How to Stop a Dog From Acting Aggressive Around Another Dog

By: David Codr

Published Date: November 16, 2023

stop a dog from acting aggressive

For this West LA dog training session we worked with 3 year-old Pitbull mix Toph; sharing tips to stop a dog from acting aggressive.

Toph had gone after his room mate, 11 year-old Camilla twice in the week before this session. Prior to that they had lived together without incident for years so this was unexpected and concerning behavior for everyone.

Since Toph is sometimes uncomfortable with strangers entering her home, I asked her guardian to bring her outside to meet me. Incorporating open space and the distractions of being outside into a greeting with an anxious dog can help them feel more comfortable.

We started off the session by going over a number of dog behavior fundamentals. We loaded a marker word, then used a hand targeting exercise for the guardian to practice for timing. During that exercise, we went over the structure of teaching dogs a new cue (cue, action, marker and reward) and when to introduce the verbal cue so that everyone is communicating in a way that everyone else understands.

We discussed the importance of celebrating desired behaviors offered voluntarily to motivate our dogs to do the things that we want. We also talked about how to redirect dogs into a sit or down when they ask for attention in a way that is not as polite so that they can learn doggy manners.

I recommended that the guardian and her partner start telling each other “celebrate” or “manners,” anytime they miss an opportunity to reward a desired behavior (sit, come, lay down, eye contact, go to dog bed, etc) or redirect the dog into a more appropriate behavior when they forget to ask politely.

When dogs get into a fight, people naturally focus on that behavior. But over the last decade plus of fixing dog problems, I have found that there are often underlying issues at hand. By addressing the entirety of a dog’s day to day life, we can make small changes to actions that are repeated often. Over time, these new repeated actions can have a deep impact on how a dog feels. Dogs that feel comfortable and  secure often stop offering unwanted behaviors and this often includes dog on dog aggression.

Although Toph gets a good amount of exercise, I shared some creative exercise tips such as feeding out of a snuffle mat, scent work like cookie in the corner, playing tug-of-war and going on snifaris. Many people interrupt their dog from sniffing – which is a frustrating experience and also prevents the dog from burning as much energy as possible. So if you want to drain dog energy and hlep your puppy enjoy their walk, let them sniff!

Since the guardian used the leash to prevent Toph from picking up food found on the street, we went over the leave it exercise. I was pretty impressed at how smart Toph is as she picked it up within three reps which is incredibly fast. Toph would greatly benefit from learning new tricks.

I coached the guardians up so they were getting the same results with the leave it cue and recommended they practice the next level by putting objects on the floor and walking the dog pass them on a leash giving the cue to leave it alone. These sort of staged set ups give us the ability to practice in a controlled setting which can speed up the learning process.

Next we went over a positive recall exercise since Toph didn’t always listen when called. We practiced in a few different locations which is always a smart idea as dogs don’t generalize well. Once again Toph showed that she was highly intelligent – learning the exercise with only a few repetitions.

I made sure to go over dog consent and cut off signals as well as dog body language. As West LA’s resident dog behavior expert, I have found that many dog fights are easily avoided if the humans know how to understand their dog’s body language. Recognizing an early cut off signal or indicator of stress gives us an opportunity to step in and increase the distance between the dog and whatever it is beefing with.

When dogs see that we are intervenieng this consistently, they start being more passive in allowing us to handle the situation for them as we stop it before it becomes concerning enough to react. This is a wonderful way to stop dog on dog aggression.

I would love to see Toph’s guardian searching for some basic dog training tricks and exercises that she can teach her dog. Since Toph is so intelligent, I’m sure that she will pick them up easily, look impressive and practice listening to and respecting her guardian. They will also provide a number of great ways to redirect the dog’s attention. There are easy tricks like teaching a dog to spin or sit pretty that are simple. But Id also love to see Toph learnig how to play “bang your dead” or “roll over” too. Practicing one new exercise a few times a day should be all it takes for this smart pit!

How to Stop Dog Aggression

The main dog behavior problem the guardian wanted to work on was Toph going after Camila, a very old Yorky who has lived with her guardian for years. The guardian didn’t see the first fight between the dogs and supected the seocond one was over food. Toph did show guarding behavior one time in my session and due to the size difference this is concerning. I recommended the guardians be very mindful and alert when working with Toph with treats to ensure no other dog fights happen.

Anytime you have dogs that are fighting, it’s important to identify why the fights are happening. Since Toph did grumble and growl in the session when I had treats and Camilla came near, it made me think that there could be some food guarding issues going on. I wanted to show the guardians some easy ways to stop dog aggression although this is probably more of a jealousy or guarding problem.

I had the guardians put both dogs on the leash and set up my camera so I could demonstrate a way to create a positive emotional response. If you have a dog that has gotten into fights with another dog or has dog reactivity issues, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below.

I would recommend that the guardian pick up a bag of some lower value treats like Charlie bears since Toph was more interested in the treats than looking at the other dog. You want to find a treat that is high enough value that works, but not so high value that the dog isn’t interested in the other thing.

Stopping dogs from getting in fights is all about observing their body language and cut off signals and making sure they are respected. Creating a positive emotional responses really effective, but just like us, sometimes dog’s disagree with what the other dog is doing. If we can recognize the first warning sign and put a stop to it, the dog doesn’t need to react.

I recommended that the guardian put a bell around Camila’s neck or harness so that Toph hear’s her when she is walking around. It’s quite possible that Toph is giving cut off signals but Camila is not responding to them. The bell can give Toph and the humans an indicator that she is moving and give them an opportunity to move them away from one another.

Since we covered so much in this in-home West LA Dog training session, I recorded a roadmap to success summary video to make it easy to remember.

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This post was written by: David Codr