Assess a dog’s anxiety to treat dog to dog aggression

Dogs exhibit specific signs of stress when they are under duress. If you know what to look for in your dog aggressive dog, you can help him remain calm around dogs. To do this, you need to learn his specific signals and then move him away when stress occurs. 

If day in and day out your dog is kept comfortable around other dogs, he will learn that he doesn’t need to be “on guard” when dogs around. This will lower his anxiety.

If you also pair all meetings with FANTASTIC treats, your dog will also form a positive association for the presence of dogs.

Signs of Stress

Pay close attention to his subtle signs of stress

  • Not taking treats
  • Taking treats more roughly
  • Not performing behaviors easily that he normally does
  • Wide eyes
  • Raised hackles
  • Sniffing the air
  • Scratching
  • Yawning
  • Licking lips
  • Freezing or stiff movements
  • Moving head or eyes side to side
  • Obvious indicators like growling, snarling, or snapping

Use Assessment Tools to Keep Your Dog Calm

Each stage of interactions with dogs should be assessed to determine if your dog is comfortable or anxious. Keeping him calm the entire walk will speed up results. The more times he reacts on each walk will make all treatment more difficult. If you are unsure of his mental state, move him away from the situation. After he calms down after more distance, continue the exercises.

Use a clicker or say “Yes” to mark when your dog looks at the other dog. Make sure you are watching your dog’s head for the instant he sees the other dog. If a dog is approaching, move to the side at a comfortable distance and wait for the dog to approach. If your dog reacts by barking, lunging or growling, move him away until he is calm and then continue the exercises. 

Here are specific ways to gauge your dog’s anxiety.

If you follow these guidelines on every walk by moving away if your dog shows anxiety, eventually your dog will get comfortable with other dogs.

Low Anxiety – Stay where you are or move closer to the other dog

  • Turns around immediately upon hearing the ‘click’
  • Takes the treat gently
  • Is able to look away from the other dog
  • Is able to do a behavior such as sit on cue (do not try too soon in the process)
  • Relaxed body, face, ears
Medium Anxiety – Stay where you are, do not move closer, possibly move away

  • Turns around after the ‘click’ after a slight pause
  • Doesn’t turn around, but still takes the treat when presented to him
  • Slight stiffness
  • Upright ear movement

High Anxiety – Gently move him away

  • Barking, whining, showing teeth
  • Doesn’t turn around and doesn’t take treats after the ‘click’
  • Takes treats with a rough mouth
  • Extreme stiffness, pulling excessively on leash
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