the neighborhood or sitting in their front lawn. This is where the problem is, it seems that every dog we have come across is off of their leash and will curiously approach us. This immediately triggers her to act aggressive towards the other dog. I want to work on her to be able to get comfortable with other dogs and get her to be able to get along and play with other friendly dogs. She has not been spayed, and I’m not sure what her previous owner did about her behavior in her first 2 years. Spaying her may help with the aggressiveness and I plan on spaying her asap. I know that Shibas and Akitas are different breeds but I can’t find another site like yours that is this helpful for Akitas. Since the breeds are similar, I was hoping that you could maybe give some advice. Thanks.

    • shibashake says

      Some dogs are more protective over their personal space, especially with unknown dogs. My Shiba, for example, will not let unknown dogs sniff his butt. He is very particular about that. More about the butt sniff.

      We did a lot of desensitization work with Sephy, and that helped him to be more calm around other dogs. I talk more about this at the end of the article above. We also drove him to quiet hiking trails for our walks so that he can have positive walk experiences. The more positive experiences we had, the more he learned to trust me, and the more calm he became. It took a fair amount of time, repetition, and management to change his behavior.

      Still, there are certain things that he will not tolerate from new dogs. For example, I always keep new dogs away from his butt area. Here is an interesting article about dogs and social boundaries.

      In terms of play, I pick Sephy’s playmates carefully and I set up clear play rules and dog-to-dog interaction rules. In this way, he knows what to expect from other dogs, what he can expect from me, and what I expect from him. Here is more on what I do during play-time.

      We also visited with several professional trainers during Sephy’s difficult period. Dog behavior is very context dependent, so it was helpful to have a good trainer observe him, give us pointers on his body language, help identify the source of his reactive behavior, and come up with a plan for retraining.

  40. Court says


    I have (2) female 9 month old boxador puppies and they dislike people & animals (no matter their size).

    Let me give you their story …

    The pups Sire is a 50lb. Black Lab & the Dam is a 44lb. Brindle Boxer. On 07/27/2013 the puppies were born into a litter of 10. (7 females, 3 males)

    I purchased the largest & the runt of the litter when they were 9.5 weeks old. Upon their first checkup, the vet specifically told me not to socialize them until they had their full set of shots.

    We took her advice and did not try to socialize them until 6 months old. In my opinion, this was a HUGE mistake. The 1st training class did not go well & the trainer ended up having to get stitches.

    We have been to two training/obedience schools, (one in a puppy class and another with private lessons) which yielded no improvement in their behavior.

    The only time I can take my dogs out for a walk is after midnight due to the fact that both puppies are so aggressive. I refuse to give up on them, but I don’t know what else to do.

    Any adivce would be greatly appreciated.

    • shibashake says

      What type of methods have you tried? What happened with each method? What did the private trainer suggest? Do you walk them together? Is their behavior different when walked separately? Have you tried desensitization exercises?

      I find that my dogs are more reactive when they are walked together. During the training period, I walk my new dog separately.

      My Shiba Inu, Sephy, was pretty reactive to other dogs when he was young. We did a lot of desensitization exercises with him and that was helpful. In general, I start small and go in very small steps. At the start, I walked Sephy by himself, I start with more quiet, low stimulus areas, and very slowly work my way up. The key is to maximize positive, calm experiences and minimize negative encounters. Therefore, I try to manage everything so as to always set us both up for success.

      I talk more about desensitization and creating neutral experiences in the article above.

  41. Nathan says

    Thanks for these tips!

    My shiba is a little over 2 years old and has been well socialized ever since he was a pup. Lately, he has attacked a few dogs. This has never happened before up until recently.

    1st encounter was at my friend’s house with his dog. They have played several times before but he just went crazy and latched onto his ear. Drew some blood from the ear while at it. We were all in the kitchen at the time and there was no food involved.

    2nd encounter was at a restaurant patio. He just went crazy and lunged after my friend’s dog. There was no physical interaction though.

    3rd encounter was at a restaurant patio. It was a dog that was walking around the patio first. They smelled each other nose to nose before the other dog went in. Finally when it came in and sat next to us, my dog attacked it and nicked his nose.

    I’m kind of at wits end and am hoping this isn’t just a classic Shiba trait. A lot of folks on different forums have stated they experienced this behavior once their dog turned 2-3.

    • shibashake says

      What I have noticed with Sephy is that he is very particular about space and greetings.
      – Sephy does not get along well with dominant type dogs. He does not start anything, but if another dog challenges him through stares or other types of body language, he will respond, irrespective of size.
      – Sephy will respond when he feels that he is under threat. For example, he does not like new dogs sniffing his butt area. When they do that, he warns first, but if they do not heed, he will do more. More on butt sniffing.

      What helps with Sephy:
      1. I pick his playmates carefully.
      I only pick dogs that I am sure Sephy will get along with and that will get along with him. He seems to do well with playful larger dogs, that enjoy wrestling, and that are totally not dominant. Note that other dogs (even Shibas) will have different preferences, so we want to pick according to the temperament of our own dog.

      2. I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules and supervise him during play.
      In this way, Sephy understands what to expect from the other dog, what to expect from me, and what I expect from him. Certainty helps to reduce stress and allows him to relax and play. If there are any conflicts, I step in and resolve it before things escalate into aggression.

      3. I throw in many play breaks so that neither dog gets over-excited.
      I have noticed that most problems arise when Sephy gets over-excited, at which point his play becomes really intense and other dogs may get overwhelmed. The reverse may also occur. Things work out best when I manage their excitement levels with frequent play-breaks.

      More on how I supervise play-time with my dogs at home.

      What I have noticed about Sephy is that he is more particular about interaction manners, and more likely to respond to what he views as threats or challenges with aggression. He also can get really extreme when over-excited. For these reasons, he requires more supervision and management than my two Sibes, who are more submissive by nature and much more easy-going.

      Note that this is based on my experiences with Sephy and his temperament. Different dogs will have different temperaments and we will have to adjust things to suit their particular temperament and situation. Because dog behavior is so context dependent, it is usually a good idea to consult with a good professional trainer, especially in cases of aggression.

  42. Carlos says

    Hi, I just found your site. I have a 4 month old Shiba. So far we’ve been able to train some good behaviours like lying down before eating, and sitting before going out of the house. He canplay retrieve inside the house as well. He is however, very aggresive when meeting other dogs. Even when seeing them accross the street, he get’s very anxious and that escalates to barking. Have you had that experience? I don´t expect him to completely ignore the other dogs but I don´t want him to become a maniac either.

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, Sephy was pretty reactive to other dogs when he was young. Mostly, he got really excited, which caused him to pull and jump around. Using aversive techniques made his behavior even worse.

      With Sephy, the thing that helped him most was doing desensitization exercises and creating neutral experiences. I talk more about what I did with him in the article above.

  43. Saylor says

    My dog Daisy dislikes other dogs, a lot. We may be getting a new dog tomorrow, but only if she seems okay around him. She has attacked other dogs before, and I have no clue how to make her stop attacking them. I was wondering on how I could maybe keep her calm around other dogs, and somehow get her to not attack this other one. If Daisy doesn’t like him, then he will be put down. She is about 5-6 years old.

    • shibashake says

      With Sephy, desensitization exercises were helpful in terms of getting him to be more calm around other dogs. I talk more about what we did at the end of article above.

      However, changing his behavior took time and quite a lot of management.

  44. olivia says

    I have a collie, she is deaf there have been some problems going on it started to happen when we moved house about 2-3 years ago. when I walk her she’s fine if she happens to see a dog(witch happens alot)then she will stair at it antil we get really close then she will growl/bark at it try running up to it and leaning on the lead,she will go on her hind legs and her ears will be pointing up and tail swinging slowly her eyes fixed on that dog!when I get to the fields I let her go she’s fine but then she sees a dog that she lay’s down and crawls slowly to that dog/dogs then I try to catch her but when I try then she crawl faster,I normally catch her at that point.I do want to get her a trainer but my parents wont,I am only 12 and I havent got much to say,please can you help me train her??

    • shibashake says

      Hello Olivia,
      I have never lived with a deaf dog before, so I do not have experience with training deaf dogs. This site may be a good starting point-

      I do desensitization exercises to train my dog to be calm while in the presence of another dog. During walks, I use *distance*, barriers, and more to keep my dog calm. I talk more about what I do in the article above. However, each dog and each situation is different, so I always change things as necessary to suit my dog and my situation.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, and depends a lot on the temperament of the individual dog, her routine, her environment, and more. This is why it is best to get help from someone local. Can your parents or an adult relative help with the training?

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