The American Dog Trainers Network


a picture of trainer Robin Kovary

by Robin Kovary

photo credit: Harold Feinstein

Question: My male puppy is now eight months old. Until recently he's always been sweet and gotten along well with other dogs, but lately he's becoming somewhat aggressive and difficult to handle around other male dogs. I want to allow him to iplay with other dogs, but I'm concerned with his recent change in behavior. What do you suggest I do?

Answer: In short, the answer is for you to provide leadership, obedience training, sufficient socialization with other friendly dogs, and to consider having him neutered. If you haven t already begun obedience training your dog, now is the time to start. There are group obedience classes, private in-home trainers, and many dog obedience and behavior books which can be helpful.

Neutering can go a long way in reducing intra-species aggression, as well as other behavioral (and health related) problems.

Your dog's breed (or breed mix) may also influence his predisposition to showing dominance and/or aggressiveness toward other dogs. People whose dogs are of breeds that tend to be dominant (i.e., Rottweilers, Giant Schnauzers, Bull Terriers, Chows, Akitas, Tosa Inus, American Bulldogs, etc.), should begin to obedience train and socialize their dogs as early as possible (providing the puppy is fully immunized).

Some dogs, regardless of breed, and however well-trained and socialized will, upon maturity, have difficulty getting along with other dogs (particularly those of the same sex). These dogs should not be allowed to interact with other dogs if the risk of a dogfight is likely to occur.

If while out for a walk, if you are considering allowing your dog to approach another unfamiliar dog, always ask the person about their dog, and watch both dogs' body language, before allowing your dog to go over to the other dog. Stiff, tense and upright body posture may mean potential trouble. Both dogs should exhibit relaxed and playful body language, before they are allowed to interact.

Keep your dog's leash slack as he approaches another dog, because a taut leash may transmit to him the message that there is something wrong with the other dog, or that you are feeling uneasy about the two meeting. Also, if the leash is tightenned, your dog's head is pulled back, making him appear stiffer and bringing his head and body higher, two signals that may inadvertantly communicate a dominance challenge to the other dog. The other dog may react to this by becoming aggressive himself.

Copyright 1995 - 2000,  Robin Kovary

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Robin Kovary is the American Dog Trainers Network helpline director
 and canine behavioral consultant.