Dog/Dog Aggression, or Is It?

Christine Hibbard, CTC, CPDT

One of the most common calls we get from prospective clients starts with something like, “My dog is aggressive with other dogs, can it be fixed?” I’ve learned over the years that dog/dog aggression is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. The situation is further complicated because there are different types of dog/dog aggression.

Normal Dog PlayDogs playing
Sometimes, what an owner describes as dog/dog aggression is actually normal dog play. The way dogs play can seem scary to some human beings. These owners are overly conscientious about their dog’s behavior and his/her interaction with other dogs. While being conscientious about your dog’s behavior is a very good thing, like any good trait, it can be taken to an extreme. I sometimes wish I could wave a magic target stick that would make some overly conscientious owners worry less by transferring some of their worry and concern to owners who do not have enough of it. There’s a hilarious blog called Three Woofs and a Woo published by a photographer. She has wonderful shots of dogs playing.

Playground Bully
Some dogs never learned the manners of polite dog play society. They are like some people, just kind of clueless about how their behavior affects others. Jean Donaldson calls these dogs “Tarzans”. The most common sign of a playground bully is that the dog just doesn’t read cut off signals from their playmate. The other dog throws all kinds of body language that says, “OK, we’re done now, that’s enough play from you” and these bully dogs just don’t take the hint. Some dogs handle bullies quite well while others, well; they get a bit snarky when being mugged rudely by another dog who just doesn’t know when enough is enough. These dogs are rude, but not what we would call “truly dog aggressive”.

dog dog aggressionFear Aggression
Many owners believe that in order for their dogs to be mentally healthy, they must go to the dog park, or have social interactions with other dogs of some kind. This is not always the case. The reason that a dog is afraid of other dogs can stem from several causes. Some puppies were not exposed to other puppies during their socialization window. The socialization window is the first 18 to 20 weeks of a dog’s life and it’s the most important developmental learning period in a dog’s life. Puppies who never learned how to read other puppies’ body language and play cues can be afraid of other dogs later in life. Imagine if you lived at home with your brothers and sisters and never saw other children until you were 16 years old. When you finally left the house to go to high school, you’d probably be pretty uncomfortable around teenagers your own age, right?

Some dogs have had one or more traumatizing experiences from their interactions with other dogs. These experiences might have been terrifying, but not result in any physical damage. The damage comes in the form of fear of other dogs. When I see young puppies at the dog park being knocked down, run over, and played with inappropriately for their age, I cringe. What may seem funny or cute to the owners who think they are doing the right thing by “socializing” their puppy with other dogs inappropriately may be setting that puppy up for fear aggression around other dogs later in life. Its inappropriate to socialize a young puppy at the dog park where you can’t control the play interaction. If you have a puppy, find a Puppy Kindergarten that focuses on lots of supervised, off leash play with other age appropriate puppies. I’ve had clients call me because their dog was brutally attacked by another dog and now their dog is afraid of all other dogs. That’s the problem with fear; it has a tendency to generalize.

Leash Reactivity (aka Leash Aggression)Dog pulling on leash
I don’t like the term “leash aggression” because many of the dogs that react badly on leash by growling, barking, and lunging at other dogs are not aggressive. They’re reactive. You can tell whether your dog is exhibiting dog/dog aggression vs. leash reactivity by answering a simple question, “How does your dog play with other dogs off leash?” If your dog plays well at the dog park, but acts aggressively toward other dogs on leash, you have leash reactivity. If your dog displays fear aggression towards other dogs off leash, you have what most people call leash aggression.

Sometimes the most difficult cases for me to handle are the ones where the owners have never let their dog off leash around other dogs based on their reaction to other dogs while ON leash. I got a call from a woman who adopted a black lab mix from a shelter. Whenever she took the dog outside for a walk and encountered another dog on leash, she said her dog “was uncontrollably aggressive”. She had never let her new dog play with other dogs off leash because she was afraid of what her new dog would do. I decided to have a look for myself, or I should say I decided to let my dog Conner have a look for himself (see my colleague Greta’s post about Canine assistants for dog/dog fear & aggression). My dog Conner is absolutely amazing with other dogs. He just “speaks dog” with the most beautiful, calming body language that he throws at other dogs.

Dogs playing tugI had the owner stand with her dog on the sidewalk. I got Conner out of the car a block away. As we walked closer to her dog, I saw her dog put his ears up and rotate them out (sexy ears!) and then he started prancing and throwing play bows. As we got even closer, he starting barking hysterically and lunging on leash. Her dog wasn’t aggressive. He was leash reactive. He was so desperate to get to the other dog to play that he acted like a total lunatic. When I told the owner to drop her leash, I dropped Conner’s leash and totally appropriate and hilarious play ensued. It’s wonderful to see an owner cry tears of happiness.

We had some work to do with that dog, after all, while the owner was relieved her dog wasn’t dangerous, she still couldn’t walk him in the neighborhood acting like a total hysteric every time he saw another dog, but we knew what we had and could fix it relatively quickly. The way we treat leash reactivity and leash aggression can be quite different, but to treat it appropriately, we’ve got to know what we’ve got; hysterics, fear, or aggression?

Dog/Dog Aggression
Dog/dog aggressionWe do encounter what we call “true dog/dog aggression”, but it’s the most rare type of dog/dog aggression. Some dogs just find fighting with other dogs incredibly reinforcing. Other dogs, because of their breeding, or how they’ve been handled, or both, actually will kill another dog. This type of dog/dog aggression is quite rare compared to the dog/dog aggression that we see that is fear based.

These cases are difficult because of the time and resources that it takes to counter condition this behavior. Performing this type of work to help these dogs takes controlled environments, a great deal of time, and many, many stimulus dogs before we begin to see any effect. Often the cost and time are prohibitive and we’re left with two choices; the 3 Ms (a lifetime of Management/Muzzles/Medication), or euthanasia.

Do you have stories from your trips to the dog park that you’d like to share? Have you or are you dealing with leash reactivity? Tell us your stories or share your thoughts. We love to hear from our dog owners.

Comments

  1. Honesty Waters says:

    Hello. I have a lab/pit mix named Kyla that I rescued when she was 6 months old. She was a great dog right from the beginning. When we introduced her to the dog park, she was the quiet dog in the group. Eventually she loved it and was very playful and mostly stayed out of other dogs aggression issues. About a year ago, while my mother and I were walking Kyla, a stray ran up on us and we were all very terrified. She was on leash and could not defend herself or us to her best ability. Luckily no one was hurt. but since that day my dog has been completely different. She can no longer go to dog parks because every dog is an enemy to her now…she doesnt let other dogs get close to us and she is very aggrressive. She once got loose from her harnest when she was tied up outside and bolted after a neighborhood dog and nearly took his ear off. We havee done training, but I feel the trainer didnt help because she used muzzles, gentle leads and leashes while other dogs surrounded her. I dont know what to do anymore and its so heart breaking to see Kyla in fear like this instead of enjoying being a dog. She is now almost 3 and I fear itll only get worse. :’(

  2. help please: our english mastiff, emma, has always had an aggression problem towards other dogs. she occasionally goes after the house dogs (we have 3 other dogs) but we could get her to quickly release and she didn’t hurt them, just scared them by grabbing and pinning them while growling thrashing. This past month she has gone after the house dogs 3x, and would not let go. tonight it took my husband and I both to get her to release. We are very concerned and afraid of her transfering this behavior to the kids or other small children who come to our house with friends. We are seriously considering re-homing her (as much as it breaks our hearts to do so… she is our baby) but are at a loss as to what to do. She is pedigreed, spayed, graduated basic and advanced training, and will be 2y in april. Any help is appreciated….

  3. We have a female, 1 year old (about) rescue, Boxer/Pit/Great Dane mix who we’ve had for about 9 weeks. She is very sweet, playful, compassionate and gets along well with people/kids and our 2 year old lab/shephard mix.

    However, we have noticed within the last week she is becoming very territorial and a bit aggressive when it comes to balls, specifically ones with squeakers, at the dog park (we go about 5 days a week). I do not bring the balls to the park, they are left behind by other people.

    The past three days she has been finding people who have their “chuck its” and are throwing balls to their dogs. I’m trying to divert her attention elsewhere by running the opposite direction and calling her name etc. Sometimes she follows but lately she becomes what I call “obsessed” and will not listen. She starts staring intently at the ball the person has and just wants to chase it. I’ve had to ask one man to ignore her and please not throw the ball to her anymore because she won’t do anything else and continues to jump on him and run around him obsessively.

    Last but not least, any other dog who comes near her for the past two days when she has a ball at her feet, she lunges at them in a territorial way. Today, I stepped on the ball trying to get her to “leave it” and get her to go do something else, but then she went after my other dog!

    I’ve been giving her “time outs” and using a firm “No” command and waiting for her to surrender to me (relax and lay down etc.) to try and get her to understand that this behavior is not welcome. We have not signed up for any training classes yet due to scheduling but this is high on my list to get done by the end of the week!

    Any advice on how to handle this or any information on why this is possibly occurring is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  4. Stella's Owner says:

    Hi Christine, I had a dog park incident with my female, 3 yr old Great Pyrenees named Stella. I’ve only had her for a month. I adopted her from a rescue group and was told she is friendly and playful with other dogs. The first time I saw her was at an adopt-a-thon and she was in a group of several other male and female pyrs and showed no signs of aggression with the other pyrs. Since having her, I have taken her to the dog park with no incident on three occasions. The first visit she did a lot of sniffing but not much interaction with other dogs. The 2nd and 3rd visit she did the same but also interacted and played chase with 2 other dogs with no incident. However the 4th visit is a different story. She was off leash as always when greeting the other dogs who are always right at the gate eager to meet their new friend. She came into the park with her tail up and wagging, but one young dog (approx 1 year – I don’t know the sex of the other dog) immediately kept sniffing her face and jumping up on her right in her face. She gave the young dog signs to leave her alone by turning away and finally gave the dog a fierce growl, but the puppy kept staying right in her face so she took the dog by the neck and pinned it to the ground with a lot of fierce growling. I was behind Stella so I didn’t have a clear view but her actions scared me so I pulled her off the puppy and left the park in absolute embarrassment. This incident happened within the past week, but I’m scared to take her back to the dog park because since that incident I’ve taken her on a couple walks on leash in the neighborhood and if she sees another dog, her body language is a wagging tail, once she greets the dog she starts to growl. Stella is great with my children and a joy with family and friends and we will keep her and love her no matter what. The lady I got her from says to keep taking her to the dog park, but I don’t want a liability on my hands. Is it really that important to keep her socialized with other dogs?

  5. Denise Bustarde says:

    hi, so today i went for a walk with my 3 yr old male black labrador in this massive field where my boyfriend lives. my dog is not trained but he does get along very well with humans and dogs. he doen’t play with dogs but he would just sniff them and after that he would just do his own business. so while me and my boyfriend were walking along when we suddenly we heard someone screaming so i ran as fast as i can to see what it was and i saw my dog jumping at this woman because she was lifting her dog up in the air and did not want my dog near hers. so i grabbed my dog and this woman said that my dog was attacking her and she threatened me that she’ll take me to court and get my dog put down she even said that what if it was her 3 year old grand child that my dog was going after to. i couldn’t really say anything as i know it was wrong of my dog to jump and i know that my dog is 100% friendly towards humans and i know that he jumped at that woman because he just wanted to sniff her dog i apologized yet she said that its not enought and its not acceptable (me and my boyfriend thinks that this woman was very racist as well) because my dog put mud prints on her clothes. as soon as the woman put her dog down, my dog tries and sniffing her from a distance and he was alright and dis not really care about the small dog after. i dont really want to have this situation repeated so is there anyway that i could get my dog to stop jumping because i dont want to lose him as he was given to me by my dad who passed away 3 years ago. and im also planning to get him neutered do you think this would help?

  6. Bridget says:

    I have a 6 month old pit/lab/shepard…she was recently spayed. She gets along with the 2 other male dogs in the house wonderfully! She can be playing with other dogs nicely and then turn aggressive. The other dogs will back off and give cut off signals. She will even follow them. But once she snaps trying to redirect her is a challenge, yet after being aggressive she can come back 20 min later and try to play again. She exhibits this with pretty much every dog she is introduced to, on leash and off, with or without toys, and with different people handling/around her. In contrast while in puppy class she doesn’t act aggressively..possibly because she’s doing a job with a promise of treats? Although i could put a filet mignon in front of her but if she wants to get in another dogs face she won’t even see it. Her stance seems dominant, ears pointed forward, stance slightly forward, and tail stiff. She also has severe separation anxiety from people…if i’m not around but someone else is she’s fine. Any suggestions? I’m working with a trainer who sees her pretty much every day and am at a loss as to how to fix this.

  7. We have left our 5 year old male Golden Retriever in a dog care as we have to move out of town for two weeks. He is showing aggression at the dog care and snaps at people and other dogs whenever he gets an opportunity. He also barks continuously. We are unable to return for the next ten days. What should be done ?

  8. Yes, I have an Irish Terrier, and maybe that’s all I have to say. He’s very affectionate and plays well with most dogs. Unfortunately, he gets out of control if he sees a large dog (Irish Wolf Hound as etc.) and yesterday, when I tried to restrain him he attacked me. ( More of a threat than anything.) He is 19 mths old and has been neutered. Like I say he loves people, children, even strangers, but very explosive with some breeds. He recently got in a fight with a 140# Rotweiller and my wife fell down while trying to pull him away. I’m thinking It’s time to turn him over to the Humane Services. We love him, but find that he’s just just too much. He’s already had training classes, and I’m usually quite good with training myself.

  9. HELP!
    We own a great dane who is now almost 4 years old. He is very well behaved most of the time but dogs seem to be a problem for him. We have looked it up and it does seem to be because where we live we rarely see another dog so hes not socially aware in dog world whats acceptable behaviour or not. So we now allow him to play off lead with a few neighbours dogs (labs) who are fine with him playing with thier dogs and hes its wonderful seeing him play, we have done this for about 3 months now and he seems to understand better when to stop the game, BUT! we still have problems with him and other dogs, it seems when we walk him if we see a stranger and a dog out he is annoyingly random, in that some dogs he will be fine with and sniff, but some he will suddenly leap on and in some cases he will try to pin them down and if they try to get up he will nip them. But he is actually a very submissive dog, everytime we have met a dog that is willing to tell him off he backs off right away (our neighbours lab is in charge of him) but sadly most dogs submit to him right away making themselves small, im assuming this is because his size to most dogs is overwhelming and intimidating. We have gone to socialisation classes for a few months as well and he did improve slightly from that but we are still stuck with him being so random with other dogs. We are so stressed out and frustrated with this situation now that we avoid people completely when we take him out, although we still allow him play time with the neighbours dogs. What we really hope for is some way to make it so we can take him out for a walk and if we do see someone with a dog we wont have to turn and walk away or hide and just be able to walk past them nicely knowing he will simply greet them. We really need help!

  10. I have had a dog for 9 years that has had aggression I could never fixed. Over the years I was better able to recognize his triggers and redirect his attention but his reactions have never stopped. My mother and I train dogs and we decided that he had anxiety aggression. He wasn’t fearful but you could almost see the anxiety and stress build up on his face. He also had a very low stress threshold and can’t handle average situations for other dogs. Eventually because he changed and became inconsistent with his reactions I have decided he has a mental disorder. Its not something that can be cured. But it can be something to work around. For his full story visit: http://www.happypetinfo.com/mental-disorders-and-aggression-a-personal-story/
    Thanks!
    Kristina

  11. Hi I like the read. I have been trying to find a site which will give me some insight of why and what to do about my Stafford shire pit (Mia) which viciously attacks my keeshond/chow mix-(Gypsy)

    I have two female pits Mia and Roxy, they are both 1 yr and 7 months. I have had Roxy since she was 4 months old and have socialized her with kids, adults, dog parks, low energy places and people, high energy people and situations, sirens, fireworks, thunder and so on….she has had my Gypsy – Chow mix as a perfect role model. He is great he knows my body language as I do his. He waits for my signal to come in or go out and I am always first. He does not jump on furniture nor people he is just a great dog in and out of the house.

    I have had my Chow / Keeshond for over 11yrs he is about 13yrs according to the Vet; he found me in the street :-)

    Gypsy could care less about playing so Roxy would just bug him, but never was or is aggressive with him.

    When my neighbor thought Roxy ran off she did me the “favor and brought Roxy back home” when I arrived home I had another dog which I later named Mia the other pit. A neighbor down the street said that she belonged to a neighbor whom was abusing her and just let her go and was hoping she would get hit by a car. Mia was great for about 2 months then came her first attack to my Gypsy. Gypsy and I were play boxing with the gloves and she fully attacked him held the bite on his neck for over 5 minutes we finally got her off him by throwing her in the pool. She then attacked him when I was at a friends house with all 3 dogs I was sitting by the pool over Gypsy and petting him when Mia came from the back and just attacked him again I was lucky to get her off him. we had to walk home and they knew I my energy was of anger and both pits (who I had been having a problem with controlling the walks) walked behind me the whole walk home.

    Mia’s last attack was when my daughter was excitedly giving turkey meat to all 3 at the same time. Mia jumper over Roxy and attacked Gypsy. This was a week ago. My dog Gypsy is too old to fight back he has arthritis on his legs so he is at a loss with defending himself.

    What I noticed is when Gypsy gets excited I notice her eyes and body language ready to attack.

    I bathed Gypsy outside this week and wanted to see what Mia would do so I had muzzled her first and sure enough when he finished his bath – routine he gets excited and runs around, I saw Mia coming charging at Gypsy and stopped her in her tracks. I grabbed her and told her no and then made her lay next to Gypsy, he was trembling. I immediately took them for a pack walk to get Gypsy calm and he did. When I walk all 3 they are great.

    Mia is great with muzzle on or off as long as we are all calm. Roxy can be excited all the time and Mia is so gentle -yes Roxy is submissive to Mia and Gypsy. Roxy does have toy aggression (don’t try to take her toys away at the dog park at home she is a gentle baby)

    Gypsy is a male and was my only dog for yrs then came Roxy all good then Mia she is trying to claim leader and I am constantly letting her know that I am. I feed the calmest first, I am consistent with all of them. I am no longer giving just attention to my chow.

    I need to know what to do at this point?

    thank you

  12. Hi i have a 10month border collie female iv had her since she was 8weeks old shes great off her lead at the park and playing fine with other dogs but walking past dogs in the street she lunges at them growls and barks im not sure if its fear coz shes always got her tail in between her legs but when she carrys her tennis ball on walk shes happy and tails up wagging

    Any advice on this would be great

  13. michael says:

    I have a beagle who ive had for 6 years and and a shiz tuz, well I just adopted a german shepherd, sweetest dog in the world, well the first day was going good. And my beagle just attack the german shepherd, and the german shepherd attack back and hurt my beagle, now my beagle is afraid of the german shepherd, we dont want to get rid of the german shepherd, so if you had a solution to my problem that would be great, thank you.

  14. I reluctantly gave into my 10 years old son’s desire to have a dog. I love dogs but lost our previous family dog to a tumor and it is was extremely painful to go through that. Anyway, we went to a rescue shelter and adopted a 2 year old female lab. She is spayed and up to date on her shots. We got a dog that was protective and sweet; however, despite training, she is aggressive with other dogs and will not come consistently when called. This makes walking/running a tiresome, frustrating experience…..and our 10 year old is not strong enough to control her. Also it is terrifying the couple of times she has escaped from our yard and chased squirrels down the street–I am afraid she is going to get hit. We have invested a lot of time in her and training. I don’t want to give her up but she is exhausting and doesn’t seem to be making any progress where she and we can enjoy any sort of “outside our yard” activities.

  15. jessie urias says:

    hi. hope you could help me out on my dog problem i raisd my dog since he was a month allway good with dogs he is a red nose pitbull so just a cumpel of days took him out for a walk to the beach his behavior was normal so i spend the day with him and y staid oveer at my gramas house for the fist time my dog didnot sleep in his hous or with the other dog the at night he was normal in the morning a friend came by with his wife pregnet y he growd at her but did no bit he nere growd at sombody so a kept him away but my friend nos my dog my dog starts to shake as if he were cold anda bit my friend will my dog be normal when he is back at his house right now hes calm a my house but looks scard some times

  16. Deana gibbs says:

    I have an adopted pitbull mix male dog. he’s been with us for almost 2 months. he will be a year old at the end of August . His owners could not keep him and he faced going to the pound. He is generally a pretty good boy but shows some what was explained as leash reactive. He is friendly with our dogs but is a bit rough and much larger so we regulate playtime.. But when i walk him around my property he wants to chase everything. My cats or chickens hejumps towards and pulls me very hard abd he is very strong boy weighing around 60lbs it is too mich for me. And in my house if ui pickup p another animal he lunges towards them. He id hard to control and i don’t fel respected by him yet. He has shown signs of improvement on the leash but hurta me still if he se es a cat. He also “swats” at other dogs. its playful but dominating. he is still a big huge puppy but he is new here too.

  17. Hi we have2 rescue collies, to join our other dogs. Moss is perfect but jess (the only female) is very aggressive but only at certain times. When their food is being prepared she will run around growling at the others and has on occasion went for them, after the food is down she’s back to normal. The other time is if any of them make a noise eg whimpering during a dream, or we have one who is a worse and yelps at nothing and she will immediately attack him drawing blood. I don’t want to have to put her down but I can’t have her attacking the others ( not all of them) just the worse and our old boy. Any help appreciated

  18. That was an interesting article and very useful. I have two Rottweillers both just over 1 year old and I have noticed that my male Otis followed by his sister Nala start to bark and lunge at other dogs on the leash. Before i read the article I knew it was not an aggression issue as they are brilliant off leash with all dogs. They have never had a scuffle and if dogs are aggressive to them they ignore it.

    I also noticed that when in the car they would also behave like this (Otis starting the behaviour and Nala who is much more laid back followiing), but I have managed to put a stop to that 99% of the time and I am still working on the other 1% of situations by rewarding him when he stays calm when dogs and people walk past. They are almost completely over that issue. I know he just wants to say hello to everyone and every dog. He is incredibly playful. We were looking after a Staffie who was very reactive and I could see this influencing them. She has gone now and so it is easier for me to get them back to being more clam.

    I just had a really bad experience and unfortunately had no treats on me. I even said when I left the house ‘damn I forgot the treats’ but didnt want to walk back and get them BIG MISTAKE! Anyway, the first thing that started this off was that Otis went to say hello and sniff a strange man. Everything was fine until the man started lowering his voice as if to play rough with him and moved in a certain way – that made Otis start barking at him. I could understand why from a dog point of view but it is still not acceptable.

    So I walk down the road for 1 minute and he poops, so I get them to sit down while I pick it up, but then a young boy stands there saying how gross it is and he is hovering around us staring – Otis barks at him for being too close – while I am trying to pick up NIGHTMARE! I tell the young man he is fine just walk past normally and he does and Otis ignores him completely.

    So first i have the man, then the young boy and then 30 seconds after that someone with a lovely Akita comes a long and they start again, pulling and barking. By this time everyone is thinking ‘look at those aggressive dogs’ getting the complete wrong end of the stick.

    I have broken two bones in my foot so my balance is not very good. They are pulling me and I can barely hold onto them and one of my shoes comes off – so embarrassing. The guy is standing in front of me asking me if they are Rotties etc.trying to chat. Normally I would say, let him come over and sniff because the whole drama will be over in 1 second, but Im struggling so I ask the young man to move along as they are really pulling me hard.

    So my thoughts are now this:

    1 Never not have treats in your pocket as Otis and Nala are greedy and that will distract them from anything. Only give them at the right moments and not too often. When I have treats on me and use them their behaviour is vastly improved.

    2. No longer allow him to sniff people randomly, particularly men, who have a nack of starting to play too roughly because of his breed. When I say rough it is a very slight change in voice and touch, very slight, but if I can notice it for Otis its probably quite a important change. He can say hello under more controlled situations where I can talk with the person beforehand or at the park where he never reacts like this when he is off the leash, because people do not play rough with a free dog, but feel they can do it to one on the lead.

    3.Get a harness (the collars around the neck when pulling hard are not ideal for them and I do not feel confident that they won’t fail on me which makes me feel worse and probably makes the whole situation more stressful.

    4. Don’t wear ballerina shoes especially if you have fractures in your foot and your balance isn’t too good yet and take strong dogs for a walk. Wear trainers instead and double socks for support.

    If anyone has any other tips I Would be very interested and grateful to hear them.

    I manage to get them to sit down and be calm when the dog walk further away.

  19. Hi I have a wonderful dog 9 month Husky/Sheppard cross who i rescued at 2 months old. she has been attending doggy daycare 3 days a week since the day i got her, has taken and excelled at basic obedience and is starting agility training. she has always behaved very well with all dogs both on and off leash. recently though she has started attacking some dogs at the dog park and reacting on leash. I believe that the trigger is dogs that charge towards her face and other rude behavior. as she has never aggressively approached another dog. the problem is that her reaction is very intense she immediately attacks (no damage has ever been done). how do i curb this behavior as it causes me great anxiety because i know that she is not an agressive dog.

  20. Ellen Louthan says:

    I have have a 3 year old golden retriever, named Charlie, who I have rescued from Taiwan (Rescued Love From Taiwan) through Norcal Golden Retriever Rescue. I have had him for a month and he is such a gentle and sweet dog with humans. We adore him! he is great on leash and when we pass other dogs, male and female, he behaves well. I have brought him to our local dog park quite a few times. This time, he was very protective of a ball (one that was at the park–not his). When another dog got near the ball, as he was pawing it, he showed very agressive behavior–really surprised me! It happened two more times and I am very concerned. Another dog that had not been neutered, a blonde lab, came up to Charlie and tried to sniff the ball, and Charlie showed teeth and made a growling sound. I intervened on all occasions, but I am not sure how to handle the situation. I imagine Charlie has had a rough few years, but I want to help him behave appropriately around other dogs. What to do? Thanks ellen

  21. Hi!! I don’t know what to do my dog is a pitbull/German shepard he is jot an aggressive dog but ever since we got new neighbors the children banged on the fence throw him rocks and yell at him come and get me! And he finds a way out of the fence and goes after him so far he hasn’t bitten anybody and we’re doing our best to keep him calm but he just dislikes those kids. We’ve never had a problem with the other neighbors he plays we the kids just fine but these new neighbors got on his bad side what can I do?

  22. I have a 3-year old female dog (who is spayed) and we go to the dog park every day. As she has gotten older my dog has exhibited less submissive behavior at the dog park and more confidence. She has also become a bit of a target for interested male dogs to mount (most of whom are actually neutered). Some regular dogs have become a bit obsessed with her, and their owners have actually encouraged her to “tell him” or “let him have it”, which I immediately try to correct. The balance I’ve struck is to let her on the bench at the park where these male dogs can’t get to her and where I can ward off their advances rather than her take aggressive actions. I am concerned that this may be counterproductive, making her feel like “top dog”. She has actually gotten very aggressive recently with male dogs that she doesn’t know who are trying to sniff her. She doesn’t bite but she snarls and barks and gets in their face. This happened today even though I was right there separating the dogs. She also got aggressive with a female dog that was trying to exert dominance on her, who was also snarling and trying to mount her with her hackles up (though her owner assured me this was how she ‘played’). I am concerned her behavior will escalate and that she will become aggressive, but I do not know how to curb the behavior without exerting dominance myself. We obviously left the dog park immediately after both of these instances, but I don’t know what to do. She loves the freedom to run at the park, but these behaviors seem risky. Additionally, an odd part of this behavior is that dogs that she knows well (a female dog who is spayed and a male dog who is neutered in particular) are permitted to pretty much mount her all day and she doesn’t fight it unless there is a third party trying to tackle her while she is immobile. I have no idea how to address the behavior without perpetuating it. (I’m afraid that permitting her on the bench makes her feel more dominant and that me “barking” at her in front of the other dog that was trying to dominate her would make her seem more submissive and possibly lead her to become aggressive toward me, but I don’t know what the balance is)

  23. Also this behavior has escalated recently. Her interest in play slowed dramatically around age 2 and then the aggression started about 10 months ago with about 5 incidents total, but two of which are in the last two days.

  24. My 15 month German Shepard very fearful of other, bigger dogs. Will run off, or pull out of the leash, trying to get away. She came from a dog farm with good rep. She has never been “socialized” Frankly, I’ve never heard of such a thing. I’ve raised many dogs with no problem. This Shep was very scared of both humans, and dogs. She’s gotten better, but a hard foot stomp runs her off. Except for this, she is an amazing dog, on my voice command almost 100% of the time. Any suggestions? Thank you

    Michael A Moore

  25. Ever consider muzzling her when she goes outside? Or using a muzzle if she breaks the rules and tries to bite? My daughter has t pedigree breeds Blue Dane and Rottweiler both females and they have an enormous backyard to run in. Normally they play well until company visits or when vying for attention from their master, then they begin to fight, or rather the older female Rottweiler will become aggressive to the younger female Blue Dane (1 1/2 difference). I suggested she muzzle her two dogs also when they go outside. She’s tried everything else. I just suggested it so we have no results as of yet. Email me if you try it and it works out for you.

  26. Hi there,

    I could really use some help. I have a 1.5 year old Small Munsterlander. Marz is a German Hunting dog if you are unfamiliar with the breed. He is all around a great dog, but as he has gotten older, my family and I have noticed he is much more reactive to his surroundings. In the backyard when he hears any noise.. the neighbours etc, he goes into full bark with his hair standing straight up on his back. My mom says he is just being a good “guard dog” but it just doesn’t seem right to me.

    As a puppy, we did our best to socialize him as much as we could. He was involved in puppy class and was very well behaved with all the other pups. But as a young puppy, he was bullied by some other big dogs and I fear that this may be the reason he is acting the way he is all of a sudden.

    We usually try to take him to the dog park every night. There are the “usuals” who come as well and Marz gets along great with all of them. But as soon as a new dog comes, he will run up to the door and just wait for them to come in. When they approach he sometimes has this fixed look in his eyes and does a little growl or snarl. When the dog actually comes into the park, they will sniff each other but if the other fog makes a sudden movement, Marz will snarl at them again., as if he wants to attack.

    I am so confused because I don’t understand why he is acting like this all of a sudden. I think it may be excitement coming off as aggression but I am unsure. I don’t know if his insecurities may play a role or if he can sense the other dogs insecurities. I am just worried because I don’t want this problem to escalate to the point where he can no longer play around other dogs. If he has a little situation like this with another dog, it usually subsides and sometimes they actually do end up playing together.

    Please, how do we stop or correct this ? I am so worried. I would appreciate any advice from anyone!

  27. Hi!
    The article was great. I have some questions. About 7 months ago i really wanted a dog and well i went and bought one from a friend. He’s a german shepherd/pitbull mix he’s 11 months old, a beautiful dog. I knew since i bought that something wasnt right. My friend who i hadnt seen in years told me that he was two rowdy and that he and his little sister were in their second bathroom. That was my first clue that he was gonna have some problems, but i was determined to train him . I knew he wasnt socialized so my friend at the time has a female pitbull same age as my dog and she came over and my dog was so excited he loved her. When he was about 5-6 months old we walk to the dog park he was a little nervous but he loved it he got to run around like crazy. We went often, but one day me and my friend were there with our dogs and giant chocolate lab came up to us and out of no where tried attacking my dog. The lab didnt do any thing to arm my dog but he scared the begeves out of him.

  28. Only a smiling visitor here to share the adore (:, btw great style .

  29. Hello, I log on to your new stuff regularly.
    Your writing style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing!

  30. Hi,

    I have a 2 year old yellow lab/husky mix. He was a rescue that came to us at 4months old. Until recently he was the perfect dog; perfectly house trained, patrols the house with our cat and defers to her as his ‘mom’. We began taking him to the dog park almost immediately. At first he only watched and then he jumped in with all four paws. His favorite game was ‘chase me’. He has been the darling of the dog park for over a year..

    Recently he began ‘attacking’ one or more dogs during his dog park visit. He’ll wrinkle his nose and growl as a warning and then attack for blood. The vet has given him a clean bill of health and I don’t know how to break this new aggressive behavior. Please send me any ideas.

    Thanks~!

  31. Hi we have a two year old female Australian Shepard. She always gets along well with most males but never with other females. She around two females at my kids bus stop and if she can get close enough she growls and gets aggressive but with males she sometimes growls at first but after sniffing just wants to play.
    I recently tried to introduce her to my brothers dogs. A male border collie cross who she pretty much ignored because she wouldn’t take her eyes off his female border collie. His dog would come over and try to sniff her but our dog would go rangy (crazy) snarling and snapping at her. We couldn’t even calm her.We kept trying but she would not calm down. I wanted to let her off her leash but I was afraid she would hurt his dog plus it was -18 and we were freezing. Maybe when it warms up we can try again. We spend a lot of time there and don’t want to have to leave our dog home.
    When she was around a year old we were on a walk and a very large female lab whose owner could not control her pulled her across the street to us and after sniffing each other she attacked my dog. Leashes were tangled so I just let go and thank god there were no cars and we were close to our house cause she high tailed it home. So maybe that is why she doesn’t like females? I don’t know. What can we do Help! Is it possible she may never like females? I guess once were able to let her off her leash around my brothers female we will know for sure. His dog is not much bigger than ours but she is a big suck and I’m afraid ours will hurt her. Please help.. Thanks

  32. I rescued Harley from a shelter last month, he is a two year old Sheppard Mastiff. Harley is amazing! very smart and is not afraid of people any size. He loves training and is learning very quickly.
    Unfortunately I have two up hill battles to conquer with Harley. The least concerning is that he has separation anxiety from me, while at work. Often crying and howling when I am gone.
    Otherwise he is peaceful, quiet and very affectionate and attentive at home.
    We have tried the “Thundershirt”, plug in diffusers for anxiety, and crate training (the later was a massive fail). Although with a neighbor helping walk a couple times a week mid day he seems to be improving.
    The major issue I face is that I can not predict how Harley will behave on leash with other dogs.

    I do not know his history, just that an alternative (homeless young adult) brought him to the shelter. He does have some scars on his muzzle however which makes me wonder about what he faced before.

    When on leash (I have not tried off leash out of my own fear for how he may react) he will see a dog and 50% of the time acknowledges them with his tail and ears but then will either pay attention to me (working with rewards) or bark loudly and lunge. The dogs range from small to large, male and female.

    I want to be able to take Harley to the park, to work with him openly and take him for walks/runs without having to worry about the next dog.

    Any help would be appreciated, as Harley is a great dog! I just want to know what I need to do to change in order to help him.

    Thank you.

  33. My four year old Lhasa apso was attacked by a Staffordshire bull terrier it actually locked onto my poor dog and caused some damage now when I take my dog for a walk he barks at people n is quite agressive he doesn’t been left alone either is personality has completly changed he’s not nasty but he was such a quiet dog n easy going it’s like he’s in edge n when he’s at home he doesn’t stop barking what can I do ?

  34. Hi, we have a 4 year old Portuguese Ponenco (hound) cross. He has spent 3 years on the pound but lived with males and was extremely friendly with people. We have had him for 6 weeks. He walks beautifully on the lead and pays no attention to other dogs. However, when he is off lead we never know what he will do. Sometimes he will ignore other dogs but other times he will approach them happily and within 30 seconds attacks them with teeth!!! not just noise…why?? and what can i do?? Is it fear? I just can’t work it out. Thankyou x

  35. Hello, I see a lot of other doing what I’m about to do though I don’t know if you’re taking questions or not. Thank you for the article. It was great. I have a Staffordshire / Lab mix. I took him to the dog park a lot when he was younger to try and socialize him like you always hear but he has two problems of which you identified:

    (1) he loves going to the park and playing but he does a bad job identifying the dogs that want to play with him or when they’re done playing. Consequently, I became a “hover” owner and I micro manage his play time with dogs. Despite this, I felt like he was getting better until recently a dog he was trying to play with actually attacked him, locked on to the top of his head, and started shaking. I’ve been too scared to go back to the dog park for fear of another fight. I don’t know how to teach him when other dogs don’t want to play anymore.

    (2) He is also leash reactive. Whenever, he sees another dog he goes nuts barking and lunging. He actually starts shaking uncontrollably. The weird thing is that my fiancee has a french bulldog who is 4 and weighs 20 pounds and he plays with her all the time and they get along really well. Again, off-leash in the dog park he’s not seeking out every dog to attack; he’s trying to play with everybody. I thought he was protecting us but maybe it’s like you say he wants to play. Then again on two instances he’s gotten off his leash and ran up to dogs and gotten into tiffs with them. On both occasions he had broken sight and I hadn’t seen what caused it to progress into a “fight”.

    What do you suggest to deal with these behavioral issues?

  36. hello. my friend had her dog at a dog park. dog was ON a leash. dog barked at another dog, owned by senior citizen lady. lady got scared, went to pick up her dog, fell and broke her wrist. Friends dog NEVER touched lady or her dog, just barked, now lady has reported friend dog to animal control as violent, and is suing her. Any comments on friends liability? thanks!

  37. Liability depends on where you live and applicable laws. Each city is different. I would consult with an attorney who specializes in animal law.

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