Aggressive dog? Best ways to stop this behaviour

Territorial aggression in dogs – How to stop it

Start early

When you get a new puppy or rescue dog, take the animal to all the houses where there are other dogs and as soon as the other dog acknowledges the presence of the newcomer, give them both some treats.

This will set the template for the future relationship, as the act of sharing food is a pack trait seen in their ancestor, the wolf, which commits them to a close relationship in which mutual respect can be learned and accepted.

Overtly aggressive dogs

In the case of overtly aggressive dogs, the following measures are to be taken.

  • When exposing your dog to another dog, one of the most important things to remember is to limit your dog’s exposure by attaching him to a 3m leash to avoid any excessive stress and avoid any accidents.
  • On the day set out for exposure, do not feed the dog in the morning before starting the exercise.  This will help to motivate the dog’s food drive and sharpen the response. It is also a good idea to use a product like Rescue Remedy to keep them calm. It goes without saying that you must remain calm to encourage your dog to mirror your reaction.
  • The distance between each dog should start at about 3m.  You can gradually reduce the distance as you give your dog tasty titbits and praise for calm acceptance. You can interrupt any unwanted behaviour with a squirt from a water pistol, which will cause the dog to blame itself and deselect the behaviour.
  • Look out for raising of his tail and the hair on the back; they are signs that he is getting uptight.  Interrupt with the water pistol.
  • Remember to be patient and do not over-expose him. Look for signs of excessive hyperventilating which will alert you to the need for a break.

When out on a walk, have your dog on the leash and make him aware that you have some treats, but do not allow him access to these until he sees another dog.  He will interpret it like this: “Another dog arriving is the catalyst for my owner’s hand to pop open!” Repeat the exercise as many times as it takes for the dog to learn that other dogs aren’t ‘the enemy’.

  • The food is key to him being passively classically conditioned to the sight of other dogs – who he will then see as the new food vending machine.  Once he has learned this response, you will only have to reward him every second or third time to reinforce the passive reaction.
  • When an acceptable level of behaviour has been reached you can expose them to normal situations without the use of treats, but still using the negative stimulus (water pistol) to deter any unwanted aggression.
  • Eventually, your dog will lose its aggressive behaviour without the need for either reward or deterrent.

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