7 Easy Ways to Train a Dog to Get Along With Other Dogs
Every dog owner should take dog-on-dog aggression seriously. Small dogs that become aggressive towards other dogs can be dealt with, but large dogs will tear your arm out of the socket when they lunge on the leash. They might even leave you flat on your face, struggling to hold on. So what do you do when you have a 50 kilo (110 pound) Rott mix that needs to show all the other dogs that he is boss, no matter where you happen to be walking?
Years ago, the standard method to deal with these dogs was to control them with a choke chain and give them a pop before pulling them up tight when they misbehaved. Sometimes it worked, but if the dog had been developing this behavior for years, it usually did not.
According to the dog trainer Cesar Millan (the Dog Whisperer from TV) all you have to do to end dog to dog aggression is establish dominance. The dog will recognize you as a leader and stop being aggressive.
I am not Cesar Millan, and since you probably are not either, this technique does not work for me. Are you going to have better luck? If it only works for him, and only on TV, what good is it to the millions of dogs suffering from dog aggression?
According to dog trainer Dr. Ian Dunbar, dogs that are aggressive towards other dogs have poor social skills and are best trained through classical conditioning. This theory allows you to teach dogs like Pavlov did. By giving treats, the dog will stop acting aggressively towards other dogs.
This article will give you some tips on which method might work best for your dog, and allow you to train your dog to get along with other dogs.
Methods to Control a Dog's Aggression
- Basic Obedience
- Use a Short Leash and Muzzle
- Classical Conditioning
1. Basic Obedience
Make sure that the dog knows the heel, sit, and down commands. You should also teach him “stay” or “lie down” and train the dog to hold his position for a long time. That impulse control will help you every day you walk the dog.
When the aggressive dog responds to his commands, walking will be a lot more pleasant. You can avoid some aggressive situations by anticipating them before they happen. When another dog approaches, for example, have your dog go into a down position and talk to him until the other dog has gone past.
Of course, if the dog comes up to him and starts a fight, your dog is likely to lose his trust in you and will not want to go into the “down” position. Obedience is important, but may not be the solution to your problem.
2. Use a Short Leash and Muzzle
Although slip collars (choke chains) have become unpopular in many dog training circles, in some cases they can still be helpful. The dog usually stops his behavior at the moment, but unfortunately does not change his basic behavior. He may stop reacting to a strange dog in the same way, but only when the leash is on.
I make my own slip collars out of soft cotton rope. They do not have the “snap” effect of a choke chain, but are easier on the dog's throat. I also recommend using a basket type (wire or silicone) muzzle. The allows the dog to open his mouth and pant when walking, and since it presses down on the dog's nose it has a calming effect in some cases. (Not all dogs need muzzles, but this is the one I have found most effective. It may prevent your dog from biting, being labelled a dangerous dog, and later being put down by animal control.) muzzle
This is not going to end the aggression issue, but it may solve a lot of your problems. When you come across another dog on your walk, just turn your dog away and walk him out of the zone so that he no longer feels threatened. If it is too far to walk away, stand in front of the dog and block his view so that he does not see the other dog.
Obedience, a slip collar and muzzle, and avoidance can all be used together. If they do not allow you to relax when walking your dog, try these other techniques.
This is a technique that forces a dog to face his fears. In this case, your dog learns to be around other dogs, finds out that nothing bad will happen to him, and becomes less sensitive to the presence of other dogs.
This method can be stressful to the dog and is not recommended if other techniques can be used.
You should only try exposing your dog-aggressive dog to another dog if that dog is not going to attack your dog-aggressive dog and fight for dominance. Allow the dogs to meet in a neutral area, and make sure you put a muzzle on the aggressive dog in case he breaks loose.
5. Classical Conditioning
When faced with a situation in which the dog feels aggressive (being approached by a dog on a leash, for example) the dog is given treats as soon as the negative behavior starts. The treats have to be something special, not given at other training sessions, and the dog comes to associate the approach of another dog with something positive. (You can also make your dog less nervous by talking calmly to him while giving treats.)
The trainers who developed this method recommend that a slip collar not be used. It also takes longer than flooding, since the dog is exposed to strange dogs for only brief periods of time until he becomes used to them, but the results are usually more long lasting.
In some areas, classes are available that will allow you to work with other dog owners facing this problem. If there is no one to help, you can try working with your dog if you have a friend available that can help.
Have your dog under control and have your friend walk by with his dog while you are giving treats. This should be repeated every day, or as often as possible, and with time the dog comes to associate the appearance of another dog with a positive stimulus.
Some dogs still have problems if faced with a loose dog, a pack of dogs, or a dog in heat. If you can find a dog training group that specializes in this technique, the results will be better.
More Methods to Control Dog-to-Dog Aggression
- Teach basic obedience commands, and reinforce them so that you can tell the dog “down” when he is becoming excited and likely to lunge.
- When the dog is “down,” and the other dog walks away without confronting him, he is more likely to be less nervous at the next encounter.
- Walk the dog with a slip collar and on a short leash, but try to stay relaxed so that the leash is not tight. Some of the Dunbar followers might not agree with the use of this collar, but it still works in some cases.
- Walk the dog with a basket muzzle. This type of muzzle allows your dog to pant and helps calm some dogs.
- Practice avoidance. When a dog comes towards you, move him away from the conflict, and stand in front of the aggressive dog to block his view.
- If obedience and avoidance do not work, try “flooding” by introducing several new dogs in a controlled situation. This will work with some dogs, but if the dog that is aggressive towards other dogs is guarding his territory or owner, this is probably not going to help.
- Try classical conditioning. This will require a dog that is willing to consume treats when another dog is in his “zone.” So, if the dog is so upset that he will not calm down, it may or may not work.
Aggression at Home
You probably already know which of the things listed in the chart above makes your dog most aggressive. Sometimes his reaction to these stimuli starts early, other times they'll develop as the dog matures and becomes territorial.
All of them can be serious, but aggression towards strange dogs met during the walk is more common and easier to put up with. An older dog that is aggressive to a new puppy in the household is one of the most difficult situations a dog owner can endure. Sometimes they get over it as the puppy gets older, but if two adult dogs fight constantly, then it is unlikely that they are going to get over their aggression issues with other dogs they meet during a walk.
Both people and dogs can be injured seriously during a fight. If you are not able to consult an animal behaviorist, you need to consider finding a new home for one of the dogs. The suggestions in this article work best when the dog's aggression is directed at dogs that are strangers.
This video gives instructions on the use of an electronic collar (a shock collar) for training a dog-aggressive dog. It is not a technique I use, and not something I list in the article above, but if you take a moment to watch this, you may choose to use this method instead of those I have found successful.
What method do you think is best for a dog-aggressive dog?
FAQ About Dog Aggression
Things That Stimulate an Aggressive Reaction in Your Dog
- A barking dog behind a fence
- A dog on a leash walking towards your dog
- A dog off of the leash walking towards your dog
- A pack of dogs walking free
- A dog in heat, especially when followed by a pack of free males
- A dog walking towards you (when the aggressive dog feels dominant and protective of you, the owner)
- A dog in the same household that guards resources (food, toys, or even your time and affection)
- A dog in the same household that uses aggressive play behavior (like mounting)
Why Do Dogs Suddenly Become Aggressive?
If your dog has gone from loyal, cuddly, and cute to suddenly aggressive, there can be many reason for this sudden shift in behavior. In fact, some illnesses cause dogs to become aggressive. If your dog has never shown any sign of aggression, but suddenly begins growling, snapping, or biting, it could be caused by a disease or illness. Or, your dog may have an injury that is causing major discomfort. In some situations, a dog will smell or sense something on a stranger that triggers aggressive behavior.
What Are the Signs of an Aggressive Dog?
- Excessive low-range barking
- Growling and snapping
- Standing tall
- Holding ears erect
- Carrying tail high and moving it stiffly from side to side.
Does Training Always Work?
None of these methods are guaranteed, and in some cases nothing you do is going to work. If you try several techniques, but your efforts do not succeed, some veterinarians will dispense mood altering drugs.
I hope it does not go that far. There is nothing wrong with a dog that is aggressive. Some animals are just different. If training does not work, though, be sure to keep your dog away from others so that he does not cause any damage. Getting a second dog is not a good idea in most cases, and “play dates” and dog parks are out of the question.
Just do not give up too easily. This problem develops with time, and it will take a lot of time to train your dog. Eventually, many of these problem pets learn to get along with other dogs.
- Deborah L. Duffy, Yuying Hsu, James A. Serpell. "Breed differences in canine aggression". Retrieved 27 November 2016.
More About Your Dog
- How To Help A Dog With Food Aggression
Sometimes a food aggressive dog will be fearful, not dominant. If your dog is snarling, growling, or barking during feeding, here are some tips that might help him become a better canine citizen.
- Dog Aggression : Is It OK To Wrestle With My Dog?
If you play rough with your dog, you may have been told it will lead to biting. But does wrestling lead to aggression?
- Five Dog Breeds That Bite But Are Never Reported
Dog bites do not usually come from the list of dangerous dogs, and bites do happen a lot more often than they are reported. Find out which dogs are actually prone to bite.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
I have a female Australian Kelpie and a female Kelpie/cattle dog. The fight started when I brought the older dog inside. I've separated them and rotate them in the house and backyard, because the fights have gotten bloody. But it is not a long-term solution, and I don't know what to do, and I love them both, and don't want to rehome either dog. Please help me, what do I do?
I have seen dogs like this that are never able to get alone. If you have tried everything in the article, but nothing is working, your only two options are to leave the dogs separated all of the time, or rehome one of the dogs.
I know that this solution sucks. I have seen people cry over this. All I can tell you is that it happens to people too. Think about your worst roomate, and now imagine that the roomate also came into your bedroom each night when you were sleeping and slapped you around. That is what it is like for your dog. She is living in a terrible world, one where she can never relax.
Try everything first, of course. If you do rehome one of your dogs, you still may be able to get another dog later, but the new dog should be of the opposite sex. Your female may tend to bully him but is unlikely to attack and hurt him. That almost always happens with two males or two females.Helpful 1
My 16-week-old Shih Poo is barking, growling, and nipping at my son's Boxer who comes to our place often. He is not aggressive with other dogs on our walks, just with the Boxer. What can I do to stop this?
Do any other dogs come to your house or is it only the Boxer? Does he feel threatened because the Boxer is invading his home, and is not aggressive with other dogs when he sees them outside his home?
If the Boxer is the only dog that comes into his home, it is possible that he is just feeling like his territory is being invaded. To stop this feeling, you need to take the Shih Poo and the Boxer out for plenty of walks together. Let them go to a dog park and play in neutral territory.
It may also help to take your puppy to your son's place a few times until the dog is used to interacting with the boxer on different grounds.Helpful 1
I just adopted my two-year-old German Shepard. His name is Axle. He is very aggressive when he sees people he doesn't know, as well as other dogs. What can I do to change this behavior?
To help your dog get along with other dogs, you can work with the suggestions in this article.
Dogs that are human aggressive are much harder to deal with. You can help him by socializing him as much as possible, but if he does bite someone when socializing, you are going to be in a complicated legal situation.
If you do not socialize him as much as possible, he will most likely get worse.
You need to consult an animal behaviorist and have your dog evaluated. Your regular vet can suggest someone in your area that can help.Helpful 14
I have a seven-year-old Shih Tzu and now a puppy. My Shih Tzu runs from the puppy, and growls at her. How can I fix this?
Some adult dogs just do not like puppies. Many of them will grow out of it when the puppy is older, but do not expect them to be the best of buddies.
You can try walking them together in the mornings and evenings so that they bond a little more. This article might give you some other ideas: https://hubpages.com/dogs/my-dog-is-suddenly-aggre...Helpful 11
We adopted a pit bull knowing that she had attacked another dog over food and taken back within two days of adopting. She was doing fine, and then our dog growled at her to leave him alone, and she attacked, drawing blood. We want to correct her behavior, and properly dog socialize her, but how can I trust her again or really know she can be helped?
I do not know how large the other dog is, but I personally would not trust her. My Pitbull has attacked other dogs as you described, and if the other dog backs down, she will then leave them alone.
You can try some of the behavioral changes in this article, and also consider consulting an animal behaviorist: https://hubpages.com/dogs/my-dog-is-suddenly-aggre...Helpful 10
© 2014 Dr Mark