An Easy Way to Stop Dog on Dog Aggression

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 27, 2023

stop dog on dog aggression

For this Santa Monica dog training session we worked with 3 year-old Pomsky Rammen (Pictured here on the right with his Roomie Cappy); sharing a tip to stop dog on dog aggression.

Rammen has been going to the dog park down the street for years. Recently a new dog started using the park and Rammen has been getting in that dog’s face a bit causing some disruptions. While Rammen hasnt had any fights at the dog park before, he could use a little smoothing out along the edges of his socialization and play.

Rammen started barking like crazy as soon as I arrived for the session. I asked his guardian to put him on a leash so that I could take him for a short walk around the neighborhood.  I had to gently encourage him a few times, but was able to walk around the block with him. He wouldn’t take treats that he was taking when I was with his guardian so it’s a safe bet that he was stressed being away from her. On the way back he was pulling rather than sniffing so we slowed things down to let him settle a bit before continuing.

When I sat down with his guardian to discuss the dog’s behavior, I got a first hand look at Rammen’s high energy level. He had difficulty settleing down, opting instead to run around, nudge for some pets, play with toys, engage with Cappy, then repeat. The only time he settled down, albeit briefly, was when he hopped in his guardian’s lap.  Overexcitement is a common contributing factor to many unwanted dog behavior problems.

Before we addressed his energy and behavior at the dog park, I went over a number of fundamentals such as how to introduce and use a marker word, a hand targeting exercise to practice using the markers, dog body language, dog cut off signals and consent, the importance of celebrating desired behaviors, how to teach dog manners, some tips on exercise some mental stimulation exercises as well as easy ways to add structure.

I also went over the importance of creting a healthy leader follower dynamic where the dos sees and respects the human as the leader they can count on. Some people have the belief that if they shower their dog with love, it will listen and be good. But for dogs, the real reward is attention. Withholding it when the dog offers unwanted behaviors and giving it when the dog listens, obeys or offers desired behaviors is a powerful way to develop a dog’s respect for thier human.

This is one of the most important lessons Rammen and his guardian will need to learn. He is pushing the boundaries and I fear at times his guardian gives in which reinforces the resistence or perception he doesnt need to listen to her. Its not tough love, more asking Rammen to do things to get his way like sitting to get invited onto her lap instead of thinking its his lap to jump up on when he feels like it. Follwoers ask, leaders tell. We need Rammen to do more asking and his guardin to do more telling (And also celebrate desired behaviors).

Next we left his roommate Cappy behind with a collagen stick from Best Bully and headed over to a nearby grassy area abutressing a park near their home. I wanted to see if we could find some dogs so that I could show his guardian how to stop a dog from acting aggressive towards other dogs.

How to Stop Dog on Dog Aggression

If you have a dog that barks at other dogs or offers other unwanted behavior as when other dogs are around, it’s important to first determine why the dog is acting that way in the first place. It could be dog aggression, but it could also be due to excitement, fear, anxiety or poor socialization skills.

Based on what I learned from Rammen’s guardian, I believe that his early socialization might not have been as robust as we would have liked.

She reported that he barked like crazy at his puppy classes. Whenever this happens in our puppy classes, we always increase the distance or find a way to block the sight of the other dogs. In the very rare cases that those modifications don’t stop the barking, we suggest an in-home behavior session to identify what’s going on so we can create a customized rehabilitation plan. If we dont interrupt an unwanted dog behavior that happens regularly, it can become a habit and I think that is part of Rammen’s dog park problem.

While this seems like extra work and expense, when you’re dealing with young puppies, you really don’t want them to practice unwanted behaviors or phobia’s. The more a puppy does something, the more than likely it is to continue doing so. Practice makes perfect.

As Santa Monica‘s resident dog behavior expert, I knew that I had to change the emotional response that Rammen had with other dogs while helping him not be so arroused at the dog park. This is a three part issue; under developed social skills, over excitement and some reactivity.

To address the reactivity or potential dog on dog aggression, I pulled out my camera along with some high-value treats when we spotted a couple of dog walker, marching a couple of packs of dogs around the park. I wanted to show Rammen’s guardian how she could help her dog stop acting aggressive towards unknown dogs.  If your dog acts aggressively towards other dogs, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below.

By managing the distance between Ramman and the other dogs, I was able to help him practice being around them without barking. The key is to recognize your dog’s body language and cut off signals while he keeping the other eye on the other dogs. If those dogs start getting animated, start moving too close or Rammen’s body language shows signs of distress, our job is to move the dog away so that he doesn’t feel the need to bark at them.

It will be important for Rammen’s guardian to make sure that she is keeping him far enough away that he doesn’t feel threatened, but not so far away that he is disinterested. Once she finds the appropriate distance, then she can start rewarding him every time he looks at the other dogs, creating a positive emotional response. Creating a positive association with the other dog is a fundamental element of stopping dogs who act aggressive to other dogs.

Fixing dog aggression problems is hard enough as it is. Eliminating all outside influences can really accelerate your progress.  It was great to see how well Rammen did when we were filming the video, but the real test was how his human would do. Fortunately for him, his guardian picked things up quickly and was able to achieve the same results after we filmed the video above.

It was great to see him looking at the other dogs without barking at them. This doesn’t mean that we fixed his dog aggressive behavior. It’s gonna take time, practice and several successful practice sessions stacked back to back, but based on how dedicated his guardian is to his well-being, I am confident that she will get there.

One of the other factors is Rammen’s over excited behavior at the dog park. Just like us, if a dog is over excied, it can get sloppy with social skills or act in ways that we may choose to do differently if we arent excited. In Rammen’s case, this is a three part process. Excitment when being leashed up, excitement when driving to and excitement of the park itself

Desensitization is a process of intentially exposing a dog to something so that it doesnt provoke a response. Some people think this is mean, but in fact, its a very commonly used dog behavior modification trick.

I recommended that the guardian practice desensitizing Rammen to the sight of the leash by practicing leashing him up in stages, and at times she doesnt plan on going for a walk or a drive.

The first step is walking to whereever the leash is kept. As soon as Rammen starts to get excited, she should stop that process and go sit down and wait for him to settle. This is why practicing this when you dont plan on going for a walk is best.

Once he is calmer, she can try again. But its crucially important she stop the instant Rammen gets too excited. Being “nice” and giving them another chance in this regard is the absolute wrong thing to do. It sill slow down the process and confuse the dog.

Once she can walk to where the leash is kept while Rammen stays calm, she is ready for the next step, reaching for the leash. But before she starts to reach, she needs to put Rammen into a sit. For this exercise, the sit indicates Rammen is calm enough to listen. Sitting in place means we continue, getting up means we stop.

But we would prefer to stop before the dog gets up out of a sit. This takes close observation. As soon as she sees Rammen start to oscilate or lean forward, that is the ideal time to stop. If Rammen gets up, she should ask him to sit once. If he does in 2 seconds, she can reach again. If he does not sit, she should walk away and do something else. No punishment or chastisement, just stopping the activity that was causing the excitement.

At first she will only reach a few inches, then pull her arm back and if Rammen stays in the sit, say her marker word then give him a treat. Repeat this same reach distance 2-5 times and when Rammen seems calm and relaxed for that amount of reach, the next rep she can reach further. Each dog is different, but stopping when the dog looks like its about to or when it does get out of a stand is the name of the game until she can pick up the leash, move it towards Rammen and attach it – while he remains calm the whole time.

I recommended the guardian repeat this process for driving to the dog park. By only driving part of the way, and turning around when he gets over excited, we can help him calm down for this activity too. Eventually she will reach the dog park with him calm. Once she gets out and walks towards the park, she shoudl stop and ask for a sit every few paces. If Rammen stops listening or sitting, that is the indicator he is at his limit and cause us to stop.

This will be a challange for the guardian as she has a number of friends she likes to see at the dog park. But each time Rammen goes inside over excited, he is practicing that behavior. And that behavior is what led to his negative encounter with another new dog at the park. As a compromise, I recommended the guardian take Cappie to the park every other day or third day so she can meet with her friends while keeping Rammen from practicing being over excited.

On the days she doesnt take Cappy to the dog park, I recommended she walk Rammen around the dog park itself. This is a wonderful and easy way to desensitize Rammen to the excitement of going to the dog park. I met with them a few days later to practice the engage disengage game from the video above. It would be best if she spent a week working on designsitizing Rammen on the leash and drive before walking around the park as those exercises will make this one easier. But I wanted to walk her through the exercise in person at that location to make sure she felt good and we practiced together.

We found a spot on the ocean side of the park where many dogs walked on their way to the dog park. Once there, I coached the guardian up through the exercise to stop dog aggression demonstrated in the above video. There was a spot where the guardian can see in the three directions the dogs come from, giving her time to get treats out and position Rammen so he can see them. Each time she gives him a treat for looking wihtout barking, she gets one step closer to getting Rammen back to the dog park.

Based on what I saw, I am confident Rammen’s guardian can help him learn to calm down which will help his baehavior towards the other dogs. We may need to set up a follow up session to work on his social skills or developing a strong recall so she can cal him away fro other dogs before any incident can pop off.

If the guardian can develop a healthy leader follower dynamic and desensitize Rammen from the leash, car rides and dog park, the engage disengage exercise will become easier and get her closer to returning to the dog park with Rammen without him getting into mischief.

I told the guardian to call or text me anytime she had any questions. in a few weeks I will meet with her at the dog park to take Rammen inside and continue his work if he is still showing a lack of boundaries with the other dog.

To make it easy for the guardian to remember all of the dog behavior tips we shared in this in-home Santa Monica dog training session, we recorded a roadmap to success summary video that you can watch below.

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This post was written by: David Codr