How to Stop a Dog From Acting Aggressive to Other Dogs

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 8, 2022

stop a dog from acting aggressive to other dogs

For this Brentwood in-home dog training session we worked with Pitbull Foggy, sharing tips to stop a dog from acting aggressive to other dogs.

I had Foggy‘s guardian bring him out to meet me outside. Anytime you’re dealing with a dog who is anxious or potentially reactive, meeting in an outdoor environment that is full of distractions and has a lot of room can be very comforting and helpful for the dog.

I used a few Dog Behaviorist tricks and in no time Foggy was eating treats out of the palm of my hand. We headed inside so that we could discuss his dog behavior problems and how I could help them.

Unfortunately, Foggy’s guardians had hired a force-based trainer to work with him before our session. This trainer was pretty extreme; the guardians told me he told them that animals don’t play (100% incorrect) with each other. He also asked them to be very dominating and controlling of the dog.

It’s always frustrating when I hear of people who have hired dog trainers that use punishment because the only thing that it accomplishes is it suppresses the behavior. Those techniques never treat or fix these problems. If you are fearful of someone and when you tried to communicate that, the person decided to punish or chastise you, it wouldn’t help you get over your fear. In fact it would most likely make it worse. Same thing applies to dogs.

So if you have a dog and hire a trainer who wants to use a prong collar, shock collar, bark collar, citronella spray collar, choke chain, talks about dominating your dog, controlling its every move or pinning it down until it submits (known as an Alpha Rolls), find another trainer. These trainers often go by the label of “balanced trainer” meaning that they punish dogs as well as reward them.

But if you have a dog that is fearful or reactive, any sort of punishment is only going to make matters worse. If you have a dog that barks at your neighbor and you put a shock collar on it and shock every time it barks at your neighbor, the dog will start to associate the shock as coming from the neighbor. If you use a prong collar, anything the dog is looking at it when the prongs bite their neck is where the dog will perceive the pain is coming from. At best, you will suppress the behavior temporary, but in my experience as one of LA‘s dog behavior experts, this only amplifies or leads to a worst behavior later on

Fortunately for Foggy, his guardians recognized that most of what that punishment-based trainer was saying was nonsense and didn’t follow his recommendations.

After we got done debunking the punishment-based dog training nonsense, we started out by creating a foundation of positive dog training techniques. I explained the concept of marker words and showed the guardians how they can load the word as well as use it. We did the same thing for a clicker which is one of the tools I like to use when you’re dealing with a dog that has dog aggression problems.

I also went over a number of creative forms of exercise such as feeding out of a snuffle mat, scent games like cookie in the corner and the benefits of short positive dog training sessions to drain energy. If you have a dog that has dog aggression issues, one of the ways you can manage it is to avoid encountering other dogs. Of course in LA this is more difficult than it sounds, but coming up with some creative forms of exercise that can be done inside can be very beneficial if you have a dog aggressive dog.

How to stop a dog from acting aggressive to other dogs

In my experience as a Dog Behavior Consultant, I have found there are not as many aggressive dogs as there are dogs who are insecure or fearful around other dogs. Dogs act aggressive as a way of making the other dog go away. In essence, the dog is trying to increase distance between itself and the other dog. A very simple tip to help dogs with dog aggression is to avoid other dogs or immediately increase distance when you see another dog so that your dog does not have to offer any behavior to make the other dog go away.

But if you want to help your dog stop acting aggressive to other dogs, you need to create a positive association with other dogs. One of the most important factors in treating dogs with dog aggression issues is to choose a suitable environment. We call this creating a staged set up; an environment that works in your favor as opposed to working against you.

Walking a dog in an urban environment with little room to move away can often make the dog feel trapped and eliminate the ability for the handler to increase the distance. But if you drive your dog to a big open area such as a public park, you are able to see the other dog at a great distance which gives you the ability to turn and walk away in the opposite direction.

But you can also use a large open area to help your dog feel comfortable around other dogs. Dog Behavior Consultants and Dog Behaviorist have been fixing dog aggression problems this way for years. This is basically a version of something called desensitization and counter conditioning.

I pulled out my camera so that I could show the guardians how they can help a dog aggressive dog practice being calm around other dogs. If you have a dog that acts aggressive when it sees other dogs, you should check out the free positive dog behavior training video below.

The most important factor when using this secret to stopping dog on dog aggression just to make sure that your dog does not react. By react, I mean the dog can’t be dog barking, lunging, or acting in a hysterical or reactive manner. Moving around, looking in different directions, flipping its ears, etc are all perfectly acceptable. We just dont want the dog in that arroused state.

You need to find a location that has an open space that provides a lot of area so that you can increase distance if soemthing your dog reacts to comes into view. Once you can find this scenario, you can start creating positive associations every time the dog looks at the other dog or has an interaction that is desirable, i.e. not reactive.

Once your dog becomes comfortable at that distance, you can move a few feet closer and practice again. This distance will vary depending on the other dog’s behavior and size. In some cases you may see a smaller dog and be able to get closer and practice there without your dog reacting. In other situations, you may need to move away from a dog who is barking, jumping or acting reactive itself.

This is not an overnight fix. Helping a dog get over dog aggression is all about creating a number of positive scenarios that are stacked on top of each other. While this is going on, you want to do everything you can to prevent the dog from having any encounters that caused it to act aggressive to another dog. That is essentially practice at being aggressive and is something you definitely want to avoid.

At the end of the session I went over a positive muzzle training technique that I like to use. Many people pick a muzzle that wraps around the dog’s snout but for reactive dogs, that can be very dangerous, possibly even deadly. When a dog is over excited or reactive, they need to be able to open their mouth to breathe properly and cool down. The muzzle that wraps around their snout does not allow them to open their mouth to do this. Instead, you want to use what is referred to as a basket muzzle that looks similar to a football player facemask.

I went over the importance of measuring the dog’s snout with a ball inside of its mouth so that you’re getting it sized properly, allowing the dog to open its mouth and breathe when it needs to. I also showed the guardians how they can gradually introduce the muzzle so that the dog feels comfortable and in fact likes wearing it. If you do it right, the dog sees the muzzle as a positive thing.

I also made sure to go over how to use a muzzle and when. You should never put a muzzle on a dog and take it into a situation that might cause it to be reactive. A muzzle is a tool that you should use to make sure everyone stays safe, not something that you should put on a dog to stop it from acting aggressive to other dogs.

We finished up the session by recording a roadmap to success summary videos so that the guardians could remember all of the dog behavior tips I shared with him in this in-home Brentwood dog training session.

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This post was written by: David Codr