Dog to Dog Aggression. Why Is It Becoming More Common - Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

dog aggressionThere seems to be a noticeable increase in the amount of dog on dog aggression.  I personally have seen an increase in calls about dog on dog aggression. It can present a complex and serious  behavioral problem to the average dog owner.  I know it can really shake you up to suddenly and unexpectedly be on the other end of the leash when it happens – and many of you may have already experienced this.

Categories and Causes

There are many different categories of aggression in dogs that cause them to become reactive to other dogs.

Some of the categories are: fear aggression, dominance aggression, territorial aggression and protective aggression – just to name a few. And, your dog can have a combination of these types of aggression.

There can be many causes for aggression in dogs and it can raise its ugly head at any time in the life of your dog. If a dog owner doesn’t recognize the issue and address it immediately, it can escalate rapidly and become even a greater problem, not to mention a liability for you – and that’s the last thing you want.

The root cause of most aggression can be attributed to a lack of early primary and secondary socialization, a very bad experience with another dog in the past or struggles over dominance or status related conflicts.   And, sometimes it can be the result of medical issues like hip displaysia, an undetected injury or even a thyroid imbalance. So the first thing to do in any case it to have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian to make certain that everything is okay medically.Dog on dog aggression is a very serious matter so I recommend training with an experienced animal behaviorist or trainer.  I have found that most dogs that are aggressive to other dogs are stressed.  So, for the time being, keep the stress out of your dog’s life by keeping him away from other dogs.

What Can You Do to Stop or Control Your Dog’s Aggression?

  • The first thing to do is to keep your dog away from other dogs.   I know what you are thinking, “I can’t control other dogs in the neighborhood or know when they are out walking.”  But by doing this you will keep his stress level down.   So try. At this point, aggressive dogs do not need to be confronted with other dogs before they are ready.
  • * Build a strong foundation of leadership by teaching your dog commands (like sit, down or look at you) to do when you eventually present other dogs to him. You can actually teach your dog that other dogs means good things for him and that he need not worry about them at all.   Heck, if every time your dog saw another dog he got a jackpot of grilled chicken, he’ll begin to change his attitude.
  • * Exercise your dog to constructively manage his energy so that he has less energy to use in a destructive manner. Providing your dog with long, structured walks combined with intermittent free time can also go a long way to work on leadership with an activity that has intrinsic value to your dog. You would really be surprised how much mileage you will get out of this!
  • Although in the beginning I do recommend not exposing your dog to other dogs before he is ready, you do have to walk your dog.   Be aware of and know your dog’s threshold distance where you can have stress free walks by keeping him at a safe distance so he won’t trigger.
  • Watch your energy and emotions when with your dog and around other dogs. Don’t tense up and put pressure on the leash. If you keep a safe distance, your dog will not become stressed and you will gain confidence over time.   Relax and put your dog in a down stay or give him that pay attention or “Watch me!” command.   Don’t forget to praise and treat for a job well done.

A good, experienced animal behaviorist or trainer can recommend proper positive reinforcement equipment to use as you move forward with your behavior modification exercises.   They will also put you on a very specific program to work out your dog’s specific issues—–“One size does not fit all”.   Don’t rush the process. It is just that – a process and every dog is different. So depending on your dog, it could move along quickly or take a little longer.
Try to relax and keep a calm, positive demeanor.  This blog post  by no means covers all the information and skill required to work on dog aggression.  It is simply a broad overview of causes and some things to aid in the process of addressing dog aggression.   I always recommend people seek a qualitified, positive reinforcement dog trainer to help with these issues so no harm comes to owners, dogs or anyone else involved in the process.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children.  And remember:  “Opportunity Barks!”