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Dogs That Don't Get Along with Other Non-family Dogs

If your dog is aggressive to unfamiliar dogs, it can severely limit where you can take him and what activities he can enjoy. If your dog is a grumpy Gus, you may find it difficult to take him hiking, may be prevented from enrolling in doggie day care or a training class, or from even being able to walk your dog in your neighborhood.

There is no one reason why some dogs can’t play well with others. Reasons range from breed tendencies, to a bad experience with another dog, to a lack of socialization either during puppy hood or adolescence. Some dogs simply enjoy intimidating other dogs.

You must first manage your dog’s environment so that he can’t harm other dogs. Perhaps this means no off-leash time for now.

The difficulty in working with these problems is being able to create situations in which your dog can learn how to behave. You can not rely on spontaneous encounters with other dogs (such as on a walk or a dog park) because you can’t predict how the other dog is going to behave, nor can you control how the beginning of the encounter occurs and be able to end it at just the right moment.

Some communities have special classes for dog-to-dog aggression problems. Be sure to evaluate these classes carefully. Some have great success rates, while others are poorly managed classes that only give dogs a chance to practice more aggressive behavior.

Drop us an email at, and we’ll send you our free handout on Guidelines For Selecting a “Growl Class" to help you decide if a class you’re considering enrolling in is well run.

What are realistic expectations for working with these problems? Some dogs can eventually learn to play well with others, and participate in social groups. For other dogs, perhaps the best you can expect is to be able to control and manage your dog on leash in the presence of other dogs, such as when you are walking your dog in a park or in an on-leash training class.

Your biggest responsibility is to prevent your dog from hurting other dogs. If necessary, muzzle your Fido if he must be in a situation where he might bite another dog. We recommend wire basket muzzles from NEVER leave a dog alone while muzzled.


First, it will help you if you understand canine aggressive behavior from a scientific viewpoint. Start by reading our Collection of Articles on Canine Aggression.

To effectively work with and manage your dog’s threatening and aggressive behaviors, you must be well versed in canine communication signals. There is no better way to learn how to ‘read’ your dog and be better able to recognize behavior signs that indicate your dog is going to “mix it up” with another than our Canine Body Postures DVD. Used in many professional training programs.

Next, watch our DVD, Understanding Canine Conflicts that zeros in on the most common reasons for these problems and helps you begin to get a handle on the problem.

Third, listen to our interview with Ms. Pia Silvani, CPDT on “Rehabilitating the Canine Contender: Helping Dogs Get Along Better with Other Dogs”. Pia has conducted “Feisty Fido” classes at St. Hubert’s Dog Training Center in Madison NJ for over 10 years and provides great insight for you on how to handle your feisty fido.

A Calming Cap™ will be a most useful tool for you. Essentially a comfortable hood that filters your dog’s vision, it will help your Fido be less reactive when he sees other dogs and make it much easier for you to manage his behavior as well as have a better “starting point” for behavior modification. The Calming Cap™ can be worn under a muzzle.

We also recommend reading the booklet “Feisty Fidos” by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D.

If you need professional help with your dog’s behavior, be sure to read our Guidelines for Finding a Dog Trainer or Behavior Consultant first.

Animal Behavior Associates - Helping Fido
4994 S. Independence Way
Littleton, CO 80123

Phone: 303-932-9095
Fax: 303-932-2298