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How to Handle Aggression Between Dogs (Inter-Dog Aggressive Behavior)

Interdog Aggression in Dogs

Inter-dog aggression, characterized by aggressive behavior between dogs, typically arises when a dog exhibits excessive aggression towards other dogs in the same household or unfamiliar ones. While this behavior is often considered natural, certain factors can exacerbate it.

Inter-dog aggression tends to occur more frequently in intact male dogs. Signs of this behavior typically emerge during a dog’s puberty, which falls between six to nine months old, or when they reach social maturity at 18 to 36 months. Generally, inter-dog aggression presents more commonly between dogs of the same gender.

Symptoms and Types

Common indicators of inter-dog aggression encompass growling, biting, lip lifting, snapping, and lunging towards another dog. These behaviors may be accompanied by submissive or fearful body language, including crouching, tail tucking, lip licking, and backing away.

Typically, prior to a significant instance of inter-dog aggression within the same household, more subtle signs of social dominance may manifest. One such behavior is a dog staring and obstructing another dog’s entry into a room. Despite typically harmonious relations, specific triggers can provoke aggression between dogs.

Causes

The underlying causes of inter-dog aggression are diverse. Past experiences, such as abuse or neglect, can lead a dog to become overly aggressive. For instance, inadequate socialization during puppyhood or a traumatic encounter with another dog may contribute to this behavior. Dogs rescued from fighting operations often exhibit inter-dog aggression more frequently.

Furthermore, an owner’s actions can influence the development of this condition. For example, showing favoritism towards a weaker dog and punishing the more dominant one may exacerbate aggression. Other triggers for aggression include fear, territorial instincts, the desire to protect social status, or underlying medical issues causing pain.

Diagnosis

There isn’t a standardized procedure for diagnosing inter-dog aggression. Some symptoms closely resemble typical canine play behavior or excited, non-aggressive arousal. Biochemical tests, urine analysis, and other laboratory examinations often yield inconclusive results. However, if any abnormalities are detected, they might aid the veterinarian in identifying an underlying cause for the aggression.

In cases where a neurological condition is suspected, more advanced imaging techniques such as CT or MRI scans may be necessary. These scans help determine whether the aggression stems from a central nervous system (CNS) disease or to rule out other neurological conditions.

How to Handle Dog Aggression

Inter-dog aggression doesn’t have a definitive cure, so treatment mainly revolves around control. Owners should focus on avoiding situations that trigger aggressive behavior in their dog and intervening swiftly and safely during fights. In settings where aggression is more probable, such as walks in the park, the dog should be kept away from potential targets and closely supervised.

Additionally, owners may consider training their dog to tolerate wearing a protective head halter and basket muzzle, which can help manage aggressive behavior in certain situations.

Training for Aggressive Dogs

Behavioral modification is essential in addressing aggression in dogs, with the involvement of licensed professional veterinary trainers being imperative. Through a range of positive reinforcement techniques, the aggressive dog is gradually conditioned to overcome fear or reactive responses towards other dogs.

However, there are instances where some owners struggle to manage or mitigate situations involving dog aggression. In such cases, options may include re-homing the dog to a more suitable environment that aligns with its personality. For dogs deemed unsafe around other animals or humans, humane euthanasia might be considered to ensure the safety and well-being of all involved.

While there isn’t a specific licensed medication for treating inter-dog aggression, various behavioral medications can help address underlying anxiety or hyperexcitability. These may include Prozac, Xanax, trazodone, acepromazine, and gabapentin, with some used daily and others reserved for specific situations.

Successful treatment of inter-dog aggression is typically gauged by a reduction in the severity or frequency of incidents. It’s crucial for treatment recommendations to be consistently applied throughout the dog’s life, as relapses may occur if adherence wavers. Owners of aggressive dogs should collaborate closely with veterinary behaviorists and veterinarians to achieve treatment goals. While it requires dedication and patience, many dogs can effectively manage inter-dog aggression and enjoy fulfilling lives.

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