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 unpleasant, but then he turns rigid, his tail drops, and all of a sudden he leaps 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 all individuals feeling emotional.

Dogs that attack are often misunderstood. It is frequently fear that drives attacks, but the effects can be devastating. Firstly, your dog or another dog may be seriously injured, causing pain, discomfort and hefty vet bills. But if he attacks other dogs, there is also the chance that he has 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, training involves obedience commands, 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 is absolutely vital if you want to avoid the serious injury or death of your dog and other dogs. Dogs that attack other dogs can even go on to attack humans, so it is even more important you address the issue.

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 anything 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 will need to gather a few things. A secure collar and leash will be required. You may also want to invest in a harness and a muzzle, both will increase your control and reduce the chances of injury being caused.

You will also need a quiet place to train, that isn’t densely canine populated and is free from distractions. Treats or your dog's favorite food will also be needed to incentivize and reward him.

Once you have these things and a proactive attitude, you’re ready to get to work!

The Feeling Safe Method

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Step
1
Understand the signs
Understand your dog's signs that he feels threatened. He will attack other dogs usually as a defensive reaction because he is scared. Keep an eye on him to understand the signs of imminent aggression. Has his body gone rigid? Has his tail dropped between his legs?
Step
2
Physical barrier
Place yourself between him and the approaching dog. Dogs have a pack mentality, so if he is in front of you and a dog is approaching from ahead, he will see it as his responsibility to protect you. If you put yourself between the two dogs while holding your leash firmly, he will instantly feel safer.
Step
3
Ensure the other dog keeps its distance
Ask the owner of the approaching dog to stay back and to also stand in front of their dog. This will put two barriers between the dogs, which will make your dog feel more comfortable. Also, ensure a reasonable degree of distance is kept between the two dogs at all times.
Step
4
Linger
Let them look at each other for a little while before moving on. Keeping considerable distance, you want to let your dog be in the safe vicinity of the other dog before carefully going past. This will show him he is safe around other dogs and will gradually desensitize your dog to them.
Step
5
Reward
Reward him for good behavior and slowly reduce the distance between your dog and other dogs. As soon as you have passed another dog without aggressive behavior, reward him with a treat and praise. Continue to act as a physical between your dog and other dogs whenever you see one approaching, but slowly reduce the distance between the two of you, until after many months he can walk past other dogs without displaying any signs of aggression.
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The Obedience Method

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Step
1
Muzzle
Secure him with a leash and a muzzle. The muzzle will prevent the risk of injury while you are training. If your dog is particularly large, you may want to use a body harness too. This will reduce the strain on his neck and afford you more control. Once you’re ready, head for the door.
Step
2
Setting up
Take out your treats and get ready to teach him ‘down’. Teaching him to lie down will ensure you can control him when another dog approaches, plus when another dog walks past while they’re lying down and nothing happens, he will begin to feel safe. So take a treat and hold it close to his face.
Step
3
'Down'
Firmly say "down". While you do this, slowly lead him to the ground until he has to lie down to get to it. You can also gently push his back down to encourage him. Once he is lying down, give him the treat and shower him with praise. Continue practicing this daily and reduce the frequency of treats until he lies down every time without the promise of food.
Step
4
Introduce a familiar dog
It’s time to practice with distractions, namely a dog he already knows. Have the other owner slowly approach you in a field. Instruct your dog to lie ‘down’ and keep him there until the other dog has walked past. You can also kneel down to keep him on the ground. Once the other dog has passed, reward him with a treat. Practice this regularly before you brave other dogs.
Step
5
Make or break
Once you are confident he responds to ‘down’ every time, take him for a walk where he will likely encounter a dog he does not know. As soon as you see another dog approaching, get him to lie down, kneel next to him, positioning yourself between your dog and the other and keep him lying down until it has have passed. Once they’ve passed reward him with a treat. Practice at every encounter until all signs of aggression have gone.
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The Neutral Experiences Method

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Step
1
Socialization
You need to familiarize your dog with other dogs safely, to show him he is safe. So invite a friends dog round to play in your house, but keep a close eye on both dogs' behavior and separate them if there are any problems. You might also want to keep your dog in a muzzle at this point. When he does play without aggression, reward your dog with a treat.
Step
2
Head outside
After successful visits, take your dog outside to play on a walk. Keep him on a leash and muzzle but let him run around as much as possible, and again reward when he plays calmly.
Step
3
Cross the road
Time to walk him on his own, still with a muzzle and a leash. As soon as you see another dog, cross the road and position yourself between your dog and the other side of the road. Do this every single time for many weeks. You are showing him that he is safe and nothing will happen when he comes across other dogs.
Step
4
Stay still
When you are confident he has relaxed around other dogs from the previous steps, stop avoiding other dogs, this time just stand still when another dog approaches. Still position yourself between both dogs, but come down to his level and show him you are there. Ask the owner to keep their dog at a reasonable distance. Then reward your dog when they have passed if he has stayed calm. If he starts to panic at these experiences, he is not ready yet and you need to go back to crossing the road and keeping distance for a while longer.
Step
5
Cut out treats
Stop standing still and reduce the frequency of treats. It may take many months, but eventually he will feel safe enough by your side when other dogs are around. When that happens, you can reduce the frequency of treats and eventually lose the muzzle. Just remember, act as a barrier if you’re worried and always keep a firm hold of the leash.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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