My dog came from an abusive home, so he is understandably cautious when meeting some new dogs and humans. Most people are sympathetic when I explain why he’s growling, which often leads to a comment or two about how horrible some people are. To further defend Jack, especially when interacting with those who aren’t as kind, I like to say “we don’t like everyone, so why do we expect our dogs to?”
There are many reasons why your dog hates one particular dog, just a few or everyone he meets. They include lack of socialization as a puppy, protective of you, was attacked by another dog, age related health issues or he simply got a bad vibe.
Why Your Dog Doesn’t Like Every Dog
Sometimes the answer is clear: he was attacked by a dog and is now skittish around them. Sometimes we have no idea why, especially in the case of a rescue dog.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons, then we’ll talk about what to do to help.
Lack of socialization
In order for a dog to be comfortable living in our world without fear, they need to be gradually exposed to a wide variety of people, animals, sights, sounds, objects and experiences.
What are the consequences of an un/poorly socialized dog?
Don’t get the exercise they need
We all know the importance of exercise to help keep our dogs healthy, both physically and mentally. Many pet parents who have dogs that are not socialized are reluctant to take them out. The lunging and barking at passing dogs, people, cars etc… make walking them a nightmare…so they don’t.
The problem is, without an outlet for all that pent-up energy, a dog’s behavior will deteriorate and the family will be faced with a whole host of new issues.
This can be anything from fear of unfamiliar noises and a bike cycling past, to walking in a new area or having a bag float past in the wind. How heart breaking for a dog to live in an almost constant state of panic and fear.
Impact on health
Stress and anxiety can cause anorexia, diarrhea and vomiting. Not only that it can make vet visits a nightmare, depending on how extreme the reaction. How can a vet do a physical exam on a dog that terrified or reactive? How many dogs are not getting the veterinary care they need because the pet parent isn’t able to manage, or is embarrassed by their dog’s behavior?
Few/no doggie friends
If a dog hasn’t been socialized around other dogs, it will be tough for him to make friends. During play they learn how to communicate and interpret signals, but without that opportunity it can be hard for them to know how to interact “properly.”
Dogs need baths, fur clipped and nails cut but a poorly socialized dog can make that challenging, and in some cases impossible. Restraining a dog can not only add to the fear but can cause him and/or the groomer injury.
The pet parent may be able to bathe the dog at home, and many resort to buying clippers and going the DIY route, but not everyone is comfortable doing that. Even those who are draw the line at nail clipping, and keeping them trim is very important.
Nervous around people
One of the most important parts of socialization is gradually introducing a dog to a wide variety of people – different ages, sizes, those with walkers and canes, men with beards, people wearing hats and of course children. A lack of socialization means a dog will react by barking, cowering or growling when meeting new faces.
Afraid of the world
Stepping outside the front door can be fraught with all kinds of fear inducing experiences. That makes including your dog in day trips, family outings and even a walk in a new park virtually impossible.
While in many cases an abused dog will cower in the presence of others, some may react in a completely different manner and display signs of aggression.
Resource Guarding Behavior/Overprotective
In this case, your dog’s dislike of another dog may have nothing to do with him at all, but rather him being protective or possessive of his resource…meaning you!
If your dog was ever attacked by another dog he may “hate” every one he comes across, or just those who resemble the perpetrator.
Gets a Bad Vibe
We don’t understand all the ways dogs communicate with each other, so it’s possible yours may see or smell something in another dog he doesn’t like.
Age Related health issues
It’s not surprising for a senior dog, or one of any age experiencing health issues, to react. No matter how well socialized, a dog losing his vision or experiencing pain due to arthritis for example, will more than likely react to a dog bounding over.
What to Do If Your Dog Doesn’t Like Other Dogs
Whether your dog hates on one of his siblings, dogs in general or just a few, in this section you’ll find tips on ways to help your dog either overcome his dislike/fear, or at least manage his reaction so walks and day to day life are easier for everyone.
This is very important because no one wants their dog to be a bundle of nerves all the time. Also, the more he is exposed to those stressors, the more he will react and the situation will escalate.
Basic commands such as sit, stay and look at me will teach your dog impulse control and distract him during encounters with other dogs.
For example: if you see a dog approaching, having your dog sit, stay and look at you may prevent or at least reduce his reaction, especially if you give him his favorite treat!
Teaching look at me: During this training you’ll need to lean over and start quite close to your dog’s face, so be sure he’s comfortable with that.
** Hold a treat in your hand, then raise that hand to between your eyes. Either call your dog to get his attention or wait until he’s looking at you, when he does say “look at me” then give him the treat. Practice this a lot until he looks when you ask him to. Once he starts to get the hang of it, you’ll be able to slowly stand up straighter and straighter.
** Now that he’s responding well, it’s time to just rely on the hand signal. Go back to leaning close to your dog, hold your index finger between your eyes, have a treat in the other hand, say “look at me” and when he does give him the treat.
When you started this training the treat was coming from your “eye” so to speak. You were using the treat as a lure to get him to look at you. Now you want him to focus on you, not the treat…but you’re still rewarding him.
** When your dog has mastered “look at me” in a quiet environment, start training in more and more distracting locations. This will help when you meet a dog he’s not crazy about, and you want to make that encounter as stress free as you can.
NOTE: If your dog fails to look at you, you’ve moved too far too fast. Take a step back to the point where he was doing well, and take it slower. This training can take days or weeks but that’s okay, there’s no rush.
Desensitization is about showing your dog that good things happen when he’s near something he doesn’t like/is afraid of.
For example, if walking your dog is a nightmare because of how he reacts to other dogs he meets, I wrote an article called “How to Walk a Leash Aggressive Dog – The Right Way!” These are the steps I used to help my dog Jack, and I can tell you it’s made a massive difference. Does he love all dogs? Of course not. Will he ever? No. Due to issues in his past he’s always going to be wary, but he’s improved massively, he has some doggie friends and does really well on walks and outings. I will always have to be vigilant, but we all should be anyway. You never know what dogs you’ll encounter and how well trained/behaved they are…especially if they’re off leash.
Desensitization is not only used during walks, but other times as well.
Here are some ways to apply it in different situations.
Example 1 – take your dog to the park so he can get used to seeing other dogs. The key is to keep him close enough to see the other dogs, but far enough way that he doesn’t react. How to find that sweet spot? There is a distance at which your dog is fine in the presence of others, so that’s the distance you need to be when first starting out. For arguments sake, let’s say 15 feet.
Find a bench that is roughly that distance so your dog can observe while remaining calm. Give him a treat once in awhile when he sees a dog. This is creating a positive association so he will eventually learn that good things happen when he sees a dog. Namely, he gets delicious treats!
Over the course of days, weeks or even longer you will practice this, very gradually decreasing the distance between him and other dogs. Go very slowly, because moving too quickly can cause a setback.
It’s also a good idea to start this training when it’s quieter, then work up to going when more dogs are around – like on weekends or after work for example.
NOTE: This training also works to get him used to people, children, other animals, bicycles etc…
Example 2 – Enlist the help of a friend with a calm dog to take a walk with you and your pup. Start in a park, parking lot or other area where you can walk parallel to each other but far enough apart so your dog doesn’t react.
Give him treats during the walk.
Over time, again it could be days, weeks or longer, you will very slightly decrease the distance between you.
NOTE: To begin, make sure the dogs are both walking on the outside of each of you. Only when your dog has shown he’s fine in the other dog’s presence can you judge if he’s ready to be walking next to him.
Example 3 – What do you do if you have 2 dogs in your home and one is hating on the other? Did you get a new pup and your existing one isn’t too happy about it, or is this is a recent behaviour?
If it’s something that just started, have there been any changes in your home that could have upset the balance? Perhaps one of the dogs isn’t feeling well or is in pain and that’s the cause of the aggression. If nothing has changed, then I suggest you make an appointment to see your vet.
Here are some tips on introducing a new dog to an existing dog.
The best way to introduce them is on neutral territory, on a leash, and you’re going to need two people for this. Whether that’s a neighbor’s yard, a new part of town or a never visited park, that’s up to you. Walk the dogs together, but a few feet apart. Be cool, be casual and just walk. You want them close enough to get used to being in each other’s presence, yet far enough away so they can’t greet or stare at each other. Avoid tension!!
Assuming that went well, try with leashes dragging. Of course it needs to be a fenced in area, but not too tiny a space so they can move away from each other if need be. Let them sniff around each other for a couple of minutes, then call them away.
If they start to play, fantastic. Leave them a few minutes than end the session.
Before the new dog comes home, put away your dog’s toys, bones and food bowls. He may not take kindly to an interloper snooping around them, or even claiming them for himself.
Also plan in advance where you’re going to feed them, but separated is best until they’re more relaxed around each other and don’t mind eating together. Keep in mind they may never get to that point, so leaving some distance between them at meal time is perfectly acceptable.
By this time your dog may like his new bestie, but may only see him as an outdoor mate, not one he’d like to welcome permanently into his home. To keep with the “introducing them slowly” theme, keep them separated in the house, no visual contact at the beginning. Let them rely on scent first. Give each of them a couple of toys or a blanket, then swap so they get to smell each other.
Let the new dog have a roam around the house, while your existing dog is out of sight. Do this for a few minutes, several times a day.
Then let your other dog roam and put the new one out of sight. Your dog will be smelling some unfamiliar smells now and will be wondering where the heck they came from and why!! Make sure you spend lots of quality time with your existing dog.
The more often you do this, the more quickly they can meet.
You’ll know yours is ready for an actual meet and greet when he’s no longer furiously following the new dog’s scent.
When you’re out you must keep them apart until things settle.
How long will this “tiptoe through the tulips” dance go on? I have no idea.
Some dogs love everybody and everything they see, all you have to do is open the front door and they’re friends for life. Others not so much.
This is about identifying triggers. In what situations does your dog react? You may not have paid attention to this before, so over the next few days keep a record of what incites a reaction. Does he seem to “hate on” a particular dog he sees? Certain colors? Breeds? When he’s in a high traffic busy area?
Once you’ve noticed a pattern you can either avoid, or use the desensitization method(s) talked about above.
If you live in a multi dog household and your dog(s) are fighting over food, toys, beds or even your attention, that is known as resource guarding. This article “The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing With Food Aggressive Dogs” will be a big help!
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