Helping a Dog Who Acts Aggressive When Dogs Sniff Her Butt

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 1, 2023

aggressive when dogs sniff

For this West LA dog training session we helped 2 year-old Pit mix Pearl lean to stop acting aggressive when dogs sniff her butt.

Pearl’s aggressive behavior when her butt is sniffed only started after her guardian had sent her to a board and train facility. I am not a fan of board and train programs as most of them use the old force and punishment based training methods that have been abandoned by most modern dog trainers.

There’s no way to know for sure why Pearl started acting aggressive when other dogs sniffed her butt. It could be that she was punished for disagreeing with another dog sniffing her rear end while at the board and train. It could also be possible that the methods used at the board and train caused her to become anxious and fearful. Since dogs can smell if another dog is fearful or insecure when sniffing their butt, it’s also possible that this is Pearl’s coping mechanism to hide her fear and anxiety.

We spent a good portion of the session debunking a lot of the bad advice that the board and train people had given Pearls guardian such as controlling what she could sniff and some erroneous information about dog behavior in general. Its hard to know what they covered, so I spent a lot of time asking questions then discussing the why’s of the issues and things they told her so she coudl get back on the right track. Its frustrating when clients use a board and train like this as you have to spend a lot of time and sleuthing to determine what happened as the guardian wasnt there.

After going over a number of dog behavior fundamentals like marker words, when to introduce cues, hand targeting, dog consent, how to stop unwanted dog behaviors in the home, the importance of rewarding desired behaviors and some creative exercise tips – whew – we were ready to head out to meet a dog friend of Pearl’s.

When we scheduled the session, I explained we may not have enough time to get to the butt sniffing aggression as board and train dogs usually have a number of small issues that need to be addressed as well as erasing the bad informaiton shared with the punishment trainers. But since we had to reschude this session a few times, I think that may have been forgotten. We had made good progress and were ahead of schedule so I had her call a friend with a dog to practice with.

Pearl’s guardian questioned the benefit of practicing these techniques with a dog that she is comfortable with and doesn’t have a problem sniffing her butt. It was a good question to ask.

However, when you’re working with dog behavior issues, the first step is to help the dog practice whatever the new technique or exercise is by arranging the easiest version needed for the dog to learn this new behavior. So while it doesn’t seem to make sense by practicing with a dog Pearl doesnt act aggressive to when sniffing her butt, that kind of practice can be invaluable. This is be cause those interactions are making a positive association with the sniffing action without triggering the emotions that make it much more difficult.

Tips to Help a Dog Stop Acting Aggressive When Dogs Sniff Her Butt

As one of LA’s Dog Behavior Expert, I have learned that a good place to start is to identify why the dog is acting that way in the first place. In this case, Pearl is likely acting aggressive when other dogs try to sniff her butt to prevent them from discovering that she is insecure, fearful or uncomfortable around new dogs. As I mentioned earlier, dogs can tell if another dog is feeling that way after sniffing thier bottoms.

This is not a common dog problem so coming up with a fix for this problem involved some creative thinking. I needed to come up with a solution that addressed Pearl’s problem while keeping any helper dogs safe. Usually I like to address more comple or unusual issues like this in a follow up session, but since we had to reschedule this appointment a few times, I wanted to see how she reacted around other dogs.

When we were shooting a demo video, one of the people who lived in the apartment complex we were filming at decided to let his dog join us off leash unexpectedly. Pearl’s guardian mentioned that hapens often and she was glad I was there to see how she reacted and so she could see how I handled it. You will have to watch the free positive dog training video below to see for yourself.

Obviously I wasnt expecting a random dog to come over off leash a minute into the video so it caused me to become a little distracted in my video naration. This was not the ideal situation to practice, but since Pearl’s guardian doesnt have a ton of dog friends or a back yard, we had to make due.

My end goal was to create a situation where the dog experiences a very brief butt sniffing followed by something positive. I wanted Pearl to associate the sniffing sounds and sensations (dog moving behind her and feeling breath or whickers on her rear) with getting a treat so can start to change her emotional response to this activity. Throw in an off leash Husky and that becomes more challanging.

I ended up with two regrets after this session. First, I didnt get a chance to walk Pearl’s guardian though the exercise. My thought at the time was she can easily do it and the friend needed to go. But in retrospect, I wish we had practiced the exercise with Sunny. I also regret not going deeper into the muzzle suggestion.

No one wants to see their dog in a muzzle, but they are important tools that can help keep dogs safe and also prevent dogs from practicing a biting behavior. Muzzles are not the most attractive piece of equipment and since people often associate them with aggression, many people are wary of the stigma this may bring to their dog.

But if used properly, a muzzle is a wonderful tool that can keep everyone safe. And if the muzzel is introduced to the dog in a positive way, the dog does not look at it as negative. I plan on discussing this with Pearl’s guardian after posting this as using a barrior is the only other way to create a safe situation to practice, but that becomes complicated; getting people to back her rear end up to a fence and timing another dog sniffing her butt in the precise second she is looking away.

While I wanted to focus on an exercise to help Pearl practice feeling comfortable when another dog sniffs her butt, I would be remiss to fail to mention that it’s also equally important that we need to help Pearl feel comfortable around other dogs. This (fear or anxity around unknown dogs) is likely the fundamental cause for the behavior and therefore it should be addressed.

If I had to do this session over again, I would have instead had Pearl’s guardian practice the Engage Disengage game as well as muzzle training in this session, then set a follow up session in a few weeks to work on the sniffing with another dog. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.

Because of all the fundamentals we needed to cover to repair the damage done by the board and train company, we didn’t get a chance to go over the engage disengage game in the session. But if the guardian can practice the Engage Disengage game 15 to 20 minutes one or two times a week in a public place where Pearl can see other dogs without them getting to her, that practice should have a profound impact on this unwanted butt sniffing aggression.

After letting Pearl play with her buddy Sunny for a bit, we headed back to her home so that I could wrap up the session. To make sure that the guardian could remember all of the positive dog training tips we shared in this in-home West LA dog training session, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr