Adult Dogs

How to Deal with Dog Aggression Towards Other Dogs on the Leash

In yesterday’s post, we looked at a common form of canine aggression and how to create peace when 2 dogs share the same roof.

Today, we’ll look at a different (and more problematic) type of dog-on-dog aggression.  Namely – how to reduce hostility between your puppy and other dogs when out for a walk.  This situation is harder to resolve since the other dogs in the picture are wild cards – especially if they’re unaccompanied.

So how do you deal with dog aggression towards other dogs when out for your daily walks?

Resolving Canine Aggression on the Leash

Believe it or not, the first step deals more with you than with your puppy.

Dogs are extremely intuitive animals that can read our emotions.  Some pet owners even believe that dogs can read our thoughts.  That may or may not be true.

Regardless – your puppy knows when you’re nervous or afraid.  Your body language, walking speed, voice, and posture say it all.

So step 1 is to exude confidence and calm at all times.  Your goal (in the house and on walks) is to be in control of all situations – even if you don’t feel terribly confident.  For steps on “faking” calm authority, read our article on canine dominance training.

The next step is ongoing.  You need to socialize your dog as often as possible with other canine playmates.  Get her accustomed to interacting and playing.  You do this by setting up playdates with other well-behaved dogs.  Let them have fun under close supervision.  The goal is to remove some of the uncertainty that comes with encountering “strange” dogs.

The next step?  When encountering a new dog (whether in a playdate or on a walk), you need to actively manage the approach.  Don’t let the 2 dogs walk right up to each other.  Instead, take baby steps – inching closer and closer.  At each pause, make sure you can capture your dog’s full attention whenever you need it.  Simple commands like sit, stay, look, or “Dog’s Name” can work.

Be sure to reward this refocusing.  When you tell her to sit (and she does), show her how happy you are with pets and affection.  This is much more effective than jerking the leash to stop a sudden lunge or attack.

Reward-based training helps to reinforce the link between “commands” and “pleasure” (i.e. affection).  Aversive training will only reinforce the link between “other dogs” and “jerking.”  You’re likely to see more aggressive behavior in the future.

2 quick points:

  • If your puppy can’t refocus her attention on command, she’s not ready to advance any closer to the other dog.  Wait until she’s calm and attentive before closing the gap.
  • If your dog can’t settle down completely – cut the interaction short and wait for another day.  Aggression training is ongoing.  But you won’t make much progress if your puppy can’t focus 100% of her energy on you.

How to Deal With Dog Aggression When the Other Dog Is the Problem?

Sometimes your dog is well behaved.  She gives you her attention.  She sits on command.

The problem is the other dog in this situation.  He won’t stop barking, advancing, or showing hostile behavior.

What to do?

Hopefully the other dog is accompanied.  If so, just instruct the owner to back off.  Explain that your puppy is easily excitable and isn’t quite ready for this level of interaction.

If the other dog is alone, it’ll be harder to control the situation.  Pepper spray is one option.  But hopefully it won’t come to that after reading and understanding this article.

As always, if you need more professional guidance, check out our expert canine training resources listed here.

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