These are some more “dog walking” tips I found to help make walking my dogs more enjoyable….eventually. 🙂
Cody, our 7 year old Lab shows some aggression towards other dogs when we are walking and I’m not sure when it started or why but she wasn’t always like this….time to get her back to the “happy bouncy” Lab she once was.
When dealing with dog-to-dog aggression, it is important to listen to your dog.
There are many reasons why your dog may be reacting aggressively to another dog. She may be afraid, she may be stressed because her space is being violated, she may feel the need to dominate, she may be protective of you, she may be very curious, or she may just be overly excited. Try to understand what she is trying to tell you.
As soon as you see that your dog is starting to get stressed, you should step in and interrupt before the situation escalates. You should also take your dog’s age, health, temperament, and preferences into account when coming up with solutions for dog behavioral problems such as dog aggression.
Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 1
Be calm and assertive.
Dogs are very sensitive to what their human is feeling. Dogs pick up on what you’re feeling and reflect it, with a hundred times more intensity. Sometimes you may not even be conscious of feeling nervous or stressed, but your dog notices it.
Once you start to calm yourself down, your dog’s behavior also improves.
A common mistake when meeting other dogs is to tense up and get fearful of what your dog may do. If you are afraid, your dog will be a hundred times more afraid and that will likely trigger an aggressive reaction.
Be careful not to put undue or continuous tension on the leash. Also, do not pull your dog straight back as that will likely cause a lunge forward response. To remove your dog, pull him to the side and quickly walk him past the other dog.
That would be mistake #1 for me…..I know she is going to react to the dog coming towards us so I automatically tense up and pull back on the leash, thus I get the reaction I don’t want….that’s right….I am to blame. I am trying to stay calmer when we meet another dog, but it is difficult when she can pull me over.
Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 2
Ignore, Ignore, Ignore – Teach your dog avoidance.
When you see another dog, just ignore it and move along.
Avoidance is most effective when **YOU** ignore the other dog and owner as well, i.e. no eye contact. Just keep your eyes forward and pass the other dog. That way your dog is learning from you that when we see another dog, we avoid, rather than confront.
Be careful not to crowd your dog. If she feels trapped between you and another dog, she may think she has no choice but to react aggressively. Do not stand still while trying to tug your dog away. Move away and your dog will come along with you. At the same time, you are creating space so that your dog will not feel trapped.
Do not let your dog obsess (i.e. unblinking stare) on the other dog. Do not allow this bad behavior, do not let your dog practice it, do not even let her think about it. Just move her along whenever you see another dog. If the other dog is somehow blocking you (e.g. if the owner is unable to control it) then turn back and walk away. Do not stare the other dog down and do not confront him, either through posture or by physically engaging him.
Challenging unknown dogs is a good way to get bitten.
That would be mistake #2 for me…..I can’t seem to get Cody “unfocused” on the dogs coming towards us. The more I try to distract her, the more “alert” she seems to get. I have been trying harder to keep her moving as we pass the dog, but she is a bit stronger than I am.
Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 3
Create space or block the other dog.
Another way to handle dog-to-dog aggression is to create space between your dog and the other dog by moving across the road, or into a driveway, and waiting for the other dog to pass. You may also move your dog behind a barrier (e.g. a car). If there are no barriers available, blocking your dog’s view with your body is another possibility.
By doing this, you avoid a head on, more confrontational, passing.
Dog treats and trying to get her attention do not work if your dog is already obsessing because the other dog is too close and your dog is probably no longer listening.
The nice thing about walking your dog briskly past the other dog is that she has less time to stare, and she can’t fully obsess because she must partly focus on walking.
This method of blocking, however, may work better for a fearful dog.
Be careful not to let your fearful dog forcefully pull you away as that may reinforce her phobia. Instead, create as much space as possible and move her behind some barriers. Then distract her from the other dog by doing simple commands and by using very high priority treats.
Some trainers suggest turning and walking away when you see another dog rather than passing him, or waiting for him to pass.
There are two problems with this method:
- If you turn away, the other dog will be following you and that usually causes your dog to keep looking back.
- If you keep turning away, you may meet other dogs and get boxed in; especially if there are many dogs in your neighborhood.
That would be mistake #3 for me….trouble blocking. Although I have started crossing the street ….and then crossing back…..dogs on both sides, I have stood behind parked cars until the other dogs have passed us, and I have walked out on to the street to avoid other dogs. It may actually be working.
Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 4
Create neutral experiences.
Create as many neutral dog-to-dog meeting experiences as possible. If every time your dog sees another dog, you just pass by and nothing interesting happens, she will be less aggressive towards other dogs.
Being consistent with neutral greetings will build your dog’s confidence. Through repetition, you are teaching her how to behave (just avoid and move along), and how not to behave (show dog-to-dog aggression), when another dog comes along. She will be calmer because she is not waiting in anticipation of a highly charged encounter, either for play or for confrontation.
Do not let your dog practice any aggressive behaviors when meeting other dogs. The more she practices, the more aggressive she will be.
If your dog becomes aggressive during a walk, try to end the walk as soon as possible. Once in this mode, her adrenaline levels will be high for a fair duration and she will likely react aggressively to all the dogs that you meet. In this state, she will no longer be capable of learning, and will only be practicing dog aggressive behaviors.
Being consistent with neutral or positive greetings will build your dog’s confidence.
That would be mistake #4 for me….we don’t seem to have an opportunity to create neutral meetings with other dogs. I am now being more consistent with moving to the street or just walking past even though she is still pulling at the leash but ending the walk early doesn’t seem to be a good solution since it could happen half way in to the walk and my choice is turn around and go home or keep walking home, either way the walk is the same length. I guess I have my cell phone so I could call for a ride…. 🙂
Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 5
Protect your dog from rude dogs and rude people.
If your dog is aggressive to dogs, keep him away from people and dogs with weak energy (e.g. fearful, excited, or frustrated energy). Keep other dogs and owners from coming into your dog’s space. Usually just say a quick ‘hi’ to the people you meet, and move on.
If people with weak energy stop and want to meet your dog, ask them nicely to move on because your dog is an excitable dog. It is fine and good to let your dog meet people with calm energy, but make sure to let them know how to best greet your dog, e.g. turn away when your dog jumps, no quick movements, no petting from above.
This one really doesn’t apply so much to me……no one wants to stop and pet my barky growly dogs…..however there are some people and some dogs that they do react more aggressively towards than others. Mistake #5 for me would be that I just need to pick up on their energy as quickly as my dogs do and take corrective action.
Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 6
Use positive interrupts and keep encounters short.
If you are greeting another dog, you want to positively interrupt your dog every so often and make him refocus on you. Positively interrupt him many times if necessary so that she does not lose control of herself.
Whenever your dog is meeting a new dog, interrupt her after a very short duration (2-3 seconds). Quickly move away from the other dog, while giving the positive interrupt command, e.g. Hey, hey. Initially, you may have to lightly tug your dog while moving away. Treat your dog for moving towards you on a loose leash. Make sure to treat well.
If your dog is too obsessed to move away and is strongly standing her ground, then you have waited too long to initiate the positive interrupt. The positive interrupt is also useful for dealing with human greetings, getting your dog away from a dirty or dangerous area, and getting your dog away from a dangerous object.
The key to a successful positive interrupt is to catch your dog early enough before she starts to obsess.
This isn’t actually a mistake I make….I just don’t even practice it. I think it is a good tip to keep in mind for future when Cody has become better behaved on the walk.
Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 7
Be aware that your dog’s natural look may trigger a dog aggressive reaction.
Some dogs, have a natural look (ears up, hair out, tail up) that is a very confident and dominant dog posture. This dominant look may instigate other dogs to respond in kind and start posturing as well. Dog to dog aggression could occur and ultimately a dog fight; if neither dog is willing to back down.
If you are unsure about a dog greeting, then just move on.
We actually move on regardless of the reaction of the other dog….I have allowed my dogs to greet other dogs when their owners have been ok with it but Emma is a consistent barker and this keeps Cody tense so while there hasn’t always been aggressive behavior it hasn’t been so calm either.
Dog-to-Dog Aggression Tip 8
Desensitize your dog towards other dogs.
In the desensitization process, you get your dog to focus on you instead of other dogs or objects in the environment. Find some balanced, low energy dogs that you can practice desensitization exercises with. Have a friend engage the other dog so that he is staying in a fixed position and not focused on your dog.
Take your dog a far distance away, and get her attention by calling her name. If she looks at you, praise her, treat her, and move forward. Keep doing this until you get to a point where she won’t give you her attention anymore. Then non-mark her (uh-oh) and move back and away from the other dog. Try and get your dog’s attention again and once she gives it to you, stop, praise, and treat.
You can let her sit and watch the other dog as long as she is willing to give you her attention when you ask for it. Once you are comfortable with this, you may start moving forward towards the other dog again.
Make sure to stop before your dog starts obsessing and long before she becomes aggressive. If your dog becomes aggressive, then end the session. As you make progress, you may slowly increase the strength of the stimulus, for example, by letting the calm dog start moving and/or by getting a more energetic dog.
The desensitization process can be long and difficult. Dogs with lower “instinct thresholds” (the point at which they lose control and switch to instinct) will be much harder to desensitize. For desensitization to be successful, it is important to keep your dog below her instinct threshold at all times. However, consistent practice will also help to raise this threshold.
Perhaps someday we will be to this point and we can get some kind person to volunteer to help out with the exercise….but we aren’t there yet. J
What to Expect from Dog-to-Dog Aggression Training
Do not expect too much, at once, from your dog. Make sure to treat and praise your dog very well if she voluntarily engages in avoidance maneuvers when faced with another dog. This includes looking away from the direction of the other dog, smelling and exploring the environment, or looking to you for direction.
Treat and praise even for small avoidance moves, e.g. looking away for only 1 second. If your dog will not accept treats from you, then she is too far gone and it is best to lead her away. Treats are only effective, for shaping behavior, when your dog is still thinking and not operating on instinct.
Keep practicing the exercises above with your dog and he will improve. As she matures, she will become more confident, be less dog aggressive, and be more comfortable around new things.
All good advice for me to follow….tonight’s walk should be a breeze…..“a walk in the park” so to speak. There will be no dog issues what so ever….I am completely full of confidence (or full of something anyway)!! 🙂