How Do I Eliminate My Dog's Fear of Other Dogs

Posted by Bracklein
Feb 14, 2010
A few months ago Inherited a 1 1/2 year old Boxer mix named Brownie from my daughter. I think seems to be terrified of other dogs because, unfortunately, she received no socialization as a puppy. Brownie (43 pounds of solid muscle) reacts to other dogs on our walks with whining and barking, growling and lunging. I'm pretty much her "alpha" so I find I can calm her enough to sit and focus me when another dog is present. Brownie would be amazing at agility training, however, dog parks are totally out of the question so agility is too. Is there a systematic approach to changing this "other dog hating" behavior? If a professional is our only option, we'll do it, but I'd love to train her myself. We would really like to have a dog we can confidently take anywhere with us.
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Feb 15, 2010
Hi there

It is great that you would like to train Brownie yourself! It is definitely something you could do, as long as you are very patient and willing to persevere for some time. Good work with establishing yourself as the alpha dog. You should continue to keep up with this training for a bit longer, until you are completely confident that she sees you as leader of the pack. Until she willingly accepts that her position in the pack is lower than yours, she will feel the need to protect you from what she sees as a threat to your safety, which in this case are other dogs. You are right in saying that aggression in dogs is most commonly due to inadequate socialization with other dogs when they were younger. As you don't know the history of your dog, it is highly likely that she has not had much with other dogs in the past, and so doesn't know how to behave with them. You will just have to be firm and persist with the alpha dog training, so that she relinquishes the role as leader. Once she sees you as the head, you will assume the responsibility of protecting the pack and so make the decisions as to what is considered dangerous. Once you are above her in the hierarchy, she will also look to you for commands and seek guidance from you with regards to behavior to different and novel situations. You must take the lead when ‘scary’ situations arise and be completely calm and confident, exhibiting clear body language to show her that the other dogs are not something to be afraid of. She will take her cues from you so you make sure you are sending her the right signals!

In the meantime, to avoid the possibility of any fights, it may be wise to muzzle her when out in places with other dogs. There are many muzzles that are won't restrict her panting or interfere with her breathing pattern, although it may take some time for her to get used to it. If you wish to keep her on a leash, a gentle leader will give you a lot of control of her head without having to fight with him. You must be perfectly calm if you do have her on the leash though, as dogs are very sensitive and he will sense all the more if you are nervous. This will make it all the more likely for her to be wary of the other dog as she feels that it is something that he too should be afraid of. It is good that you are providing her with a source of distraction, so that her focus is on you instead of the other dogs. Don’t forget to reward her lavishly and give her a treat afterwards for being obedient.

Agility training is a really good idea, because it not only will improve her obedience levels and make her more attentive, but it is also a great way of you to spend time with her and improve your relationship!

It will take quite some time before her fear and learned response to lunge at them is reduced, but if you persist and take the training slowly, you will see changes after some time. Although she may never become very social, due to the fact that that window of opportunity as a puppy for socialization has been missed, she will eventually learn to tolerate, if not enjoy, the company of other dogs.

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Feb 16, 2010
Hi KOPsRobyn,

I have a question re: Fear Aggression.

Do dogs with fear aggression ever whine?

To me whining seems more of sign of submission, or trying to get the other dog's attention, rather than aggression:confused:

I know dogs do whine, bark and even make some growing sounds when they want to get closer to other dogs. That's why I am puzzled with Brownie's whining...
Posted by DogsInShanghai
Mar 1, 2010
HI KopsRobin!

two possibilities:

I have a very shy jack-russl, cavalier spaniel mix girl, Molly, and a 3 year old dobermann male, thompson. Thompson is very social, even though he is a male and had a lot of male friends, until molly came along. molly is afraid of other dogs and will get thompson to frighten them away, needless to say, that my walks got a lot more stressful. (standard situation would be: dog approaches molly, molly looks terribly frightend, then stands behind thompson and barks, then thompson will bark, growl and jump at the dog until he leaves)

I gave molly "rescue remedy" from Bach, it is a natural (flowers) medicine against fear. ( I also gave it to her, because she used to develop a fever on the way to the vet due to fear). the drops helped a lot and she now plays and is a lot calmer. (and stopped having thompson chase away all the dogs that dared sniff her butt, if they dont sniff her but, she doesnt care about them)

an other approach is, if she is not as fearful as Molly, (we have a morning and evening play group in our park and I have seen it happen with a lot of shy dogs now). find a well socialized dog, put a muzzle on your dog (just in case) and let them loose, see how they react. thompson is lead aggressive, and as soon as he is loose he is the friendliest dog around.
or find a well socialized play group and play fetch or something in a secure distance, that she gets used to dogs around.
i have watched new dogs afraid for months and months and barking as soon as a dog came to close and running home and suddenly they got friends with one of the pack and now they dont want to go home. sometimes new dogs come to the park and then 10 dogs swarm the new comer, if the new one is afraid they all go away and he gets time to adjust, it is really quite interesting to watch them. (only problem usually is, if one of them decides that he/she dont like the new one, then we all call our dogs back)

you can socialize them late, it only takes more energy, time and you need to choose well socialized play partners, so she can learn how to play.
that will not necessarily fix your lead aggression by the way.
maybe you have a friend you can go on walks with, boxers are usually quite playful dogs.

good luck!
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Apr 6, 2010
Hi there

I would agree with DogsInShanghai in that if possible, you should socialize Brownie with dogs that are friendly and relatively calm. Exposing him to as many different people and dogs, as well as varying environments and situations, will all contribute towards making him a more relaxed dog, because he will become desensitized and eventually very few things will faze him.

With regards to the whining, I agree that dogs displaying fear aggression generally growl instead. However, some dogs that are fearful will be aggressive towards other dogs to a point, and then reach a point where they are terrified and so whine out of pure fear, whereas others may then go on to attack out of fear.

I hope this helps!