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

Most Recommended
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

Effective
0 Votes
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.
Recommend training method?

The Neutral Experiences Method

Effective
0 Votes
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
Kana
Tamaskan
9 Years
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Question
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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
308 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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Shamus
Mutt
2 Years
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Question
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Shamus
Mutt
2 Years

Shamus (2 years old. Lab-Collie-Australian Shepherd-Husky mix)

Our dog Shamus tries to viciously attack any dog he sees that he does not know. He's a good dog that listens well and loves people, kids and even gets along with our cats and bearded dragon. We adopted him and his brother Angus as puppies from a shelter. He gets along with dogs that he has met before but that's it. He doesn't trust any new dogs.

When Shamus and Angus were younger we did everything we could to socialize them with humans and other dogs. They went on tons of walks, did doggy-social events, and went to doggy daycare regularly and played with the other dogs. They did that for several months until one day Angus got spooked and bit another dog causing both of our dogs to be isolated when they played. At around the same time they often got into fights with each other at home over random things like toys, food, or even when they were just tired and cranky. We also noticed during this time they started snarling at other dogs when we took them on walks which was unlike them. Since they were not being allowed to play with other dogs at daycare we stopped taking them and decided to just let them have regular play dates with our friends dogs.

Over the last year Shamus and Angus have learned to respect each other more and their aggression towards each other has stopped. They love going places and on walks and swimming, but their hate for other dogs has seemed to grow. We tried introducing them to a new dog belonging to a friend and Angus nipped at the dog while Shamus repeatedly tried to attack and wouldn't listen to us at all.

Here's what's weird... on walks they won't bark at other dogs they see, even if they get barked at. Shamus will just ignore it and behave. Unless the other dog is approaching him. If another dog on a leash approaches him he will snarl and try to attack. When he gets in that mode there is no listening to us. We've tried to train them to associate positive things with behaving around other dogs but it doesn't work as they are not food or treat motivated dogs. If they are offered treats they don't take them.

I'm writing this mostly about Shamus since he is the most anxious of the 2. He is also the most aggressive. Angus generally will trust other dogs until they give him reason not to, but Shamus goes straight into attack mode. If we were ever to take them to a dog park Angus may nip at other dogs but Shamus would try to savagely attack every other dog he sees. We have just generally accepted that they don't get along with other dogs so we avoid unfamiliar dogs for safety. His anxiety and aggression toward unknown dogs seemed to pop out of nowhere. Is there anything we could try to get him to trust other dogs again? (that doesnt involve treats as rewards).

Thanks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
308 Dog owners recommended

Hello Justin, Check out Jeff Gellman from SolidK9Training and Shaun O'Shay from The Good Dog. Both trainers have free videos and information online and specialize in anxiety and aggression. You need professional help from a trainer who is very experienced with many types of aggression (not just fear-aggression, although that too). You need a trainer who uses a combination of positive reinforcement and careful corrections, to be able to interrupt his arroused state (carefully) and also reward a calmer state when his aggressive state has been interrupted. This should involve a lot of obedience work, boundaries, and generally setting the tone for calmness and following you first. This has to be done very carefully. Done wrong, many dogs will transfer their aggression to whatever is nearby or in their space (another dog or person) and you or Angus could get bite. You also need some new structure for both dogs around the house so that they are generally calmer there too and looking to you for directions instead of each other. I suggest getting him used to wearing a muzzle for your safety, so that you can use it in certain training scenarios to be safe. Use a basket muzzle so that he can still open his mouth while wearing it. Use his own dog food to get him used to it over a couple of weeks slowly, letting him eat his food off of it, get a piece of food when he sniffs it or touches it, and eat food from inside it when he puts his face inside. You want him to like the muzzle before you try to buckle it, so that the muzzle it's self will just be like a harness or collar and not stressful. Go slow and make it fun for him. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Navidson
Mutt
6 Years
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Question
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Navidson
Mutt
6 Years

Hi! My fur baby is a Lab/Pit/German Shepherd mix and was the runt of his litter so I’ve had him almost his whole life. The mother rejected him so for all intensive purposes, he sees me as his mother.
I spent the first few years of his life socializing him to death! I took him everywhere and he was great with all kinds of people and other dogs. I should also add, my roommate got his sister so he always had another dog around at home.
I moved back home with my parents who also had a dog and a large fenced in yard. However, I then moved to Florida and it took me nearly 2 years to move him down here with me.
My parents are wonderful animal owners, but they did not socialize him. Their dog passed away so eventually it because him alone with the same people, in the same place all the time.
He was thrilled to be back with me when I brought him to Florida but his social skills have vanished. He barks and sometimes growls at women. He chased my female friend out of my house and recently had an aggressive dog park experience.
I must note he has NEVER so much as put a scratch on a person or dog but his breeds make his bark quite intimidating.
He was doing better at the dog park with a decent streak of successful visits but after the most recent one I’m afraid the anxiety of the situation will return for both of us if we go back.
He needs the exercise and the socialization badly but I live in a part of the world where people have a lot of pride and money and I’m terrified he will have a bad day around the wrong people. I’ve had him here for a year now and while there are some improvements, the lack of playtime with other dogs and real exercise has me concerned for him.
I want my dog to have his best life but I’m stuck! Any advice?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
308 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kelsey, First, I suggest looking for a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area. This class is designed for dog reactive and dog aggressive dogs to help with social skills. All of the dogs wear basket muzzles to prevent fights and they are intensively socialized together to really speed up the training process. Second, I suggest teaching him to use a treadmill in your home, to simply help take the edge off exercise wise. Check out the video below for information on how to teach this. You may even be able to find a second hand treadmill for less money somewhere like a thrift store, craigslist or Facebook trading group - of course take safety precautions when meeting someone unknown to buy second hand if you go that route. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ5l5LEBYD0 Check out the video linked below to work on reestablishing trust and respect in your relationship and lay the foundation for dealing with the aggressive outbursts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxEfqnuN0ic If there is fear aggression happening in general: https://youtu.be/mgmRRYK1Z6A I highly recommend not returning to the dog park. Social interactions with people and other dogs is important but for some dogs the highly arousing environment of a dog park, where there are often other unsocial dogs, pack mentality, highly exciting and anxious energy, and an almost complete lack of control of the dogs by the owners because of the environment. All of these things can make a dog that is struggling worse. Instead, see if there are meetup.com or obedience club groups that do structured walks or hikes together, where you can practice a structured heel, dog training classes, or canine sports you can attend. Attend with a basket muzzle if needed. Think about how Service Dogs are well socialized with other dogs, but their interactions after puppihood are calm, structured interactions to maintain their socialization. The treadmill should help with some of the daily energy needs. Teaching new commands, working on structure, obedience, and tricks can help wear a dog out also by stimulating them mentally. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden,

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Question
Ophelia
shepard/pitbull
1 Year
1 found helpful
Question
1 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
308 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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Charlie
German Shepherd
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Charlie
German Shepherd
2 Years

We just moved Charlie away from the rest of our family dogs (including his brother) and moved to another state. The house we moved into already has another dog living there. The two dogs seem to be perfectly okay with one another outside but as soon as we go into the house, Charlie will attack, lunge, and bark at the other dog. I hold him back and try to get him to focus on me, but as soon as the other dog comes near him he looses it. We took him to a dog park and at first he was okay, but when a dog came to sniff him, he would growl and attack again. I need help knowing what to do when he acts out and how I can train him to be calm around other dogs that try to interact with him.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
308 Dog owners recommended

Hello Katie, I suggest hiring a professional trainer who can work with your dog at your home around the other dog, and also at a facility around lots of new dogs. Look for someone who is very experienced with aggression, comes well recommended, and has access to lots of well behaved dogs for training sessions (such as several of the trainers' dogs who work there). Since the behavior is only happening inside and not in the more neutral territory, part of the issue is probably possessiveness and anxiety - which is being handled through him trying to control and behave aggressively to get the other dog away. Even though he has been with your family's dogs, if he is not used to meeting strange dogs, then he probably doesn't know how to respond correctly and feels nervous around them, or was dependent on other dogs in the family to make him feel secure. If other dogs are being pushy and rude toward him or subtly threatening him through stares and posturing, then he also might be reacting to that - since he doesn't have the experience to know how to handle that situation correctly. Pay attention to how the other dog in the house behaves toward him and what the body language and energy is. Be sure to teach both dogs to give each other space - especially when one indicates they want to be left alone; teaching a Place command for this and have both dogs practicing staying on Place around each other and simply being calm. Check out the video linked below for an example of a nervous dog being socialized. I recommend NOT going to the dog park with him anymore. Dog parks are often full of rude, pushy dogs, who can make nervous and aggressive dogs even worse, or if your dog is a bit of a bully, your dog will have the opportunity to practice bullying there too, which makes things worse for him and the other dogs. Dog parks can be fun but only for dogs who have the temperament and socialization to be able to handle them. Some dogs simply do not do well there. You want to practice calm, structured interactions with other dogs, like obedience classes, structured heeling walks, three second sniffs, and simply getting used to coexisting in a room with another dog with both dogs doing something like a Down-Stay Nervous - aggressive dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTwNWWFhkAs Place command: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-place-command-the-good-dog-training-tips/ Without witnessing your dogs encounters with other dogs in person, seeing his body language, and what the other dog was doing, I cannot give accurate training advise. I recommend hiring a trainer who is very experienced with aggression to evaluate what's going on and develop a training protocol for you, who also has access to a lot of other dogs that your dog can practice the training protocols around. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crttenden

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Brisa
mixture
2 Years
0 found helpful
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Brisa
mixture
2 Years

We adopted Brisa when she was 4 months. She was a really sweet dog that loved to play with other dogs in the park. But around the time when she was 1 year she started fighting with other dogs and now we can't take her to the park because she attacks every dog. She has a few dogs friends whom she loves, also, in the school she behaves correctly and loves every dog, it seems that she has those behaviors when she is with her family

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
308 Dog owners recommended

Hello Salome, Dog parks are very unstructured and highly arousing. They promote a pack mentality - where dogs gang up on other dogs. Some dogs are socially intelligent enough or calm enough to do well there, but dogs that tend to lack impulse control or have stronger temperaments often shouldn't go. The more opportunities she has to practice aggression, the worse it will get. At the school she is being given consistent leadership, is kept calm, and isn't allowed to practice her aggression. If she does well around other dogs when firm leadership is present, then she simply needs to only interact with other dogs in that way with leadership. One-on-one walks, heeling with other dogs. Obedience drills with other dogs, and structure when simply hanging out with other dogs, like both dogs being on a Place bed, being told where to go in the room, and any possessive or dominant behavior quickly dealt with before it can escalate. She should never go back to the dog park and shouldn't be allowed to play rough with other dogs. Instead, she should do calmer, more structured activities around other dogs with people present who can provide calm leadership. Dogs do not need to play rough to be happy in life. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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