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My dog "fights" other dogs

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Hi everyone,


My perfect, but not so perfect, little girl of 6 months, tends to snap at other dogs in some situations. And I'm wondering what the best way is to deal with it.


When she is off-leash, outside, everything will be fine. She can be very submissive when meeting another dog, crawling on the ground, rolling on her back, sometimes even cowering a bit. She is confident enough when she meets a dog her own size or smaller. Sometimes she will growl a little when a dog is too bouncy, which is fine by me, just letting the other dog know her boundaries.


However, when she's on leash, she will sometimes snap, only to dogs that are the same size, or smaller. Especially when we take her to dog training, she has a very large personal zone, and will growl and snap at any dog walking by when we're on the terrain there. When she sees a black lab puppy (we have two in the neighborhood at the moment), when she's on leash, she will jump on them immediately if she would get the chance.


The problem is biggest when we take her inside a house, where there is a smaller dog. We can't even let her in the room with another smaller dog, she will lunge after the other dog, continuously looking for a fight when we try to keep them apart (and she will actually start biting).


She snaps at the dog of my parents and friends when inside the house. Which is very unfortunate, because those are the places she can stay if we, for some reason, can't be home. I feel bad, because friends of ours just have a new puppy, we can't even come over with our dog, because that would be traumatic for the other dog.


I do not tolerate this behaviour of course, and I am very stern with her, and separate her immediately. But I want to constructively work towards making this behaviour better.


What is the best thing to do here? (besides get a trainers help)




Edit: just wanted to add. She is not trying to herd / fixate, she doesn't 'nip', she full on goes for a fight.

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Sounds like my Tess, large personal bubble and very quick to correct everything she feels is disrespectfull to her. She varies between mild corrections like snapping the air, to going for the other dog full force if she can. She has never hurt another dog though, so she's not intent on doing any real harm, just making her point very clear.

I'm very carefull with her and other dogs, she meets new dogs on leash and only those I think she can meet (but she's not leash reactive, it doesn't make any difference if she's leashed or not). She'll be 3 yo in a couple weeks and by now I know very well, by her posture, if she'll love the other dog, be more or less indiferent or hate his guts. I also know what tipes of dogs she dislikes. So it's not dificult to not allow interactions with dogs I think she will be iffy with.


At her age, simply telling her No when she begins thinking of posturing works well, but not when she was younger and more hot headed.


To be honest, it's the only thing about her I would change if I could, but it's perfectly manageable. I don't see her as agressive but she's definitely dog selective, so I have to be on my toes. No interactions with most pups (she's atrocious with submissive pups), limited interaction with small dogs, caution with excited in-your-face dogs. She really hates the labs, goldens, pits aproach, sudden and intense and very let's be friends NOW!!!


She loves many dogs though, which is I think one of the things that diferentiates an agressive dog from a dog selective dog. Some she loves right away, some she grows to love as she knows them better. She will correct her dog friends if they do something disrespectfull (like trying to mount her, nobody mounts Tess), but the correction is apropriate and the other dogs all take it well.


She's NOT dog park material, never ever would I let her loose with a bunch of unknown dogs.


So, what have I done so far?

  • Got to know her really well, know what she's saying by expression and posture, know what she likes and dislikes, and try really hard not to put her in a situation where she feels the need to correct. It's not a situation I want her to have the oportunity to rehearse.
  • When we're out and about, I see another dog, call her and leash her. If the dog comes running, I step in front of her and tell him to slow down and chill out. I look at her a lot and go by her cues, she tells me if she would like to meet the dog or not. Often, the other owner will be running after his dog and yelling "Don't worry, he's friendly!" and I say "Well, she's not, and she really dislikes your dog. You want him bit?" People seem to be a bit put of by their dog not being universally loved, but I couldn't care less.
  • Carefully control interactions with other dogs and only allow them when she's showing every sign of being happy, comfortable and playfull (she can sniff another dog, but unless she is obviously happy with it, the interaction lasts a couple seconds only, then off we go)
  • That said, we also worked a lot on many interactions with many different dogs, the more the better. Practice makes perfect, I was just carefull about them.
  • Work a lot on her relationship with me, building trust and respect from both parties, so she knows both that I won't let another dog bother her, and I won't let her bother another dog.
  • I do correct sometimes for going for another dog, but I'm carefull with that. First, I believe she has the absolute right to not like all other dogs, and many times she has a perfectly valid reason to correct, even if she is a bit too trigger happy. Second, although I think it is fundamental that she knows I will not tolerate over reactions, I want her to trust me and know I will protect her if needed, and to respect me enough to go againts her first instinct because I said so, not to fear me. Third, I really don't want her to associate the presence of other dogs with being corrected.

I can't say if this would work for your dog because I don't know her. Although sometimes Tess is obviously uncomfortable or even afraid of some dogs, her more usual attitude is "I'm the queen of the universe and will allow no disrespect from my subjects". She has a strong character and I love it, as it brings to the table many wonderfull characteristics. That she is dog selective is just a minor inconvenience, in the end.

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I reread your post, so more to the point:


  • at training, I would keep a comfortable distance from the pups she reacts to, and place myself between her and them. At the same time I would work on keeping her attention on me. It will take time as she's very young, but she'll get there. The goal is kind of - you and I are the most important thing in the universe to each other, and everyhting else around us is irrelevant. Those barking dogs over there, we couldn't care less about them, cause we're having fun together. And if one of them comes bother you, I have your back, no worries.
  • At your friends house, I would have her leashed and work on teaching her that her place is calmly by my side. No interactions, which includes not letting the other dog aproach. And I would do that myself, not ask the owner to keep the dog away. I think it's important she sees you recognize she's uncomfortable and act on it.
  • When she learns to be calm and relaxed at other peoples houses, I would allow more interaction, if she wanted. But for me it's important that my dog understands that her place when at other peoples houses is by me, not wandering about. Unless she's good friends with the other dog and they both really want to go play, that's what I ask her to do.
  • Lab puppies - well, no good advice on that one. Many borders hate labs. Completely different personalities. I just don't allow them to bother Tess, and don't let her jump on them.
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You might find Patricia McConnell's pamphlet, "Feisty Fido", to be helpful. It addresses leash aggression which is related to aggression in cars, houses, and other confined situations.


I find that dogs can do just fine on neutral territory where there is plenty of room, and then not do nearly so well on non-neutral territory or when one or both are confined in some way (crate, leash, car, etc.).


Youngsters go through several stages that include fear periods (often at eight weeks, several months, and eight months or so) and you can notice a great change in a youngster as he/she enters one of those phases. Dealing with the fears in a way that increases the dog's confidence prepares him/her to be a well-socialized dog (as well-socialized as the dog's personality will allow since some dogs are by nature very friendly and outgoing, and others are not) or at least able to cope with situations without over-reacting.


Very best wishes!


PS - You've already been given some very good advice!

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Excellent advice - all the posts above.


My oldest male is not the best with other dogs either. When possible, I will 'introduce' my dog to another by walking them together. They see each other outside, preferably in neutral territory, but for me, it can also work in my (unfenced) yard. Both dogs are on leash, and we (myself, Torque, the other owner and her dog) will immediately begin a walk. We stay at a distance where the dogs (my dog) is just walking and not paying attention to the other dog. We gradually begin to get closer as long as the dogs pay each other no attention. I can't give you any hard and fast rules as to how to proceed. You just have to watch both dogs. As long as they are fairly relaxed, you can gradually get them closer, let them off leash and/or let them sniff at each other. No hard stares or rigid tails allowed. If I see that, I might say "Ah Ah" to break the stare or I might even call him back to me and re-leash him if I think the anxiety level is too high. Sometimes we can get to a relaxed off-leash walk within 30 minutes, or sometimes, it may take several walks before both dogs are fairly relaxed.


I have a good friend who has a very calm dog with good dog social skills. But for some reason, he and Torque do a bit of staring at each other. We can take them for off-leash hikes, but we keep our eyes on them at all times to break up any staring contests - which usually happen at least once or twice per hike. At this point, I would never trust both of them in a house (enclosed space) without being leashed for control.

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