My Dog Doesn’t Like Other Dogs!
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In the past week, I worked with several owners saying their dog doesn’t like other dogs. For example, I worked with a dog that would lunge and pull and bark every time the dog saw another dog on a walk. A lot of you have a dog like that. I have a special technique I teach that solves this problem for most dogs. No pain is involved. No shock collars, nothing like that. There is a way to reduce the tension in this type of situation, and oftentimes, this is the first step to getting the dog to then peacefully greet other dogs, and maybe, one day, to actually play with other dogs. This kind of problem doesn’t happen overnight. It builds up over the months or years. Partly it is who the dog is, partly how the dog was raised and trained, and partly how the person managing the dog has messed up. Further, there are often other issues contributing to this problem that have to be unraveled, that might be going on in the home, and I have to show the owners how to “connect the dots”.
I got a call the other day from an owner saying their dog doesn’t like other dogs: an adolescent, male pit bull. When you take him for a walk, he stares at joggers, people pushing strollers, and dogs. The closer they get, the more intense it gets, he’s as strong as a freight train, he starts towing the owner, the hair goes up on his back, and then he starts intensely barking. This is no joke, it is a serious problem building, that if left untreated, could result in a tragic accident. I spent about an hour with the owner, working with them in public, and by the end of the lesson, the dog was happily walking past these distractions. That’s in just one lesson. If the owner continues on with what he’s been taught, this dog will eventually be able to greet these strangers and all will be just fine.
Another dog was an adult female Border Collie. They also own a second dog, a Chow / Golden mix. When the two dogs are walked together, if they see another dog, they start barking and lunging, and then the Border Collie will attack the Chow mix. Same problem, same solution. I taught the owner my special technique, and next week, I’m going to watch her in public, and make sure she’s doing it right. All of this will go away.
I worked with a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix this week. Same problem, only the dog had attacked another dog in front of the home (fortunately, it was all snarls and saliva, no injuries or blood, and the other dog is owned by a forgiving neighbor). Almost the same lesson, with a few modifications. Also, there were some things stressing the dog in the home that needed addressing, which were contributing to this behavior.
I also, this week, worked with a couple that has two Boxers that are fighting. These females now have it out for one another, and now the situation has become dangerous. I spent about 3 hours with them. And it is now going to take some time to get these dogs to get along again. I’m asking for weekly updates on their progress, and I’m going to need to do a number of free follow up sessions over the coming months to make sure they are doing everything I recommended.
If you have such a problem, don’t let it fester. Don’t keep trying it on your own, yelling at your dog, or buying an electric collar, or any other such foolish thing. You don’t know what you are doing, and you will make it worse. You could make it so that even I can’t turn it around. If the dog gets in numerous dog fights, then you are not only breaking the law, you are permanently traumatizing your dog. If you’ve already done all this stupid stuff, there still might be hope, but you need to get professional help immediately.
Here are some more examples of these types of situations and requests and my responses:
Case Number One
My dog in the last year has started wanting to fight dogs at parks and stuff.**
I think that it is unreasonable for dogs to have like dogs they don’t know IF YOUR DOG OR THE OTHER DOG HAVEN’T BEEN TRAINED AND SOCIALIZED. Otherwise, if your dog doesn’t know a strange dog, then they will not be “friends” and you can’t predict what either dog might do.
First off, it is important to socialize all puppies with other friendly dogs, and to continue that socialization throughout the life of your dog. It is a good policy, after your pup is properly socialized, to limit contacts with strange dogs. You need to size up the dogs, and determine if they should meet at all. All greetings, ideally, will be ones where your dog has a good experience. If the experiences your dog has with other dogs continues to be unpleasant, then the situation will get worse each time. Thus, I always size up the dogs at an off leash park before going in there with a dog. If the dogs are playing nicely, and the owners look like they are supervising their dogs properly, then I’ll go in. If not, then we’ll just go for a walk instead.
Second, adolescent dogs are more likely to engage in fights that puppies. These kinds of scuffles are normal, though often they are not legal in your community. When dogs first start showing this kind of aggression, owners often stop socializing their dogs, and they don’t get professional help. That is the OPPOSITE of what they should be doing. Most of these dogs haven’t been in high quality, continuing dog training classes, so they have no inhibitions about doing anything they darned well please with other dogs, and ignoring you in the process. Many dog fights can be prevented through proper supervision by the handler, telling the dog what it can’t do when playing with other dogs. All adolescent dogs should be in obedience classes conducted in public, in places where other dogs congregate.
With dogs in the home, usually if the dogs are allowed to form a relationship, and set up a pack order, then fights will be minimized. This is why home dogs fight much less than dogs that don’t know one another. Yet, some dogs will NEVER get along with the other dog once fights in the house start up. The first thing to examine is whether all the dogs are medically well. A lot of dog fights have an undiagnosed medical condition that is causing the fights. It could be arthritis, allergies, hormonal imbalances, tumors, gum disease, and so forth. Next, the dogs need a professional evaluation to determine the cause for the fights. Then the training should commence. Lastly, the more dogs you have on your property, the more likely that fights will occur and that you might get into a situation where one dog has to find another home. In nature, one function of aggression is to disperse animals over a larger area so that there is food enough for everyone. Overpopulation risks starvation, so dogs are preprogrammed to force other dogs out of the territory, and sometimes this motivation is activated in a pack of dogs.
If more people would follow these rules fewer dog fights and incidents in general would happen.
**He is a 4 year old pit bull. He has always been a baby; he gives hugs, kisses, handshakes and high fives. He has always slept with me and is a very good dog.**
Pit bulls ARE good dogs. I have trained many of them. But, like all dogs, you are going to find individuals that don’t like strange dogs. Your dog is one of those types of dog. This is in no way abnormal. Some pit bulls are game bred dogs, meaning they were bred to want to challenge other dogs. Many of the terriers are EXPECTED TO BE GAME, and are actually allowed to spar in the show ring to demonstrate they are game. I have advised a handful of dog owners to NOT take their dogs to daycare or dog parks after a certain age because they will fight any dog that challenges them. This is where you need to get a professional evaluation to determine what you are dealing with and if your dog can be made more sociable.
**Unfortunately, I’m currently going through a divorce and can barely afford to house me and my children, I cannot afford housing that would accept him however, I have found a foster home for him but first they want me to have him evaluated for dog aggressiveness.**
If the dog is not good with other dogs, and that can’t be fixed, then that is what you should tell them. Be clear and up front about his propensities. Even dogs that aren’t good with other dogs can find good homes. If you can’t afford training, there are rescue groups that will take your dog and work with your dog’s issues.
**He grew up with a cocker spaniel and a Queensland Heeler so he didn’t used to not like dogs, I personally think its because the last few years he hasn’t been around dogs. Would you have any time in the near future to evaluate him? I await your response.**
Dogs that are isolated from other dogs are more likely to get in fights with other dogs. Socialization has to be a lifetime activity. It is very possible that your dog would have never ended up in this place if you had been regularly getting your dog out around other dogs and also doing continuing obedience lessons. There is a huge difference between a dog that doesn’t like strange dogs, and a dog that can’t live with other dogs. These are two completely different situations. You can have a dog that gets along well with family dogs, but not with strange dogs. You can also have a dog that will attack family dogs. The first type of dog isn’t abnormal. The second type of dog requires more evaluation to determine if the problem is that the pack isn’t getting along, or the dog has emotional problems and can’t be with other animals it knows.
This is not the kind of dog that you let greet strange dogs. This isn’t a pit bull thing, either. Some dogs are good with strange dogs, and some aren’t. This dog isn’t. If he is properly introduced to other dogs, he is probably fine. I can show you how to do the introductions. If the dogs are going to accept one another, you’ll know over time. Go slowly, and judge whether to move onto the next step by confirming the dogs are being friendly with one another. If they aren’t ever friendly with one another, then you can’t introduce that dog to the new home
HOWEVER, forced Socialization, or introduction of strangers as I just described, onto an aloof dog can backfire. Some breeds, and some individual dogs, are known for being aloof, meaning they are not interested in being involved with other dogs or people. It is NOT a good idea to push strangers (people or dogs) onto these types of dogs. It just makes them defensive and more aggressive in future encounters. No one ever discusses this when talking about Socialization or introductions: because most trainers are automatons who perform certain actions and rituals with all dogs, not thinking about what they are doing or researching deeper into the concepts of what they are trying to apply. The only reason to introduce strangers to an aloof dog is to make the dog MORE wary of strangers, so that they will be more likely to act aggressively towards them in future encounters. It is FOOLISH to select a pet dog that has an aloof temperament. Pet dogs are required to interact peaceably and pleasantly with other dogs and strange people. The more a dog like this meets other people and dogs, the more it growls and eventually snaps at these forced encounters. It is important to avoid adopting breeds that are known to be aloof, if you want to make them into pets.
Bottom Line: you need a professional evaluation to see what is really going on.
Case Number Two
My husband and I will be moving to Scottsdale in about 2 1/2 weeks with our dog, Lucy. **
Welcome to Scottsdale! This is a great community to own a dog. You are going to like it here. My Phoenix school services the Scottsdale area.
**Lucy is a 3 year old Lab mix (I believe she has some Chow in her) and she is 70 pounds.**
Chow Chows, and their mixes, can oftentimes be anti-social. I’d say about 25% of the mixed ones I see are anti-social, the others have been pretty good dogs. The purebred Chow Chows are even more prone to be anti-social with people and animals. Breeders need to work harder, and be more selective, in the Chow Chows that they breed. There isn’t a demand anymore for dogs that are not sociable with other dogs and people. Selective breeding can change this over time.
**We rescued her from the pound when she was 6 months old and for the most part she has been a wonderful dog. She was easy to potty train and is very affectionate with me, my husband, my 5 year old stepson, and other family members and close friends that she knows well. **
Good. I am glad the relationships with this dog are going well.
**However, as she has gotten older she has become more protective and territorial of us and our house. She growls, raises her hair on her back, and barks at people and dogs when we walk her.**
I see this a lot with Chow Chow mixes. They oftentimes don’t like strangers. They can also be wary on greetings even with people they know. This is normal for the breed and their mixes.
**She has been around and played with other dogs, but they were all much smaller than her. She does not seem to like dogs that are her size. **
As mentioned in the previous case, it is not unusual for some dogs to not like other dogs. Or strangers.
**She also has snapped at a couple of people. She has never bitten anyone, although we are worried that she has the potential.**
If she is snapping at people, you have to assume she’d get them if she could. You need to increase the quality of your supervision so that you don’t endanger other people. Chows were bred to be guard dogs. You have to change your perspective of the kind of dog you have. You shouldn’t be forcing strangers or strange dogs on your dog.
**Lucy has also increased her barking in the past year- barking at birds, noises, and at people she sees through the window walking by our house.**
This is territorial protection. It isn’t abnormal. It might not be what you want, but it isn’t abnormal. Oftentimes, these situations can be greatly improved. Many of these dogs are very unhappy with how they are living, and the owners don’t even know that. Just because you have a comfortable home, feed your dog good food, and keep your dog vaccinated doesn’t mean you are doing a good job.
**I’m writing to see what you would recommend for training and behavior modification. We moved to Chicago 2 years ago and the move raised her anxiety level- she started going to the bathroom in the house right in front of us, etc. I really do not want that to happen again with this move. We are also concerned about her increased aggression and barking. Like I said, she is a sweet and affectionate dog 95% of the time and I am confident that with the right training we can correct these behavior issues. Please let me know what your opinion is and also if you have any availability for lessons beginning sometime after Aug. 15th in Scottsdale. Thank you, Quincy**
The anxiety is the result of a dog being put in a situation that it can’t handle or resolve. Your dog needs an evaluation.
Case Number Three
I am interested in your services. I am up to my wits end with my Jack Russell. I have a 3 year old male named Mike.**
Jack Russells are good dogs. I have trained many of them.
**The problem is he does not get along with other dogs (big surprise!) and he has been showing more and more aggressive behavior towards them lately. He did not used to be this way. In the past he lived with a 3 year old girl, 2 different male dogs and a female Basenji. I also have a cat whom he leaves alone.**
He gets along with animals he knows and lives with. That is a good thing.
**One and a half years ago, my ex-boyfriend’s male Thai Ridgeback dog attacked him very badly in the rear leg. I had to take him to the vet, and still to this day, he can’t walk right on it at times. Ever since then, he has been uneasy about bigger dogs and a lot of male dogs. It is usually when a dog runs up to him, jumps on him or puts their face in front of his face, even if the other dog is trying to be friendly. **
This kind of behavior from him would be expected after being attacked like this. Traumas aren’t forgotten. I liken this to a woman being raped. This dog has been traumatized, and he isn’t going to forget it. He has now generalized that all dogs are threatening, and he uses aggression to defend himself from the perceived threat of another attack. This is why it is very important to supervise dogs and to determine which ones are friendly, and should be allowed to interact with your dog, and which ones might harm your dog. (The same is true with other people. Not all people, kids or adults, are nice to dogs. The ones that aren’t should be closely supervised, and in most cases, the dog should be kept away from bratty kids, nasty adolescents, and nutty adults. They will wreck your dog if you let them). Many of the Thai Ridgebacks I have seen were aggressive towards other dogs. You should have been more careful in their interactions with each other.
It is also possible your dog still is sore from the injury. Just as with people, some dogs need physical therapy after injuries to break up scar tissue and to ensure proper mobility. Your dog could still be in pain, and is wary of dogs that he perceives might re-injure his leg.
**I also was employed at a kennel, working with dogs for 6 months, and his aggression escalated then, as well. Maybe he was jealous that I was with other animals.**
This was most likely not jealously. He was just further traumatized by the dogs in this situation.
**I am guessing he is afraid of dogs or he is being protective of me. **
He is afraid of other dogs. I doubt he is protecting you. He is protecting himself.
**However, my friends have watched him, and he has shown aggression to other dogs while I am not around. **
Exactly. This isn’t about protecting you.
**Also, I have to carry around a stick to pry his mouth off of the other dog because, if he does bite, I cannot get him to stop, even using the pinch collar and saying no. He has NOT injured another animal seriously, usually just some small puncture wounds, but, I cannot take any more chances and it seems that he is just really hating dogs more and more by the day. I would guess he has bitten, probably, 8 dogs pretty seriously where I could not get him to stop. He has NO other behavioral problems. **
You are taking too many risks with your dog, and you are endangering other people’s dogs. This is morally, and legally, wrong. You need to stop making him interact with strange dogs by changing how you manage your dog. This stuff is just making the problem worse. First, get your dog to the veterinarian and see if this is a medical problem. Then, you need a professional behavioral evaluation to determine what to do next.
**He is very, very well trained in obedience, he knows at least 30 different toys, and a million tricks. He does not chew up anything, ever. He is one of the smartest dogs I’ve met and most friends will agree. I need to find a trainer that can find the root of the problem and train me to help him before it is too late, and I am forced to walk around with a muzzle on him all of the time. **
He sounds like a terrific dog. It is a shame that most trainers know nothing about aggression, and that they didn’t help you with this situation.
**I want to get him a female Jack Russell companion, yet I refuse to do so until I get this situation under control.**
If you properly introduce him to this female, he might just make friends with her and be fine. As long as she is a stranger, however, he would be likely to harm her. It is all in how you introduce them at the start. And if there is a medical problem, then that has to be fixed first. You need professional help here, and you need it now rather than after something bad happens.
**I’d like to see what your rates are, I’m sure you are expensive, but I want something that works. He has seen a few trainers in the past for basic obedience and some potty training issues.
My name is Sally**>
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Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.
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