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Dogs who have issues with other dogs, whatever that looks like, can still make wonderful, loving pets who fill their humans’ lives with joy.

New Delhi, September 15, 2019:  My Labrador, who isnow 12, recentlystarted growling atother dogs althoughhe has never snappedor did anything else problematic. Itwas out of the blue, seemingly; hewas a very active and well-socialiseddog who loved to wrestle with otherdogs. We went to the vet for hischeckup, and he didn’t show anysigns of hip dysplasia, or painfuljoints. He said this could be becausehe is not strong enough to keep upwith the younger dogs anymoreand just does not want to bebothered. Mystery solved. He growlsat energetic dogs who approachabruptly, to warn them not to jumpon him. That was it. He cannot moveas fast and this is his way of sayingstay away, go away, I don’t want youto touch me. But not all dogs havehealthy warning signals. 

Sometimesdogs bite out of the blue, or biteand do serious damage. Some dogsrespond to another dog growlingat them with increased aggression,rather than respecting the warningand backing off. Training can go along way – use classical conditioningto build positive associations withother dogs and operant conditioningto help your dog make good choicesaround other dogs – but all trainingcan do is change the probability of abehaviour. There are no guaranteeswith animal behaviour, and if yourdog trainer guarantees you that yourdog will do X, find a different dogtrainer. Management will be yourbest friend, both at the beginning ofthe process and all throughout it.You need to make sure your dog issafe, both to other dogs and fromthem, and the way you guaranteethat is management. Identifythe triggers that make your doguncomfortable or aggressive andavoid them. Maybe your dog whokeeps getting in fights no longergoes to the park. Maybe you crossthe street to avoid other dogs onyour walk. Maybe your dog learnsto love a muzzle.

 Whatever youhave to do to keep your dog andthose around them safe, know thatit does not make your dog a “baddog.” Some dogs love the companyof other dogs, others not so much.Some love one dog that they arebest friends with but attack everyother dog they meet. Dogs who haveissues with other dogs, whatever thatlooks like, can still make wonderful,loving pets who fill their guardians’lives with joy. Do what you have tokeep your dog safe and happy, andenjoy your lives together, whetherthat includes other dogs or not.(And don’t punish warning signals!)

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