Dog Aggression: How To Stop Your Dog Getting Aggressive With Other Dogs

Does your dog suddenly become aggressive with other dogs when passing each other on the street?

How your dog interacts can be influenced by a number of factors, which may not be so unusual in a dog’s world.

A recent UK survey of more than 14,000 dog owners found around 3 per cent reported aggressive behaviour towards family members, such as “barking, lunging, growling or biting”.

Another seven per cent said their dog showed aggression toward strangers coming into the house, and five per cent to strangers when outside.

If your dog repeatedly acts extremely aggressively, then it’s more than likely you have a problem on your hands. Some owners can make excuses for their dog’s bad behaviour while others fail to read the warning signs a dog often display.

Why your dog may be getting aggressive with other dogs

Like most owners, you have a “good dog, real softy, wouldn’t hurt a fly!” A well-trained dog will generally not get too involved in an aggressive confrontation and communicate their intentions using body language.

Most cases of aggressive behaviour between two strange dogs are usually caused by:

  •         Fear
  •         Poor communication
  •         Defending territory
  •         Controlling possession

Not all dogs are good communicators

But just like their human masters, not all dogs are good communicators and can be uncertain how to signal their intentions properly to other dogs.

Poor or inadequate socialisation training with other dogs, especially those of different types and breeds may be a primary cause. But it can also be the result of previous, unpleasant experiences with other dogs, which can induce fear or anxiety.

All it takes is for a passing dog to become highly excitable or display dominant expressions and gestures, for the other dog to become instantly anxious and fearful. Aggressive behaviour by one or both dogs may suddenly flare-up.

But the reverse can be true as well. A dog displaying their intentions may not be reading the signals of the second dog, even it’s displaying “deferential behaviour”. If the signalling display is then intensified – perhaps to the point of aggression – the second dog may become ‘defensively’ aggressive.

What are the signs of aggressive body language?

Recognising your dog’s body postures and reactions when faced with another dog is critical to avoiding repeated episodes of aggression.

Typical dominant behaviours include:

  • Placing head or feet on the back of the other dog
  • Eye contact
  • Adopting a “high tail and stiff-leg” gait

Typical submissive behaviours include:

  • Tail tucked beneath legs
  • Ears folded back
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Barking at approaching a dog while lunging and backing up
  • Leaning against or trying to retreat behind the owner

If one of the two dogs does not show suitable submissive responses of appeasement towards the other dog, then aggression can quickly break out.

However, it’s also important to be aware that displays of postures and reactions may change over time, depending on the outcome of the interactions.

A common example is when a dog learns that their aggressive display will stop the encounter. Their aggressively dominant behaviour is then intensified and overall body postures become more confident.

“Territorial Behaviours” and “Possession Aggression”

Territorial behaviours can be another significant factor causing overly aggressive behaviour between your dog and another dog.

Your dog may become highly aroused at the sight of an unfamiliar dog approaching a territory considered to be your dog’s property Typical aggressive displays include, barking, lunging, jumping fences, or going through windows or doors to get to the “intruder”.

An extremely assertive or overprotective dog will fight rather than back down when challenged. During walks, your dog may pull you along and take the lead in its reactions rather than looking to you as its “master” for direction and reassurance.

Possessive aggression is displayed over access or retention of a particular resource, such as type of food or treat, a favourite toy or object. Another example is when a dog is with one or more particular family members.

Aggression can be quickly escalated when there is a determination to possess or hold on to the resource, even if one of the dogs defers.

It’s not unusual for a dog to show little or no evidence of aggression except when the particular possession is present. A potential escalating display of aggression may be prevented if the resources or possessions are removed during their social interactions with other dogs.

Stopping your dog getting aggressive with other dogs

We all know that an owner must be able to successfully control their dog or the aggressive behaviour will escalate every time there is an encounter with another dog.

The key is to resolve a situation without arousing your dog’s anxiety and sense of fear. It’s not unusual for owners to be the unintentional trigger in how their dog behaves.

Excessive use of the leash does not allow your dog to react naturally

If another dog appears during a walk, it may seem the right action for you to simply pull, tighten or correct your dog with the leash. If you are anxious or worried about how your dog may react then they may associate your actions as a signal that the approaching dog could be a threat.

Then your dog could become even more defensive and aggressive. It’s important to be aware that excessive use of the leash does not allow your dog to react naturally with a range of responses. These often include body postures, approach and, in most or many cases, withdrawal.

Threats may only increase your dog’s fear and anxiety

Trying to calm an aggressive dog may help to reinforce the actions the dog is engaged in at the time. On the other hand, attempting to stop the behaviour by threats or punishment may only increase your dog’s fear and anxiety to the perceived threat.

Worse still, an attempt to gain more control by increasing the level or type of punishment may further ratchet up your dog’s arousal. Unfortunately, this could lead to retaliation and defensive aggression towards you.

A firm but relaxed approach is the best way to help calm your dog

Ultimately, a firm but relaxed approach is the best way to help calm your dog. It has been often observed that owners who have their dogs restrained on a leash and with poor control will often have highly defensive dogs.

Teaching your dog a “quiet” command for excessive barking can also be extended to help control your dog from aggressive behaviour when encountering other dogs.

Redirect your dog to more appropriate responses

Using a leash and head collar both indoors and outside will of course give you greater control when required. But most importantly, they enable you to interrupt aggressive responses and redirect your dog to more appropriate ones.

Ultimately, stopping your dog from getting aggressive with other dogs starts with puppy training and the socialisation process. Early and frequent association with other dogs is crucial in enabling your pet to learn the proper interactions and reactions they should have to encounter other dogs at all times.

Have you tried everything but you still need help?

If you’ve tried all of these techniques and tips and still struggle to see results, you can always contact us at Bark & Birch or book a call with our team. We can help you find a solution for your dog’s aggressive behaviour towards other dogs.