Stopping Dog on Dog Aggression in Santa Monica

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 23, 2024

dog on dog aggression

For this Santa Monica dog training session we worked with 6 year-old Lab mix Scarlett, sharing tips to stop dog on dog aggression.

Many dog behavior issues are misinterpreted or a result of confusion between the human and the dog. Sometimes we treat and live with dogs send them mixed signals, making the dog more likely to be reactive or guard things. I spent the first portion of the session going over a number of dog behavior fundamentals to address this common issue many of my clients have with dog on dog aggression.

We introduced a marker word, used hand targeting to develop good timing, went over dog consent, body language and cut off signals as well as some creative exercise tips like scent games such as Cookie in the Corner.

I also went over my favorite lesson, something I call celebrating. Most people accidentally train their dogs to do the exact opposite of what they want by giving attention after the dog does those things. But anything your dog was doing before you give it attention, is what you are specifically rewarding. Dog jumps up and you yell “no,” or “down!” You just made your dog more likely to do that activity again in the future. It may stop it now, but the dog does it again and again.

Celebrating is how I fix that mistake. Simply say your marker word and then pet or give your dog a treat when it offers desired behaviors that you don’t ask for. Your dog walks up and sit down on his own, you say “yes” and give them a treat. You can also do this if your dog lies down on its own, drops things, comes to you, goes to the dog bed, etc.

Celebrating is literally the easiest thing you can do to train your dog, but it only works if you get into a habit of doing it. I recommended the guardian place a number of post it notes around the house to remind her and start developing a new behavior pattern.

An Easy Way to Stop Dog on Dog Aggression

With the fundamentals out-of-the-way, I was ready to address Scarlet‘s habit of acting aggressive to dogs. I did not get an opportunity to witness her get mad at another dog because we managed our distance on the short walk we took.

But we did run into a dog which gave me the opportunity to show the guardian an easy way to stop dog on dog aggression. If you have a dog that lunges at other dogs, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below.

In my experience there aren’t a whole lot of actual aggressive dogs. Many dogs who are mean to other dogs are simply fearful and insecure due to poor, or a lack of, early socialization. So when they see another dog later in life and are uncomfortable, they act in a way that we see as aggressive to make the other dog go away.

The key to this tip to stop dog from acting aggressive to another dog is to read your dog’s body language and only practice at a distance that is far enough away for your dog to not feel threatened or reactive. This distance changes based on the other dog but its probably the most important aspect of this trick to stop dog aggression.

For stranger dogs that are very high energy, or showing a lot of emotion, you may have to move several feet away. For an unknown dog that is walking calmly at the guardian’s side, you may be able to get much closer. Sometimes you need to change the distance in the middle of working with a single dog. But keeping the right distance is crucial.

That’s why it’s so important that you are able to read your dog’s body language. If you can recognize that your dog is starting to get tense, offers cut off signals or give us another indication that it’s uncomfortable, you want to immediately move a little bit further away.

You want to be close enough so that the dog is aware of the other dog, but not so close that it feels threatened or concerned. When I’m fixing dog on dog aggression problems, I use the sit and taking a treat as my litmus test. If the dog can’t sit or won’t take a treat, I move five or 10 feet away and then ask for a sit again (one time). If it doesnt sit, its saying you are still too close.

Once you find the right distance, then you can start using the engage disengage game to stop dog aggression. It takes practice and a lot of repetitions. But if you do it right, its a really easy way to treat dog on dog aggression.

I like to keep score, every time the dog looks at the other dog without barking and I give them a treat, that’s a score in the positive column. If the dog growls, grumbles or lunges, that is a score against. The key is to have a very high score of success and a very low score or none of the scores against. 30/0, 40/1, 50/0, etc.

While it should look easy, this is a very emotionally draining exercise. For that reason, it’s important to be mindful of the length of your training session. This is important because if you do it right, it should look like the dog is relaxed. But under the surface, those dogs are often under a lot of stress. That is why I only practice for a minute or two at a time before I take a break and move a few feet away so the dog can relax for 2-5 minutes before I practice again. All in, my actual practice length is usually less than 10 minutes with many breaks in between.

I’m optimistic that this solution to dog aggression will work on Scarlet. In some situations you can be able to help the dog change its emotional response completely – learning to enjoy the company of other dogs. In other situations, you may only be able to help the dog feel comfortable with dogs that are nearby but not in immediate proximity. That is not unusual and completely OK. Not every dog likes or can play with other dogs. Again, this is not wrong.

I asked Scarlet’s guardian to text and call me with progress reports after practicing so that I can offer additional tips and suggestions or set up a follow up session if we need one.

By the end of the session, Scarlet was pooped. That was a lot of thinking, walking and doing in a short period of time. While Scarlett’s guardian seemed to pick up what I laid down, I wanted to leave her with a good wrap up.

I handed Scarlets guardian my phone so I could record a roadmap to success summary video of all of the things that we covered in this in-home Santa Monica dog behavior session. You can watch this by clicking below.

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This post was written by: David Codr