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ABTRTALKS2BOSTON TERRIER NETWORK:  Recently on social media this question caught my eye.  This reminded me of my own journey with rescued dogs, and some of the things the fostered dogs have taught me along the way. Perhaps you have wanted some answers to this question also.


Question: “I have a fixed two year old male rescue dog that I have had for about a month. The problem I have is his aggression toward other dogs while on walks. What should I do? Is this Common?  Bob is a very smart and sweet boy (around people). I work with him every day on basic commands. Once we are outside, he will not even listen to “sit ". I am very patient with him. He was a stray. When dogs are near he goes nuts! "


 Sometimes, WE are the ones that need training to help our dogs. Our little friends just do not know what to do, so they do something, anything to relieve their stress. Whose fault is that?  We try NEVER to let any of the dogs in our care have a negative interactive experience with us or the other dogs. For some dogs, it takes at least the first two or three weeks for them to adjust to their new environment and begin to make friends with the other dogs that are staying with us.


Slowly, we introduce the new dog, one dog at a time, for short periods, but only under supervised conditions. Like people, they like some dogs instantly. Then again some dogs they dislike just as fast. Then there are some that they learn to like, and turn out to be buddies, when introduced properly. We have had some dogs that could never be trusted together. (Reminds me of some humans I have met).


The word “aggressive” in my opinion, in many cases, is a label that is too commonly used. I try not to use this label except for dogs who really are trying to harm another dog or human. I think most of what we are seeing is fear and confusion in the dogs. Therefore, the “fight or flight” behavior kicks in.



 THEN, unwisely we add the desire, from us the humans, to take the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. OVERLOAD causes the dog to spin emotionally out of control. The reaction that you see and may have classified as “aggressive”,  may be the dog communicating with you and saying: "Hey, I cannot take this. I do not feel safe and because I do not feel you are going to protect me, I must resort to my own natural instinct to protect myself." 


So now what should you do? Most books we have read and trainers we have discussed this problem with believe that the best thing would be to start over. Go for walks early in the morning or later at night when there are no dogs out, or minimal amount of dogs. If there is one approaching, stop, sit, and place the dog between you and the other dog. Make sure there is 3-5 ft between you and the other walker/dog. If that threshold is not enough, then create a further distance until the dog sits calmly, stays calm, then move on with the walk.


A new dog being a rescue, or from another source, may need some help with manners. He may just be a jerk; he may be many things....but our companions often need our help and sometimes it takes a little work/time/effort.  The new dog has a million different things to get to know... People/kids in the home; the smells and sounds of the home; the routine; other animals in the home.

Jake 79574


When this question was asked on social media the responses were:


YJ : Why are you trying to move your dog when there is another dog coming at you? You are in control of the space. Place yourself between your dog and the other dog. Draw the line in the sand, per se. Stand tall and use your body to communicate with the other dog and tell them STOP [use your arm/hand as a stop sign] and tell them to GET BACK/GO. Tell your dog to STAY and LEAVE IT. You must stay calm as well.


RL: My little guy is like that on walks. We do not try to force him to be social. I will make him sit until the other dog passes and make sure to let the other people know that he is not friendly. My guy is very protective of his mommy and does fine when he is at the boarders without me. He thinks he is my guard dog.


MC: I make them sit until people pass on our trail, but on the grass away from the trail. Then give a treat from my pocket. Do it a bit away from the other dog. I do not always want mine submissive.


JM: Use of redirection, treats, and positive reinforcement can be tools to help your guy be on nicer walks.


CM: My rescue does this too, so we hired a trainer who uses positive training methods like JM is saying. Within five minutes, our dog was walking next to a giant German Shepherd. In our case, our dog is not aggressive; he is just not sure how to approach. I do not make him socialize with every dog I pass. However, I know now that if I can correct him, he will be nice and even sit next to strange dogs.


GE: I am going to repeat some of the advice my trainer gave me. When you see a dog coming at you, make your dog sit (practice this) and have a high value treat and keep him looking at you. When the dog has passed, with no incident, you praise and give the treat. You can also practice meeting a friendly friend and their pet in passing, doing a stop, sit, stop sit, not moving forward until you get the behavior you want and approach slowly making the dog sit behind you (friend does this too). Then meet the friend at the point of two outstretched hands to shake, with dogs sitting behind, turn and walk away, praising and treating at the return point (furthest distance). Repeat.


DYJ: You need to know what the threshold [trigger point] is with other dogs. Start working from that point. However, if it were me with a reactive dog, on leash, I wouldn't be concerned about where I can go with him for a walk around the neighborhood. I would first work with him in the home. Make sure that I have basic obedience, with household manners 90-100%, [come, sit, wait, stay, down, leave it, off, focus] before leaving the yard or driveway. The biggest mistake people make is getting a new dog and overwhelming it with new people, neighborhoods, with dogs and kids. This can actually be a mistake. Because they are not giving the dog [and themselves] time to adjust and get to know them without confrontational stimuli. You have just the dog to get to know.


DY: Before going to the sidewalk and streets, you need to first start working [from the beginning] in the back yard, side yard, front yard, then the driveway. End all training on a good note, i.e., play ball or find something that motivates your dog.

AGAIN, find his threshold point. It is up to you to control the environment and not allow another dog to get within the "REACTIVE" space of the dog. And for him to not move forward into another dog's space to be confrontational. You are allowing your dog to be defensive when another dog gets in his space. This is a natural behavior for a dog. If you start to control his space and let him know, you are the dog parent and have the space/environment under control, he will be able to relax more and trust you more to keep him safe.


Extra Tip:

Keeping treats within dogs diets:

AM: If you are going to train, use a good food that can take the place of a meal or part of a meal. So for instance, if I were training Bessie, I would give her half a meal, and use a solid dog food as her training treat which would finish her meal.