Many dogs can be aggressive to other dogs. The causes of this behavior can range from a negative past experience to lack of exposure to other dogs in an appropriate social setting. Normally friendly dogs will often pull on their leashes straining to reach another dog nearby, causing pent up frustrations that turn into aggression.
Dogs who are frustrated, those who have had bad experiences, or those who merely don’t understand proper canine social graces are often subjected to difficult confrontations with other dogs on a daily basis. Moreover, their human companions reach the point where they no longer wish to walk with them, which leads to further behavior problems due to lack of exercise.
Regardless of the reason for this behavior there is a means of stopping it. Through the use of positive training and redirection you can teach your dog to ignore the presence of other dogs and be attentive. While some dogs will never be able to freely interact with other dogs, many dogs can eventually learn how to play with other dogs.
Before you begin this training, consider the following training tools – Head Halter and either the Freedom Harness or Easy Walk Harness. A head halter, such as the Comfort Trainer, will gently redirect your dog’s head direction. If he can’t look at the other dog he’ll no longer desire to go after it. The Front Connecting Harness will help you turn a large, strong dog around by controlling his front shoulders as well. A double sided leash, with clips at each end can help tremendously by attaching your leash to both training devices at the same time, offering a means of “power-steering.”
The last training tools you should ever consider for redirecting your dog away from his dog-aggression is something that will be painful. Often dogs will pair the pain with the experience of seeing another dog and become even more aggressive. Some dogs may shut-down entirely, not wanting to go anywhere near the “place of pain.” Using a humane training device such as the head halter and front connecting harness will give you the ability to redirect your dog without inflicting pain.
The first step is to teach your dog some basic obedience. He should be proficient with heel, sit/stay, down/stay and come. This means that he will quickly respond to your cues regardless of where you are – inside, back yard, front yard, etc. Before exposing your dog to dog distractions begin with distractions that don’t send him off the deep end; such as his toys, people, cats or squirrels. Advance with him to the point where he does not offer any assertive response to these things. Then it’s time to work with the dog distractions.
How to do this:
1. Bring your dog to the point in which he begins to transfix on the object/animal, such as 50 yards distant. He sees the other dog and begins to stare hard, or raise the fur along his spine.
2. Before he begins to lunge for the other dog, change directions and keep walking until you once again have his attention on you. At this point, praise him and reward. A good reward is of high value, such as cooked chicken, hot dog or cheese. Some dogs prefer attention and those who are stressed won’t eat treats anyway, so it’s always a good idea to offer a nice ear rub or tummy scratch.
3. Begin moving forward again and then turn in the direction of the distraction once more.
4. Gradually decrease the distance as your dog accepts the presence of the other dog. You might notice that once he becomes comfortable with that dog, you might feel you are starting all over again with another dog. This is a common issue. You will need to practice these procedures using as many different dogs as possible.
In the beginning of this training you might find your dog reacting to the dog distraction even earlier than the original 50 yards. He has been stimulated by the experience and his reactive response has been raised. However, after several minutes you might find yourselves making progress by getting closer and closer to the other dog prior to each about turn.
Don’t expect this to fully succeed in one training session. Dogs can take anywhere from months to years to overcome this behavior problem. It will require much of your time, patience and consistency. In the end, however, you will have a happier, better adjusted dog who will be a joy to take for walks through your neighborhood or to play at the dog park with other canines.