In a perfect world, everyone would get along with everyone. As people, we know this is certainly not reality, and the same holds true for dogs. Even the most social of dogs will have a bad reaction to another canine from time to time. But, what makes dogs immediately friendly toward some and aggressive toward others?
The world of canine communication isn’t fully understood. Dogs pick up on a variety of clues, including smells and body language, some of which they may not like. Another factor may be past experience. If your dog has had a negative experience with a large fluffy dog in the past, aggression or fear may arise around all other large fluffy dogs. Lastly, a dog’s negative response to another dog may actually be an over-protective response related to their owner. Some dogs are protective of their people to the point of possessiveness.
The best way to ensure your pooch is as dog-friendly as possible is to start socialization from a young age and to be consistent. Expose your dog to a variety of other dogs, people, and situations. For dogs with mild socialization problems, positive reinforcement in the presence of other dogs can help. If your dog associates seeing another dog on a walk with getting a treat, the experience might not be so bad after all. For dogs with more severe aggression or fearfulness, the help of a veterinary behaviorist should be enlisted.
Above all, know your dog’s comfort level. Not every dog is a social butterfly, and for some, dog parks and other off-leash situations should be avoided.