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Don't live with the problem of a dog that doesn't get on with others: remove it through training

Don't live with the problem of a dog that doesn't get on with others: remove it through training

Dogs that react when they meet other dogs are a problem - not least because they can get their owners into trouble.

It is one of the most common problems confronted by animal behaviorists and trainers.The issue can manifest itself in a range of ways. It could be anything from our dogs seeming to act uncomfortably around their peers and being defensive right up to fully blown fighting aggression. Sometimes the same dog can display all these traits in different situations.

Prevention is better than cure

Of course prevention is preferable to having to cure the problem. It's best to tackle the issue when our dogs are still puppies. Dogs need to be socialised with other dogs as soon as possible when they are still young. This means they are more likely to grow up being friendly and sociable.
In this socialization process we also need to teach our dogs to ignore stranger dogs and listen to us instead.

Time is of the essence

Time is of the essence. With some breeds the period for socialization to be successful is in the first 14 weeks. Many new owners have little if any idea how essential this process is. The best thing is to find a good puppy playgroup or socialization class.

We also need to understand our dogs more to spot how often we put our pets in situations where they learn to react to others. We need to recognize that most aggression grows out of fear.

What many of us don't realize is that dogs on leads approaching each other face to face is actually considered very rude in dog language.

Fight or flight

Our dogs' natural instincts prepare them to act in order to avoid conflict and survive. This is what activates the fight or flight response.
For some dogs the first option is to flee, for others it is to fight. We need to recognize the problem before it occurs to help our dogs feel secure and comfortable in these situations.

A good way of doing this is for us to teach them to ‘watch me’, so the dog looks at us when they pass the other dogs. To reinforce the training give the dog a treat for ignoring the others.

Alternatively, try to avoid situations where our dogs have to pass stranger dogs. Always be aware of those situations that cause our dogs to feel uncomfortable. This means the dog does not have to deal with the situation by himself.

If our dog already has issues with other dogs, our first job is to prevent him being able to practice bad behavior - which will simply serve to reinforce it.

To do this may require using a head collar or harness, not allowing our dog off the lead around other dogs and working on improving his obedience. The next step is to identify a good behaviorist/trainer to help you iron out this very worrying issue.

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