OK, so you’ve figured out your beloved puppy is turning into an adolescent dog that can’t get along with other canines. It’s aggressive or reactive every time another dog is in sight. That doesn’t mean you have a bad dog, but it does mean you have one that needs careful managing.
This dog needs lots of love and consistent discipline around the house. If the dog is confident that you love and will protect it, then it will be far less likely to act out in public. I’d respectfully recommend asking your vet for the name of a good dog behaviorist and get a consult. But there are some things you can do inexpensively. And there are some things to avoid.
Definitely give the dog lots of social experiences, within good reason, so it can become desensitized to things it might once have found threatening. Walking down a street with cars, people and other dogs can do wonders.
That said, it’s one thing to walk your dog on a sidewalk or trail, letting it learn to be calm each time another dog passes. That’s dog, singular. Sequential positive experiences, with praise and a treat each time, can be effective. You don’t need to interact with each dog you pass. Just walk by and if your dog shows no reaction, then reward. But this is critical: make it one dog at a time.
I was recently at a K9 related event with probably 50 dogs present in sort of a courtyard. An older gentleman arrived with a dog that was muzzled, and which was clearly overwhelmed and out of control. It was lunging and barking at every other dog present. It was in danger of pulling the older man down, possibly injuring him and causing him to let go of the leash.
Finally, the muzzled dog really went to town on another pup, to the point that passersby had to intervene. I had to ask the organizers to exclude that dog from the premises. My fear was that he’d pull the man down, get loose, and attack whatever dog might be nearby. I will not put my dog in that position.
Kudos to the man for trying to give an aggressive dog a positive experience. But this was horrible judgement. That particular dog should never have been in such an overwhelming environment. And here’s what’s worse: while the muzzle prevents bite injuries, it doesn’t stop the dog from trying to dominate or outright attack other dogs. The barking, lunging and canine body language still happen. So how many other fearful dogs did this animal create with its intimidating behavior?
Bringing this dog to an overwhelming event didn’t help it, and risked creating reactive or aggressive dogs for other handlers to manage.
Love your aggressive dog, but love it enough to be smart in how you handle it. You owe that much to your beloved-but-aggressive dog, and you owe it to other dog handlers as well.
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