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Q&A: Should I Adopt a Dog With Aggression Issues?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

There are numerous strategies that may help reduce or even prevent dog-on-dog aggression.

There are numerous strategies that may help reduce or even prevent dog-on-dog aggression.

Can I Keep an Aggressive Dog From Fighting in Her New Home?

"We are considering adopting a 5-year-old female German Shepherd who lives with another female from the same litter and now requires a new forever home due to fighting issues. The dog did live in a previous home with no pets and was fine, although limited background info is available.

We would consider further training if this would help. In your opinion, will this dog accept other dogs visiting our home, or is she too insecure around other dogs?" —Joan

Tips for Dealing With Dog-on-Dog Aggression

It is impossible to say whether her dog-to-dog (or interdog) aggression is going to continue after moving to a new home. It may have started with littermate aggression and developed into something more generalized. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to deal with dog-to-dog aggression.

The main thing to try is obedience training, so I was pleased when I read your comment about being willing to take your new GSD for more training. Sometimes just teaching good impulse control works with these dogs, and if you can put her into a down/stay when another dog is present, your problem may be solved easily.

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How to Keep Your Dogs From Fighting

Is there another dog already in the household? If so, you must do your best to help the dogs avoid any conflict so that fighting does not start. Here are a few strategies.

  • Introduce them in a neutral location. I like to use the beach or a park. When the dogs finish meeting and walk off together, they consider it normal.
  • Feed your dogs in separate rooms. Some fights start over resources like food; having separate bowls and feeding in separate rooms prevents this issue.
  • Do not show affection for one dog when the other is in the room. Jealousy is common in some dogs.
  • Only give toys when the dogs are in separate rooms. Toy and treats are another resource that might provoke fights.

Once the fighting starts, it is hard to break up and even harder to prevent a second incident. You may be able to train the dogs with counter-conditioning and desensitization, but there is always the chance a fight will break out later. It is best to avoid it altogether.

How to Keep Your Dog From Fighting With Other Dogs

If you do not have another dog, the best way to prevent this problem is by not allowing guests to bring over their dogs so that she does not feel that her territory has been invaded. Some dogs will still be aggressive when out for a walk, but this is usually easier to deal with.

Adoption Is Definitely Worth a Shot!

It is not always easy to deal with this aggression issue, but it is great to hear that you are thinking of adopting her and giving her another chance.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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