Whether it’s a new little pup, adult dog new to your home, or one that has grown with your family, dog on dog aggression can be overwhelming. There are many articles that touch on this problem, but few provide a clear, sensible process to deal with the issue. Unless you pay for that “expert” advice, which most cannot afford, you’re stuck. All too often, the aggressor ends up in the pound or does harm to other dogs, or both.
What if I told you that it is not only possible, but altogether probable for you to redirect your aggressive dog? What if you could learn to help your furry, snarling friend behave well with others? And the advice will only cost you a little of your time? Is it really possible to stop aggressive dog behavior? Let’s find out…
Due to the serious nature of this issue, I am going to take some time on it. There will be several posts following this over the next few days. My goal is to help you help your dogs live together happily and safely. We can accomplish this! It is just going to take some time and considerable effort. Always remember, your pack is worth it!
Never Out of Nothing
There is always a reason for all dogs’ behaviors. Granted, we may not always be able to figure out what that reason is for a particular act. Still, there is always a reason. More often than not, one big reason is improper or lack of training. Dogs are driven by instinct. If those instincts are not molded, with boundaries, corrections, and rewards that help him make decisions conducive to your pack’s environment (home), he will act like a dog. It truly is that simple!
Even the most careful, well-meaning dog owners can raise dogs that are improperly trained. Improperly trained pups can grow into dogs with behavior problems. So here you are. You brought home an adorable pup that just fit right in. Your older dog, who has been with you for four years, just loves the new little gal! The first few months go great. The two get along, minus some tussles and growls over toys and attention. Then seemingly all of the sudden you notice your older dog showing signs that she is afraid of the pup. She may mope, turn her head aside or lean away from the new household member. Your old friend may just be generally not as playful as she used to be. You may catch glimpses of the new gal showing her teeth with a deep growl, or even hear a sharp yelp every once in a while when they play.
The bad news is there is no way to entirely stop aggressive dog behavior. We can only control it, or, as I like to say, help the dog learn to make better choices 😉 The good news is no matter what ages your dogs are or how long the aggressor has been getting away with behavior that led up to this problem, you can start right now to correct it. Better news is that you do not have to be–or pay–an expert in dog behavior to fix the problem. Sure, everything a dog does can be linked to some reason. Behaviors are never out of nothing. That does not mean you need some fancy schooling to figure things out. What you do need is determination, consistency and maybe a change in your view of how dogs ought to be treated.
Dogs are not children. Dogs are not human. They do deserve the same respect. However, it is bad for them (and us) to give them the same treatment as one would a child or other human member of our pack. All too often I listen to folks all over that do mean well and do love their dogs, but do them a huge detriment to raise them as they would a child. This change of mindset, of how you view your dog, may be necessary to appropriate the following tactics.
No matter where you are with your aggressive pooch, the bottom line is he has some behaviors that are unacceptable. He needs to be encouraged to divert from plain doggy instinct, to choosing new behaviors that are more conducive to your pack-style (lifestyle). You can begin right where you are–whether a new pup or adult dog, or a pup that seemed to grow fine in your home until a certain age. Be prepared, for this takes time and consistent, constant effort.
For younger pups, 6 months and under, I suggest a regular, flat collar or harness depending on how rugged or not she is. For dogs older than 6 months, especially larger and adult dogs, I suggest a dominant dog collar be used. The dominant dog collar (pictured here) is a simple nylon cord with a snap at one end, a ring at the other end and a floating ring.
Either way, flat or dominant collar, put this on your dog at any time he is not in his crate. In addition, any time he is not in a pen, a drag leash is needed. Leave this on him at all times he is about the house or yard with you. Even if your yard is fenced. Even if he is trained well enough to not leave the yard. Leave the collar and leash on him at all times he is not in his crate.
During this first step, I strongly suggest that you keep your aggressor entirely separate from other dogs for at least three days. You will have to rotate them, obviously, but this is a key to get your aggressor under control. Playing around, or pushing around, the other dogs in your pack is a treat for him. Allowing him free time with the others only reinforces his bad behavior. While all other things remain positive, keep him from the rest of the pack.
Put up a gate to block him in a room, set up an ex-pen (exercise pen) in an area of your house. Do not allow him to just romp and play as usual. After three days (or more) bring him out with the others–with that collar/leash combo on–only for short periods of time and when you can monitor them closely.
Any time you cannot monitor the aggressive pup with the other(s), he needs to be either in his pen or crate. While he is, he sees the other dog (or dogs) interacting with you, the kids, and able to freely roam the house. He wants that, too! So when he is out, he will eventually learn that only his best is acceptable. The more he is his best, the more out time he earns.
Take Your Time and Have Fun!
Keep doing this (keeping the aggressor separate most of the time) for as long as you see the need to. Some may take only a few weeks to a month. Others may take almost a year. I have worked with dogs that this process was a part of her daily life, for the extent of her life. In my experience, though, that is rare.
The most important things to keep in mind here are that you are not just putting the dog in a room or cage and ignoring him. Still interact with him. I sing to Hanani when passing by her room occasionally! When he is out–with that collar and leash on–have a blast! Play games, cuddle up and watch your shows. All the stuff you normally do. Just separately.
Also, make sure you build up the other dog. Play games that encourage confidence, go for rides and walks without the other. Let her know that she can depend on you. When they are together, intervene often. For example, Hanani believes all toys are hers. Anything that Mia picks up, Hanani will leave hers and take Mia’s. Except when I intervene. This is a dominant move that will intimidate the “softer” dog and later lead to more serious bullying by the aggressor. A quick snap of that leash. A firm, “NO”, or “Leave it.” And then I make Hanani lay away from Mia, with a different toy. If she does not abide and tries again to get Mia’s toy, she looses the privilege of being out. Period.
That process is two-fold. It teaches Mia she can depend on me as pack leader, and boosts her confidence. It also teaches Hanani her place and it begins to help her learn to make better behavior choices. I have seen simple toy thievery later lead to an all-out blood battle simply because the older dog just plain got sick and tired of being bullied. Nip it in the bud now and you will be thankful for it later.
Get Started Now!
So get started today and take as much time as you may need. Do not forget, HAVE FUN with your pups! Drop me a note below if you have any questions. Check back for Step Two in a day or two. Meanwhile, let me know how this goes for your pack!
Thanx for popping in today 🙂
Great article. So much gray advice as I am a novice pet owner.
Hello Teresa! Thanx so much for stopping by 🙂 Feel free to ask questions, share stories and get conversation going anytime!