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What to Do When Your Dog Is Overly Aggressive Towards Other Dogs

My Dog Likes to Fight Other Dogs—What Can I Do?

It's not uncommon for a dog to get aggressive toward an unknown dog or other dogs in your home because a dog often feels the need to protect their territory or possessions. There is a limit as to how aggressive or protective a dog should be. If your dog shows excessive aggression towards other dogs, then she is putting herself in a position where she could either suffer or inflict an injury, and this ultimately could result in a lawsuit or animal-control intervention.

This guide will help you gain a better perspective about what causes dogs to be overly aggressive and what you can do about it.

Causes of Dog-on-Dog Aggression

There are several factors that can cause a dog to be aggressive toward other dogs. For instance, the dog may have been neglected or abused in the past. She never may have been socialized with other dogs during the puppy imprinting stage of development.

In some cases, dogs who are rescued from dog fighting operations could have aggressive tendencies toward other dogs or may have experienced a traumatic encounter with another dog. A painful medical condition could also account for the dog's irritability.

Symptoms of Canine Aggression

The most-common symptoms of canine aggression include growling, biting, or snapping, lip lifting, staring, and lunging towards another dog. In some cases, an aggressive dog may show fearful or submissive body postures and expressions such as crouching, tucking of the tail, and backing away.

Diagnosing Canine Aggression

If your dog is starting to become overly aggressive, take her to your veterinarian to rule out any potential medical causes. Your veterinarian will perform a variety of lab tests, including blood counts, a biochemistry blood profile, hormone testing, and urinalysis.

If these test results come back negative, then an MRI may be ordered to help determine if the dog has a central nervous system disease or any other neurological problems that could be attributing to her aggressive nature.

Dealing with an Aggressive Dog

If MRI results come back negative, then a medical condition is not the cause of the aggression. In such a case, you will have to take your own steps to help reduce the risk of an injury.

Such measures include avoiding risky situations or walking in areas where other dogs congregate and training your dog to be comfortable wearing a basket muzzle. You also should take a stronger stance on training your dog to help improve her behavior in the home. For instance, you should train your dog to listen to verbal cues, like “sit” and “stay.”

Medications for Canine Aggression

There isn't a medicinal cure for dog-on-dog aggression, unless of course the aggression is being caused by an underlying health condition that can be treated. If the aggression is being caused by anxiety or fear, a veterinarian may prescribe an antidepressant, a benzodiazepine, or a serotonin uptake inhibitor to help keep her dog in a calmer state.

About the Author

Dr. Evan Ware

Dr. Evan Ware is a veterinary practitioner in Phoenix, Arizona. He received both his undergraduate degree in microbiology and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Ware is currently the Medical Director of University Animal Hospital (VCA) and is also the owner of two other hospitals, including Laveen Veterinary Center and Phoenix Veterinary Center. His areas of expertise include orthopedic medicine and surgery, veterinary oncology and chemotherapy, and general and advanced soft-tissue surgery.