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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2 Votes
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

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Ophelia
shepard/pitbull
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ophelia
shepard/pitbull
1 Year

My friend and I adopted Ophelia a couple months ago. We knew she was going to come with difficulties, expected since she was picked up in middle of no where and put in a shelter till we got her. The only problems she had in the beginning was she wasn’t house trained and she didn’t listen to commands. But, we have got her to sit and lie down now and she is much better on a leash. Unfortunately, last weekend she attacked a dog that previously was a good friend of hers. Given there was a lot of people around she probably was having bad anxiety. Today, she attacked another dog in the backyard wth plenty of space. We don’t know how to go about this, we don’t want to give up on her quite yet, but we can’t keep having this happen.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
149 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brandy, First of all Ophelia shouldn't be outside unless she is on a leash or in a physically fenced in yard - not an electric fence because other dogs can enter that and many aggressive dogs will bolt through them when they see another dog. The attacks are dangerous for other dogs but they are also making the problem worse for Ophelia every time that they happen - you didn't know before but now that you know tackle that first. Look online in your city and see if there is a G.R. O.W.L. Class in your area within driving distance. A growl class is a class for dog aggressive or reactive dogs who all wear muzzles during the class and are intensively socialized quickly with a trainers' help. These classes are one of the fastest ways to address most aggressive dogs' issues. If she drew blood when she attacked either dog, that is a more serious issue. If she draws blood when she attacks, then you may not be able to rehabilitate the aggression but you can work on her focus on your, her response toward other dogs while on leash, and her obedience - making her a lot safer. You can essentially get the aggression under control so that it does not impact your life as much and you can enjoy and live with her more safely, but you should never trust her off-leash with another dog. I suggest attending a G.R.O.W.L. class or hiring a trainer - dog aggression can be hard to tackle by yourself. There is a good chance she was attacked multiple times while on the street and that is the source of her aggression. The aggression could also be a genetic trait or a dominance issue. The type of aggression will partially determine how to treat it. Dominance-based aggression needs respect established without too much confrontation so that she will learn to let you handle problematic situations yourself, instead of resorting to aggression. Genetic aggression can usually only be managed not cured, but you can teach things like high-distraction "Come" and "Leave It" to call her back in emergency situations, and a high distraction "Heel" to keep her focus on you and not other dogs while walking. Fear-based aggression can be managed and you can also work on socialization and changing her emotions toward other dogs so that she doesn't feel the need to defend herself as much and is more tolerant. Fear-based aggression is easier to work with and improve than many other types...A G.R.O.W.L. class will help with that type a lot. You can also check out Jeff Gellman from SolidK9Training. He has a YouTube channel with several videos about aggression. Most of the dogs that come to him have aggression other than fear-based, look for videos where he is working with fearful aggressive dogs specifically - he will address the root cause more in those videos. He can be a bit blunt and gruff in his teaching style but he is very experienced working with highly aggressive dogs that others have not been able to help. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kana
Tamaskan
9 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Kana
Tamaskan
9 Years

We adopted 2Tamaskan rescue dogs that are grown. They are very strong and have a CRAZY STRONG prey instinct. We bought harnesses to control them better. If they become excited at squirrel/rabbit/cat we stop and make them sit and talk to them calmly. Sometimes we block their view with our body. Sometimes they just go nuts and we have to drag them away.

They are improving but still would prefer to eat everything wild in the park.

Suggestions?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
149 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sharon, First of all, spend time teaching them basic obedience commands like come, sit, heel, down, and stay. Once they can do those commands at home where it is calm, then I would highly suggest enrolling them in an intermediate obedience class where there are intentional distractions like outdoor environments, people, and other dogs where you can regularly practice their obedience around distractions. You won't be able to remove their prey drive but you can teach them to be responsive to you around high level distractions which will come through intentionally practicing their obedience, especially "leave it" and "heel". Look for a trainer who also does off leash training and has experience working with more independent and prey driven breeds like husky's, sight hounds, and other sleddog type breeds. Also look for a trainer who uses fair correction as well as positive reinforcement with a lot of emphasis on positive reinforcement. Your dog's would benefit from the premack principle, which is where you teach the dog that the quickest way to get what he wants, ie to investigate a street squirrel, is to obey you first. Training with the distraction as a reward sometimes will create a lot of reliability around those types of distractions. For a class you will either need two people to attend so that one person can focus on one dog or you will need to attend to separate classes, one for each class. Do not attempt to handle both dogs yourself in one class or you will not be an effective trainer during the class time. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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