How to Train Your Dog to Not Attack Other Dogs

Medium
1-6 Months
Behavior

Introduction

You’re walking through gorgeous green fields, the sun is out, your canine friend is bounding around sniffing everything — but then, they turn rigid, their tail drops, and all of a sudden, they leap across the field to lunge at another dog. Your stomach turns and you charge after your dog, hoping to prevent a battle. It is a wholly embarrassing situation and one that can leave everyone involved feeling emotional.

Dogs that attack are often misunderstood. Fear and protection instincts often drive dogs to attack, but the effects can be devastating. Firstly, your dog or another dog may be seriously injured, causing pain, discomfort, and hefty vet bills. In some states, dogs that attack other dogs or humans are required to be put down. Getting a handle on this behavior is essential for the protection of both your dog and others. 

Defining Tasks

Training your dog not to attack other dogs might sound relatively straightforward, but it can actually be extremely challenging. This type of behavior is often a result of underlying issues that can be difficult to address. Therefore, successful training involves obedience, taking steps that reduce unsupervised physical interaction with other dogs, plus a number of other measures.

Rectifying aggressive behavior in puppies will be quicker and easier than changing the habits of older dogs, but it's absolutely vital if you want to avoid serious injury to your own dog and others. Dogs that attack other dogs can even go on to attack humans, so it's even more important you address any signs of aggression as soon as possible.

Consistency is key with this type of training, so you need to be prepared to be patient and put in the hours. It could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months to fully train aggression towards other dogs out of your canine friend.

Getting Started

Before you get going with the methods below, you'll need to gather a few things. A secure collar and leash will be required. Make sure the collar is comfortable. You may also want to invest in a harness that allows you to have good control without the collar pulling on your dog's neck.

You'll also need a quiet place to train without too many distractions that isn't overpopulated with other pups. Treats or your dog's favorite food will also be needed to incentivize and reward them. Small, tasty training biscuits and pieces of cheese often go over well. Once you have these things and a proactive attitude, you’re ready to get to work!

The Sitting Pretty Method

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Step
1
Go to the park
Invite a fellow dog owner to an open area, such as a quiet public park. Avoid off-leash dog parks as they can exacerbate your dog's aggression. This activity is best done at a park with a dog-friendly walking trail.
Step
2
Treats count
Don't forget to bring plenty of high-value treats! (We also recommend doing this shortly before dinnertime so both doggos have an appetite.)
Step
3
Sit pretty
Put your leashed dog in a sit-stay position several feet off the trail and let the other dog walk by. Reward your buddy with a treat and praise each time they maintain a calm sit-stay without lunging or growling.
Step
4
Patience
Continue the exercise, Each calm session deserves a high five and a food reward. However, this may take several tries. The other dog will likely need to pass by several times, so be patient.
Step
5
Repeat and increase the intensity gradually
This step is a common theme in conditioning training. Once your dog understands what you want them to do, decrease the distance gradually. Continue your training and your buddy will be ready for a pup playdate before you know it!
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The Counter Conditioning Method

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Step
1
Take a walk and add treats
This method builds on the threshold concept from the Establish a Threshold training method. For your next walk, stash some of your dog's favorite treats in your pocket and head out for your walk. You can also work on counter conditioning if you have a large open space, like a big backyard, and a friend with a well-trained dog. If you're training at home, keep sessions short at first and be patient.
Step
2
Start counter conditioning
Counter conditioning teaches your dog that staying calm around other dogs earns them a tasty reward. Once you've reached the threshold distance and your pup sees the other dog, start feeding them treats and giving praise. It's important to start slow and to always use positive reinforcement. If they get aggressive, take away the treats and move to a safe distance.
Step
3
Walk and walk again
Remember, this process will take some time. You may need to go on dozens of walks or host several training sessions before the concept sinks in. Never punish your dog by yelling at or hitting them; this will only perpetuate the behavior and make them fearful of you. If they react calmly, continue lavishing them with treats and praise so they know they're on the right track.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat step two as many times as necessary. Eventually, your dog will associate seeing another dog at the threshold distance with getting a treat. This is known as a conditioned emotional response. Once your pup is consistently calm, decrease the distance gradually and assess your dog's reactions. Over time, once your pup is able to walk calmly past another dog, you may want to add another dog to the mix. Continue to build on this skill by increasing the time and decreasing the distance.
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The Establish a Threshold Method

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Step
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Brush up on obedience training
Working on obedience is the first step to conditioning your dog to associate other dogs with good things, like treats, praise, and pats. A dog with knowledge about behavior is a wonderful thing. Make sure your dog is willing to heel and sit-stay on cue. Use positive reinforcement during this process.
Step
2
Take a walk
Once you're confident that your pal will follow your commands, leash up and take a walk in an area where you'll pass other dogs, but keep your distance. Think of this walk as an experiment. You want to establish a "threshold" distance. Notice roughly how far away the other dog is when your dog starts showing signs of aggression.
Step
3
Double the threshold distance
If your dog starts growling or lunging at a distance of 20 feet, move them 40 feet away at the very first sign of aggression. (This includes the stare-down that often precedes aggressive behavior.) This teaches them that you'll protect them from what they perceive as danger. Never force your dog to interact with other dogs if they're fearful or protective.
Step
4
Mind your body language
Your dog will pick up on your emotions. Tensing up or gripping the leash tightly might make them more fearful or aggressive. Maintain a calm yet firm demeanor to let your dog know there's no danger.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
William
Border Collie lab mix
2 Years
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Question
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William
Border Collie lab mix
2 Years

William is very aggressive and hard to control when he sees another dog or cat. He is a rescue and they were up front about the issue. We recently had an incident where a friend had to help me control him when he saw another dog as we were walking. He was THAT aggressive. What can I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Justin, Check out Thomas Davis from the Canine Educator, Jeff Gellman from solidk9training, and Sean O'Shea from the Good Dog on Youtube. I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to work with you in person in this case. I recommend looking for someone who comes well recommended by their previous clients for aggression needs in their dogs, and who specifically has access to multiple other well mannered dogs, and at least one other trainer, so that sessions with their own calm dogs, in a controlled situation can be set up for the desensitizing process. You will need to be able to control distance between the dogs, how the other dog may react also, how much stimuli there is in the environment, and be able to repeat the same situation over and over and over again, until it becomes more boring to your dog and a calmer response can be rewarded. If pup has never drawn blood on another dog, then you may be able to use a no-pull harness and basket muzzle, and join a G.R.O.W.L. class, if there is one in your area, which would be less expensive than one-on-one training, but if you can't control pup enough for a class I would pursue private training instead. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Clifby
bully xl
8 Months
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Clifby
bully xl
8 Months

Extremely dog aggressive, does not want to play just wants to go bite other dogs even 3x the size of him. No response to anything I say. Lovely to humans. Needs to learn they are not a threat or he doesn’t need to attack them. Same with cats and even bikes. Even if the other dog is friendly and is not acknowledging Clifby at all, he wants to do is go bite.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Oomz, I would start by desensitizing him to wearing a basket muzzle using food rewards. Next, I would see if there is a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area, which is a class for dog reactive/aggressive dogs, who all wear muzzles and are intensively socialized in a structured environment under the supervision of the trainer, to intensively socialize the dogs together more quickly. If you don't have a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area you will need to work in person with a training group that has access to multiple other well mannered dogs, so controlled, safe training scenarios can be set up involving other dogs. Ideally there will be at least one additional training so the two trainers can work together to handle your dog and the other dog while showing you how to do the same. Look for someone who specializes in behavior issues like aggression, most trainers don't, so ask about experience and check into client referrals and reviews for reviews from those whose aggressive dogs have been helped by those trainers. If you are working with a training group opposed to a G.R.O.W.L. class, this process will probably involve a combination of working on routines, teaching commands, and enforcing some new rules with pup to build trust and respect for you first. These new commands will also be things that increase impulse control and help you better communicate with pup around other dogs. Next, pup will be counter conditioned around other dogs, starting with encounters from further away where pup is less aroused and gradually decreasing distance and increasing distraction as pup learns to ignore the other dog and feel less aroused by their presence. For some dogs this may also involved interrupting pup's unwanted behavior. How and if this is done is something the trainer needs to determine in person as they evaluate pup's temperament, behavior, and how they are responding to the training. All of this should be done with safety measures like back tie leashes, basket muzzle, and other tools that keep distance between pup and those pup could bite. Always be aware of safety when it comes to aggression, and the possibility of a dog in an aroused state redirecting their aggression to whoever is closest when highly aroused, even if pup isn't normally aggressive toward people. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Molly
GSP
2 Years
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Question
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Molly
GSP
2 Years

I have 2 GSP. One is 11 years old and 1 is2. They have been together since the younger one was about 10 weeks old. They just started attacking each other. Not sure which once starts it. Very scary as the older one is no match. Had the older one get a blood test which was good. Don't know why all the sudden they started this. I am a nervous wreck if they even get close. Can this be fixed?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lynn, I would look into hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to help you one-on-one. I suspect there needs to be some strict boundaries for both dogs, to give each other space, address any resource guarding, possessiveness of you, intimidation through body language, stares, or hovering. Commands like 1-2 hour long Place commands, Leave It, and Out. Feeding the dogs in separate closed crate or different rooms to remove any stress related to food. Likely counter conditioning them to each other too, rewarding tolerance and calm responses when the other dog is in the good to change the bad association that's been formed due to the fights. There are several factors that could be contributing to the fights. Two years old is a common age for aggression to show up because there is a lot of sexual and mental maturity that happens between one and two. It might be that the younger dog has decided they want to be in charge, especially with the older dog becoming weaker. It could also be that the older dog is in pain or mentally declining, leading to a much lower tolerance for the younger dog than before. They might be reacting very defensively toward the younger dog, and addressing anything medical, and teaching the younger dog to respect their space more could help. The younger dog might also detect something wrong with the older dog, whether that's general weakening due to age or a health concern, and they are not tolerant of the abnormality. There are also general things unrelated to age that could have started this, like a one time incident related to something like an injury, resource guarding, or overly excited play turning into a fight when one dog got hurt or overly aroused, that lead to the first fight and created suspicion between them. It's hard to know for sure without evaluating their interactions together in person. It would be valuable to know who is starting the majority of the fights now though, and to work on things like adding a lot more structure, boundaries, and counter conditioning. I cannot promise whether things will ever go back to how they were but with a great trainer, things can likely at least get to the point where its well managed, so you can relax more again. In some cases, things will improve completely, especially if something like pain is a trigger and the pain starts being managed better, for example. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ben
Indie
10 Months
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Question
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Ben
Indie
10 Months

ben sometimes tend to get extremely aggressive, whenever we take him down for a walk he never listens to any commands or try to pull us wherever he wishes to go. he really gets aggressive towards dogs peeing in his territory. the biggest problem is that he listens to the commands at home with or without treats but when he’s out on a walk he doesn’t even respond to treats or anything and gets very disobedient.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jiya, For this training need I do recommend working with a professional trainer in person. Look for someone who specializes in behavior issues, comes well recommended by their previous clients for aggression related training, and who works with a team of trainers and has access to other dogs to practice desensitization and counter conditioning around in a controlled situation. https://www.youtube.com/user/SolidK9Training Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Milo
Chihuahua
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Milo
Chihuahua
6 Years

He doesn't like bigger dogs. I have just rescue a Irish wolf hound and he is always trying to go for him

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alison, For this need I recommend either joining a G.R.O.W.L. class which is a training class for dog reactive/aggressive dogs, where the dogs are intensively socialized together in a structured environment while wearing basket muzzles for safety. Or, I would hire a professional trainer who works with at least one other trainer and has access to several well mannered dogs, like the trainers' dogs, so that a combination of training areas can be worked on; things like, desensitizing/counter conditioning pup to other dogs, where rewards are used to help your dog associate other dogs with good things; things like building respect, obedience, and trust for you, which is done through obedience command practice and giving more boundaries, to teach pup trust you to handle situations that make them uncomfortable with other dogs, to make managing pup's behavior easier with commands like Quiet, Leave It, and Place, and to establish new rules for what's allowed in your home between the dogs. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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