It’s easy to say “my dog hates other dogs” and simply be done with it by avoiding contact with other dogs, however this can be the worst choice that you could make, and for various reasons:
Your dog should socialize with other dogs too, not just humans;
It’s actually a lot harder than you might think;
You will find yourself planning some ridiculous routes in order to avoid other dog owners, dog walkers and strays;
Every single walk or run becomes a struggle if other dogs wander in your general area;
Your dog will become more aggressive and subsequently more dangerous when other dogs are near;
Your dog slowly loses his or her personality as a dog and instead tends to adopt a more human-like one.
Understanding dog behaviour
Dogs, just like us humans, are very social creatures. They tend to not fair well in complete isolation, and just by looking at the dog’s ancestor, the wolf, we can see that they, at a primordial level, are meant to work together and coexist with each other in packs, just like we are meant to coexist with each other in society.
At the most basic of levels, dogs are not supposed to fight with each other, and come to the conclusion that they are better off on their own than around other dogs.
As a human being, you view your family as being a family, your dog will view the very same family as being the pack that he or she is a part of, thus identifying himself or herself as a vital and valuable member of that pack. This is not a bad thing, however it tends to lead to a few issues without the proper training.
Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that it is very easy to mistake general aggressive behaviour with defensive aggression, and quite a lot of dog owners, especially the inexperienced ones, tend to mistake the two.
There are actually a lot of types of canine aggression, however these are the 2 main ones,
Canine aggression and the reasons for it
Psychotic violent intent
This is a strong and unbridled feeling of hatred towards another dog, and the deep desire of ripping the other dog to shreds. This is something commonly found in dogs that are trained for dog fighting and pit fighting, and it manifests itself as a burst of uncontrollable manic aggression as soon as the dog spots another dog.
The dog in question immediately tries to run towards the other dog, frantically pulling on the leash, barking and growling, putting all of his muscular power and body weight into escaping your grip and charging the other dog.
Relentless, unwilling to listen to commands, refusing to pull back or give up, literally requiring extreme measures in order to be subdued, not to mention the fact that the dog becomes enraged, willing and able to bite left right and center in order to get to the other dog.
The body language is as follows: the dog exposes all its teeth, sometimes foams at the mouth, raises his shoulders, arches his back forward, leans his head in the direction of the other dog, the hair on the back of his head stands on end, the chest is pushed forward, the tail is up and in a prominent position, ears are pulled back and the movements of the dog are frantic, chaotic, wiggling and pulling on the leash, sometimes trying to bite it and break it, putting a lot of power into trying to escape and charge the dog that he has in his sights.
The dog is scared, he feels backed into a corner, he fails to see an escape, he feels overwhelmed, he resorts to aggression in order to either bluff or fight his way out of it. This is something more or less specific to dogs that have been cuddled and protected too much, and now are lacking the defensive skills as well as the confidence to take on other dogs and face the scenarios and situations that appear in day to day dog life or canine interaction.
Simply put, your dog lacks the social skills and practice needed in order to have the confidence to interact with other dogs. This results in your dog seeing other dogs as a potential danger to himself, resulting in a very intimidated but at the same time alert dog, and whenever a dog tries to approach him, he flips out and turns aggressive.
Unlike the previous type of aggression, in this one the dog has no problem with other dogs being in the general area most of the time, the problems start when the other dogs get too close or cross a certain line that your dog considers a safe zone.
The body language is as follows: The dog exposes teeth, but not the full set, more or less warning the other dogs that they should back down.
The dog barks and growls, however the tail betrays him, instead of being up and ready to charge, the tail is more or less on a horizontal position. The head is stretched forward, the chest is pushed forward and the shoulders are tensed, ready to charge, but the hind legs are more or less relaxed, in a neutral position.
The dog is controllable and will back down if the leash is pulled upon or tugged back. The dog does not respond to commands particularly well however it will respond in the end and can be controlled with a firm grip and strong will displayed by the master.
The dog is trying to defend you
As stated earlier, the family that adopts the dog becomes the dog’s pack, and the dog identifies himself as being a vital and integral part of said pack.
Here is where the problems arise, because dogs are very loyal and as a result of that, very protective of the members in their pack.
A strange dog or simply another dog can easily pose a threat to you or your family in your dog’s eyes, and as a result of that the dog goes into defensive more and tries to charge the dog in order to either drive the dog away or wound it in order to scare it off.
This is a problem that is common amongst dogs that have been socialized a lot with humans however they received next to no socialization with other dogs.
Something to note about this particular type of aggression is the fact that it is not exactly dangerous or harmful. Yes, the dog will bark and yes he will growl however the dog’s main objective is to protect you, and he will not directly charge or try to charge another dog except if said dog displays clear signs of aggression or makes any sudden moves towards you and your dog.
Body language in this case is as follows: The ears are pointing straight up, the head is in a neutral position, some teeth are exposed, the dog will bark and he will growl at the other dog.
The shoulders are tense, however the chest is in a neutral position, the back is arched forward slightly, and the tail stands up straight.
So the dog adopts a rather defensive stance, letting the other dog know that he is standing his ground however he is willing to attack and tear him to sunders if he dares to make a move.
The dog is controllable, and responsive to commands while in this state of mind however he grows more and more unresponsive as the other dog inches towards you.
Fixing the dog’s aggression problem towards other dogs
The good thing about dogs is the fact that they resemble us in so many ways, and just like us, with the right help, the right training and the right therapy, they can get past anything.
It’s easy to think that your dog is beyond hope, however that is not the case. Some of the meanest and most ferocious pit fighting dogs have been reformed, dogs that would seriously injure, maim and even kill others, dogs that have served in war zones for their entire lives, dogs that have been through hell and back then back again, they have all managed to be reformed and are now living out the rest of their years with a family that loves them, while they are reciprocating that love back to their family.
So what can you do?
For starters, your dog needs training, and he needs to practice being around other dogs in order for him to realize and say to himself: “these are not threats, these are not enemies, these are dogs, just like me, and maybe I can make some play friends here.”
Your dog will need to be more or less taught how to socialize with other dogs, and your dog will have to be introduced in groups of dogs in order for him to build up his confidence, calm his nerves and adapt accordingly.
You have 2 options here.
Option 1: Go about it yourself
It is doable and a couple of people have actually managed to pull it off. It is a plausible solution, however it will require you to do a lot of research, contact a lot of people and set up some complicated and often times dangerous scenarios and settings in order to get your dog to adapt and get the confidence that he needs.
It will require you to do a lot of research, invest a lot of time and resources into this and even so, it is not guaranteed to work perfectly.
Option 2: Seek the assistance of a dog trainer
This is actually the best thing that you could do. The dog trainer already knows how to handle these situations, and most likely will have the necessary arrangements made in order for your dog to overcome these hurdles.
Preventing this aggression from the very beginning
Socialisation and training!