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7 easy ways to train a dog to get along with other dogs

Updated on October 23, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr Mark is a veterinarian in Brazil. He also trains dogs, mostly large breeds and dogs suffering from aggression problems.

Playful aggression in dogs can build up to something more serious if it is not controlled.
Playful aggression in dogs can build up to something more serious if it is not controlled. | Source

A few tips

Small dogs that become aggressive to other dogs can be dealt with; large dogs will tear your arm out of the socket when they lunge on the leash, and maybe leave you flat on your face. 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 on 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. If it only works for him, what good is it to the millions of dogs suffering from dog aggression?

According to dog trainer Dr. Ian Dunbar, dog aggressive dogs have poor social skills and are best trained through classical conditioning. This theory allows you to teach dogs like Pavlov, and by giving treats the dog will stop feeling aggressive to 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.

Some things that might 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)
When dogs from the same home use dominant behavior during play, aggression can get out of control.
When dogs from the same home use dominant behavior during play, aggression can get out of control. | Source

Aggression at home

You probably already know which of these things makes your dog most aggressive. Some of these problems start early, some of them only develop as the dog matures and becomes territorial.

All of them can be serious, but aggression to strange dogs met during the walk is more common and easier to put up with. Aggression to another dog in the household can be difficult for everyone. If two dogs fight constantly, it is unlikely that they are going to get over their aggression issues with other dogs met during a walk.

Also, 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 here work best when the dog aggression is directed at strange dogs.

Some 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 dog 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 aggressive dog 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.
A female dog can growl and snap at a male; this is not considered aggression.
A female dog can growl and snap at a male; this is not considered aggression. | Source

Details on Methods to Control Aggression

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 aggression 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 of you and will not want to go into the “down” position.

Obedience is important, but may not be the solution to your problem.

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) muzzle. The muzzle 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.

Avoidance: 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.

Flooding: 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.

Classical conditioning: When faced with the 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.

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.

This video gives instructions on the use of an electronic 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?

See results
With some work dogs of all sizes and breeds can learn to get along.
With some work dogs of all sizes and breeds can learn to get along. | Source

© 2014 Dr Mark


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    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 days ago from The Beach of Brazil

      JC, one of my Pit Bulls has developed a personality like your Blue Heeler, and although she never bites she has to roll the other dog on his back to establish her dominance. Training is not going to help much in her condition, so avoidance is the only real answer. Avoid situations where she is going to get aggressive because even if she does not bite the other dogs owner might freak out when your dog tackles their dog.

      Most Blue Heelers in a working situation are not aggressive but they are territorial aggressive. The other best solution is to exercise her, a lot, even before you take her out. What about a treadmill? Is that a possibility for you? She needs to be very tired all of the time.

    • profile image

      JC 5 days ago

      My 3 year old female Blue Heeler has become dog to dog aggressive generally with smaller dogs. She is very well trained and immediately responds to commands. However if another dog rushes toward her or me, or our property, she attacks. She does NOT bite. She pins them down. The attacks looks and sound terrible like a violent fight however she has not yet ever inflicted any physical injury to other dogs. I understand dominance and pack order behaviour but why could it be that she is generally only like this with small dogs? I cannot trust her to be in off leash areas now. She has NEVER EVER instigated or been aggressive with other dogs, she simply minds her own business and plays. However if a dog runs up to her (even in non aggressive manner) she goes nuts. Just the other day we were at the beach and we were in the water swimming. My dog them saw a poodle over by our towels and clothes and ran 50 metres up the beach to chaise it away and go off her tree at it. She was well socialised and always around other dogs but now that she is older she generally can't stand other dogs being around her and most certainly she won't let them near me. Another point, she will always place herself between me and another dog or another person, always guarding. I don't want to muzzle her as she never instigates the trouble however I'm worried that one day she will cause harm. Any advice would be welcome.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 weeks ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Patty, it is very difficult to say. If your dog is very dominant, and your daughter´s dog is submissive, she may never turn around and snap your dog, which may tend to stop it. If you get in the middle trying to stop it, the dogs might just become confused about their ranking and actually become worse. Some pups will grow out of this, but at nine months I doubt it. The best thing you can do is see how the dogs live together, but you might need to rehome one of them later on.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 weeks ago from The Beach of Brazil

      S, no, not always. Basket muzzles have a calming effect on some dogs. Not all dogs are the same.

    • profile image

      Patty 3 weeks ago

      my dog is 9 months old (pit terrier) now and my daughter is moving home with her pit bull 2 years old. My dog is friendly and wants to play but does the biting not just mouthing and hurts her dog, how do I get her to stop? Will she ever out grow this?

    • profile image

      3 months ago

      A muzzle will tend to make your dog feel trapped than safe and more likely cause him to be more aggressive when taken off.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      t, that mounting has nothing to do with sex, as you already know, but does have to do with his need to feel dominant. I think the only thing to do in his case is stop it at the first sign. If he is in the doggy park, for example, and mounts another dog, put the leash on him and take him home. After a few times he should understand that mounting means the end of his playtime. Good luck getting him under control.

    • profile image

      4 months ago

      unfortunately, my chihuahua gets so excited about playing he starts mounting every dog.. from playing, to aggressive to mounting... always the end result.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 12 months ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Blond Logic--is the Dobie female? It usually does not happen if they are male/female, but if they are the same sex the problem is much more common. The only thing I can suggest is if you can have your caseiro walk the two of them together for at least an hour morning and evening, and if you have an area where they can run off leash together it helps some dogs get over the problem. If that does not work, you are correct in that you will need to find a home for the new or older dog. Sometimes they just do not get along, no matter what you try. Good luck with them.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 12 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Dr. Mark,

      We have had problems with our two bitches. Our doberman has attacked our older mutt, 3 times. Now this means they both are tied at opposite ends of the house. Not ideal by any measure.

      The doberman has no problem with the male dog, just the female.

      We are beginning to think re-homing is the only option.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Rachel! I read the comments on your electric fencing hub last night (and the hub, of course) and it is good to have you back. It looks like you are really busy with your new farm.

      I laughed at your comment about the kitten. I almost brought home a little rabbit yesterday, but thought of that dog-on-bunny violence. I trust my dogs with almost everything, but a bunny? No way.

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Voted up and more! Important information for dog owners with dog-aggressive dogs. Now if only we could figure out how to end dog-on-kitten violence... ;) Take care!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I think "yank on the leash and tell your dog to shut up" needs to go on my "Methods" table.

      Thanks for that last comment. My parrot hubs do not seem important, as least to the big G. Oh well. My bird enjoys them anyway!!!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Very useful article, Doc! I think the knee jerk reaction of most people, when their dogs show aggression towards others, is to yank on the leash and holler at the dog. It's so important to seek the help of a credentialed trainer. Your hub gives a lot of important detail. Voted up, useful and interesting. I don't think you've ever written a hub that isn't!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      It sounds like she felt protective of you, Faith. Dominant dogs are like that, so when you were not around she probably felt enough in charge to ignore the riff-raff!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Useful article here. We had a Jack Russell terrier who thought she was a big dog and would become aggressive when other dogs approached us, but as long as we were not outside with her, she would just leave them be. I guess she felt she had to protect us.

      Voted up and more

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      DOM, you might enjoy this article about dog breeds that like cats.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi DOM. Thanks for sharing this. I have not seen you on here for a long time, was not sure you were still logging on to HP. I hope everything is going well for you down in Florida.

      Does Sekhmet ever actually try to hurt the cats? Sometimes dogs just act up when they feel they need to monopolize the owners time, and at other times they notice a cat taking a toy, pigs ear, or other special treat and they attack the cat to get it back. There is not really much you can do about it, as some cats will do fine and defend themselves, others will run off and stimulate prey behavior in the dog, which makes her that much worse.

      As your cats get older, and you want to have both dogs and cats in a household, you might want to look for a Maine Coon, a Siberian, or a Ragdoll. All three breeds are usually brave and willing to stand their ground. Most dogs will back off, but I have no idea if Sekhmet is that type or not.

      In the meantime, try not to show too much favor (or give special treats) to one cat when your dog is around.

      Good luck with that household!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      No idea, Santosh. The most common dog in the US, at least when I lived there many years ago, is a Lab cross. That is probably what this dog is. I just downloaded the video from Youtube since it showed that technique I do not use.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg 2 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Great article! We have an dog that is aggressive to both other dogs and cats. Although we only have one dog for this reason, we have 6 cats which tend to stay away from the dog, but there are times when Sekhmet seems to be intolerant and starts growling. In rare instances she attacks. Any tips for this kind of aggression?

    • srai01 profile image

      ARADHYA 2 years ago

      Dr Mark, It's really great and useful hub. I am facing this issue from long back "Dog to Dog aggression". I searched on net but didn't found something very useful. This was really nice.

      BTW: What's the breed of the dog in your video? Looks very Similar to Pariah dogs (Specially like Bhutia)?

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks for reading, Santosh. I wrote this after your suggestion the other day, but once I started realized I had a lot more to say than I realized. I hope it is not too long!

    • srai01 profile image

      ARADHYA 2 years ago

      Thanks for yet another great hub. Really useful info.,

      Voted up!

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