Dog Aggression: One Suggestion That Works

Dog aggression is a problem that many people struggle with. It is a complex problem and can take many forms. Some dogs are aggressive towards people, other dogs, or cats. Some of the motivations behind the dog aggression include fear, sex and resource guarding. In short, it is a very complex problem and there are no “silver bullets”.

I wrote a post on dog aggression some time ago. It has gotten a lot of hits, which tells me that a lot of people are struggling with this problem. It has some suggestions as to what to do about a dog that is aggressive. The number one suggestion I had for you then and have for you now is to get help. Read the article to find some links to some resources.

In my prior post, I mentioned that I was reluctant to share the techniques that worked for my dog’s aggression towards other dogs. I did not want to give the impression that I was an expert or that this technique was a surefire means of helping your dog.

However, this past weekend, I had an opportunity to share the technique I learned with someone who has a dog that is demonstrating a lot of aggression towards other dogs. It worked well with that dog…because it can be so successful, I have decided to share it here.

The Dog Party

I was invited to a dog party this past weekend. I have written about Pepper before. Her owner threw a 13th birthday party for her hunting and agility friends. As such, I was invited, with my dog Shiloh in tow. My training pupil Zeke was also invited.

All told, there were 6 dogs present. 5 of the dogs had met before and understood how to interact with each other.

One particular dog, a 13 month old border collie, was also present. This dog is having some issues. Strange dogs and strange people seem to set her off with some aggression. There was a concern as to how this pup would behave with these new dogs. Crates and gates were set up just in case this pup could not handle all the other dogs.

While at this dog party, I was requested to share the techniques I had learned to teach my dog to tolerate other dogs. We did the technique (described below) between all of the dogs who haven’t met before. The result? It worked really well.

Where Did It Come From

The technique I learned came from Suzanne Clothier. Ms Clothier is a dog aggression expert. She has literally written the book on the topic. I get nothing for recommending her to you. She helped me and she can help you too.

The technique I learned is useful for introducing two dogs that do not know each other and with dogs that do not have great dog-on-dog social skills. If this describes your dog, the technique may help you too.

The Technique For Introducing Dogs

  1. Bring both dogs into the same area, on leash. Let them see each other, but separated by some distance. Maybe 15 feet or so. If, at this point in time, if one or both of the dogs is already demonstrating aggressive behaviors, just stop. This is not going to help.
  2. Each owner needs to bring the dog under control and focused on you. ‘Sit’ works well.
  3. Once each dog is under control, bring the dogs in and allow them to greet each other. Nose to nose, nose to butt…however they choose. Three seconds is all that is allowed.
  4. After exactly 3 seconds has elapsed, call/pull the dogs away.
  5. Celebrate with the dogs. Throw a big party.
  6. Get each dog under control again and repeat the exercise 3-4 times.

At this point in time, if the last greetings went without issue, you could consider supervised, unrestrained access.

As it was explained to me, this allows the dogs to interact in small bites. But after the 4th time of introduction, the novelty wears off for the dogs. Think of a human party. If you were introduced to the same person 4 separate times, it would get old and uninteresting after a while.

The Results

When the shy struggling puppy in the above story met Shiloh, the greetings went without issue. This is probably because Shiloh really wants to be left alone. My dog is the epitome of aloof. The puppy above learned that my dog was safe and not going to force interaction.

When the puppy met Zeke, there was a bit of bared teeth. This is because Zeke wants to interact. He wants a friend. This briefly set off the puppy. But it was a good thing…it conveyed information to Zeke as to how to interact with this puppy. Zeke and puppy greeted two more times, with a gentler Zeke. Soon they were interacting and playing a bit.

For the rest of the evening, this shy little pup was able to run free with the rest of the dogs and actually played a bit with Zeke. It was sweet to see Zeke make a friend and play so gently with the shy puppy. I’m really proud of him. Zeke has really grown up to have good manners.

Now, this puppy still has a lot of things to learn and there are other issues she needs to work through, but this technique has helped her take one step (of many) in the right direction.

By Slick (Own work) [CC-BY-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Slick (Own work) [CC-BY-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

If your dog seems to want to meet and greet other dogs, but then things go south after the greeting, consider the above technique. Might be a step in the right direction. If it does not work for your dog, or even if it does, you still may wish to meet with an expert on dog aggression to see what else might help your dog.

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