My dog attacks other dogs

My dog (well, he’s Mrs. Mercotan’s dog, but we do share a house) attacks other dogs. That’s why he was a rescue dog in the first place; his inability to get along with fellow canines.

He’s a mix of mostly Golden Retriever and a touch of Collie, looking a bit more like the former but with the longer nose of a collie and the classic collie sable and white on his face. We got him through a rescue agency at age 6, where we were fully apprised of his tendency to alarmingly attack (and injure) other dogs. We were told that the only known exception to that was his sister, with whom he was raised until the age of 4 or 5. We were otherwise told he had no problems with cats or kids or people. We have no other info on his background or what may have made him like that.

And it seems what we were told is true. He has played with and otherwise tolerated kids whose faces I would have ripped off, with tons of joy and affection and without a hint of a snarl. He’s a great companion for our cat, to whom he frolics, plays, and on misguided occasions tries to make the sweet sweet love until the cat informs him that’s enough of that. No qualms about leaving him alone with the MercoCat. He’s a sloppy snuggly furry sweetheart to humans and felines. Even the local feral cats have been seen to cuddle with him.

But he can be a savage beast with any other dog, from cute puppies who want to play, Golden Retrievers who want to make a few friend, mini dachshunds who wander the neighborhood, the local mink ranch dogs who welcome a good dust-up and sometimes escape their fenced area, and any other canine he sees. Fortunately we always keep him leashed when he’s out of the house, so we’ve been able to avoid most assaults on other animals. Leashed & supervised on our land at a minimum (tethered to a tree in the shade as we work on the yard or play on our beach), leashed and controlled off our land.

We’ve avoided most, but not all assaults. Even on our own property (all 60 acres of it), we have nearby folks who think nothing of letting their dogs run freely over my land, and these improperly controlled animals have on occasion rushed over to our leashed and heeled Stormy (we didn’t pick the name, just changed it from Storm) to say hi, only to get bit. Nothing serious, fortunately.

The Mrs. has taken him to dog training classes for 3 years now, worked very closely with him and with the instructor and has succeeded him getting him to tolerate other dogs as long as he is able to studiously ignore them and vice versa. He’s even been in a “doggie dance class” where he and the Mrs. do choreographed dance routines together with other dogs and their handlers, where he’s able to perform fairly well without eating any other canine faces off. His two modes of behavior with other dogs come down to “Ignore” and “Attack”, and if the other dog doesn’t ignore him, attack mode ensues. Unless they’re dancing. He’s serious about his Art, it seems.

The vet just affirms that we need to continue to reward him for ignoring other dogs and control him adequately to prevent attacks, while neither the vet nor instructor are able to offer other insights into how he might have gotten this way, how common such behavior is, and whether there are other fruitful things to try to further change his behavior. I’d be interesting in hearing about other folks’ experiences with this sort of issue.

I do regret not being able to let him run free on our 60 acres under voice control, as we did for our previous dogs. But with voice control NOT adequate to control his aggressiveness, I’m not going to take chances that way, even in the middle of my own property. Too many friendly, well-meaning strays in the neighborhood.

What are you seeking opinions on? Unclear from your OP.

I would have no qualms about dispatching any neighbors dog on my property unleashed or otherwise without my permission resulting in a tussle with my own animals. I have shot and burned strays and neighbors dogs running loose that have attacked my livestock.

Yeah it does suck to not be able to let Stormy run free. Having a place for a dog to run is part of the fun of having a huge property!

That being said I’m super proud of you and Mrs. Mercotan for not only rescuing a dog, but also working hard to try to get his issues fixed, giving him the opportunity to do something stimulating to do in the form of dancing, and keeping him as a loved member of your family despite his problems. That is top-notch dog owning!

My Grady has issues with other dogs while he’s on a leash. Off leash, he’s fine. Well no, off leash he needs some careful guidance. But I love him and he’s my baby boy so I just work around his problem, mostly by avoiding close situations while on his leash (after some training to curb the problem a bit). It’s the best I can do to make his life and mine as least stressful as possible!

Good on ya!

Just to hear about the experiences of others with similar/related situations.

I don’t have livestock to defend, and these are the playful neighborhood dogs that my previous dogs used to enjoy hanging out with. They just thought the new guy would be their buddy too.

Sorry to hear that. I can see how it would be tearing to contrast how nice Stormy is with how dangerous he can be.


  1. have Stormy wear a muzzle when out

  2. inform the neighbours and other people who approach you with their dog about how your dog is defensive around other dogs. If they press, you can explain that it’s likely because he was attacked by one when young. Isn’t that the most likely cause and what dog owner would be callous to that?

  3. accept that he’ll most likely always be at least a little wary of other dogs and you’ll always have to be a little more mindful when interactions with other dogs are a possibility. You have to commit to maintain vigilance over the dog’s life and not let wishful thinking let you think that he’s over it now and that you can risk it.

We had a Dalmatian who was all kind of vicious. Not only did she hate other canines she hated kids too. I never went out with her without a muzzle and heavy harness. She could get out of collars. We worked with that dog for her whole 8 years and were never able to curb her vicious tendencies. ( altho’ no dance class) She loved us and a few trusted adults. But no-one else. We had had her since 8 weeks old. I am fairly sure we did nothing to her. My only clue as to her behaviour was, she was bottle fed. Her Dame ignored all the puppies and they were removed from her.
Beautiful dog with a lovely disposition except that one problem. It was strange.

I would highly recommend you seek out a trainer who specializes in Behavior Adjustment Training or BAT.

If you have a trainer that is recommending a “doggie dance class” they are not using the best of modern scientific methods that will allow a dog to develop healthier responses to stress. While it is impossible to tell without seeing the actual dog often aggression is due to stress and fear.

A “doggie dance class” won’t allow the dog to develop the skills to defuse this situation. And yes unfortunately other dog owners who act poorly by allowing their dogs to run free won’t be possible to avoid reliably. But your vets advice on trying to get your dog to “ignore” other dogs is not the most productive way of providing the best chance of avoiding a bad ending.

FWIW, I rescue huskies, which simply are unable to be off a leash due to their typical traits but you can provide a happy and enriching life by simply building a fence and making a leash fun. Often your own health will improve too.

We have five dogs. The two males, 16yo and 3yo, were the bestest of buds for two years. Then, a year ago, they decided to start beating the holy shit outta one another. Extensive and expensive training didn’t fix it, so 3yo is on a leash in the house at all times and they take separate walks/backyard playtimes. It totally sucks to always be on edge keeping them apart. They’re otherwise very sweet, cuddly pups.

My very special lab (1994-2006, RIP Cooper) tolerated the other dogs in our family, but wanted to murder any unknown dog in his territory (which was vast – he thought he owned the world). I was extremely, extremely careful with him on walks, but idiots with their dog off-leash or on a long leash wouldn’t heed my “get away, he doesn’t like strange dogs!” and let their dogs right run up on him then act shocked when Cooper went rabid.

My vet had a similar “partitioned house” situation for years. I was kind of glad to hear that, as it made me feel less like a dog mom failure. There are just dogs who just get whacked out about fellow canines, even dogs they’ve grown up with in a household.

We had a German Shepherd like that when I was a kid. She was universally agreed by every kid to be the best dog that ever lived. But she absolutely hated other canines.

My parents were not the type to work with her on it or hire a trainer. They just kept building bigger and better fencing until they finally electrified a 3/4 acre backyard for her. They paid some serious vet bills for the local dogs as well. But she had plenty of human companionship, (which was her happy place anyway,) and quite the little fiefdom out back.

Have you let your neighbors know that your current dog doesn’t really want to be friends, and they should be careful letting their little Lassies run free on your property?

My senior dog, Bear, is a lab/husky mix and has always been a bit notional about other dogs. He does not like pit bull type dogs at ALL, and that’s likely to end with a scuffle. Something about their tails and the way they don’t do what he feels is proper greeting protocol just gets right up his nose. He doesn’t really fight but the sound and fury is quite impressive and of course I never just let it run its course. He’s no longer trustworthy at the dog park, unfortunately. He’s mostly only a problem with other males–he’ll tolerate puppy stuff but will teach 'em what’s what and scare the bejeebers out of them without hurting them, he’s fine with female dogs so long as they agree he’s The Boss, but any male dog is going to trigger him.

He’s fine with people, I watch him around kids mostly because he doesn’t spend a lot of time around them but so long as they’re respectful and don’t screech or try to jump on him he’s fine. He’s a watch dog, though, so anyone coming into his yard unannounced, without a welcome or someone he doesn’t know well is going to get a loud and scary reception, and he’s put the nip on a couple people who tried to reach in and unlatch the gate. Once he’s sure a visitor is certified Okay Person he’s a big scritch magnet. He’s a bit of a challenge, but I lurves him!

If he’s like a lot of dogs, he’s probably even more reactive when leashed/chained to a tree, whether you are present or not. And if he’s tied to a tree in your yard I hope you don’t leave him there when you’re not.

What you do: figure out the distance where he reacts, and keep him farther than that distance. In the case of my dog, who loves some other dogs and hates others, that distance is about 10 feet, when leashed. Off-leash in a dog off-leash area he’s fine. But on-leash, if I see another dog approaching, I will cross the street. There are a lot of reactive dogs we encounter and there’s a sort of silent acknowledgment regarding who is going to cross the street but it usually works out.

At home: work on his recall. Even older dogs can learn. The training video I watched said to do it 100 times a day:eek: but I didn’t do it that much, probably. Maybe the first day. But it did work.

The other thing is to teach him not to cross an invisible barrier, that being an imaginary line about, say, 10 feet from your property line. This takes a lot of patience and treats and probably will take longer than the recall, but once it’s done, you’ve got an invisible fence!

This is a lot of work for somebody but it will pay off in not having to pay vet bills. And if another dog happened to get damaged on YOUR property you probably wouldn’t have to pay the vet bills anyway.

I don’t have that big a yard but he will go, off leash, right to the edge of it, and then stop. About 95% of the time. Because of the remaining 5% he is leashed in the front yard almost every time he’s out there. The 5% also involves one other dog in particular, and a couple of cats. When chasing squirrels out of the yard he stops once they cross the invisible line. (Actually, it’s visible. The sidewalk, on one edge, the driveway, on another, and the neighbor’s long yellow grass, on the third.)

Past the edit: the fact that he has learned to ignore other dogs in a class is a really good sign. Classes like this are good for dogs and it proves he can learn to behave under certain conditions. Change the conditions and train him in other places andit will probably still work.

I couldn’t take my Dalmatian where kids were. Of course every kid wants to pet the doggy from the movie. I would say ‘stay back’ or ‘she’s a biter’ loudly. Parents still walked their kids right up to me. One lady even chewed me out and called me a name because little Susie really liked that movie and those polky-dot dogs. I ask her, Did little Susie like her hands and face? And got more cursing for my trouble. I was always able to get between the dog and any trouble. Thank heaven.

You can’t reasonably expect to be able to use this kind of innocuous-sounding euphemism. It’s extremely misleading, and I don’t blame other people for not using their imaginations hard enough to suit you. When you have a dog that will attack, you MUST say the exact words “He Will Attack”, every time. Saying what you said is not lying exactly, but it sure isn’t telling the truth sufficiently.

Is he fixed? Such behavior tends to die out within a few months after males have been neutered.

Thanks for all the thoughts, folks.

Yes, Stormy is neutered. We don’t know if that happened early in life or later, but it was done before he got to the rescue folks. And he’s otherwise a great dog, besides this one foible. We’ve compensated for it, he can be around other dogs with very close supervision, and we’re rural enough that he doesn’t encounter that many other dogs. He does get his supervised free run time so he’s not missing out that much from being able to rove at will.

And he enjoys his performance art, and a few months ago did 4 dance routines along with 3 other dogs in front of an audience of 100, without being bothered by his feller dancers. So he’s functional.

It’s not dishonest but it is one instance where the polite everyday softening of reality should be dispensed with. Being explicit much as David says is called for, even if other people think you’re rude as a result.

Our situation was easier in that our late, truly great, ‘pit bull’ type dog was totally intolerant of other dogs. ‘Hell is other dogs’ was her motto. She was 100% predictable her whole life, people: make friends; dogs: fight. And due to her appearance, Dogo Argentino mix, big for a girl pit, ears cut off (not by us I hope it goes without saying), ominous looking stare, I didn’t have to get graphic to warn off other dog owners. ‘She gets a little nervous near other dogs’ would always suffice if the other dog was on leash :). (especially if she was already pulling a few 100lbs on the leash, or breaking into her blood curdling war cry). And we live in a city with a lease law, illegal to have a dog off leash except in dog run where she never went.

The danger was dogs illegally off leash. There were a couple of minor run ins and one more scary one where an Akita bigger than she ambushed her as we walked past the entrance to a park at night. Mistake by the Akita, lots of blood, had to wash it off at home before being sure I’d been bitten in the melee, she had a few scratches. But the Akita was also able to walk off under its own power. Leash laws are also to protect your own aggressive dog from tougher dogs it might go after.

You need to post video of this.