The Most Dog Friendly Community Online
Join Dog Forum to Discuss Breeds, Training, Food and More


New Member
Reaction score

Join our free community today.

Connect with other like-minded dog lovers!

Login or Register
I have a 5 year old female rescue dog. When we got her, she was scared of most dogs and used to try and run when she had to cross paths with them. But recently she’s switched from cowering to being aggressive (which I still believe is fear-based). When she sees another dog she growls, snarls, and then barks and lunges even if they’re quite far away. This is very embarrasing as people have started to know to keep their dog close and even go the opposite direction, plus I’ve had comments made too.

I recently asked a friend with a dog to come on a walk with me, so my dog could get used to being in the presence of another dog but still not as close as them being put in a room together. After a while, my dog wanted to sniff the other dog so I let her as she hadn’t wanted to go so close until now, and when she was sniffing her she bit her bum after about 5 seconds of sniffing. I was absolutely heartbroken as the other dog wasn’t sniffing her or anything like that and I felt so guilty for letting her get that close. There was no growling when she was sniffing, and no signs of aggression at that time, but I knew I’d not let her sniff for too long in case she got aggressive again. It just happened so quickly and this has happened before when an off-lead dog came up to my dog and she sniffed for 5 seconds and then bit him.

We do not know her history so cannot tell if she was socialised well as a younger dog or not, but we assume not. I am just really unsure as to what to do because we want to attempt to socialise her, but we can’t if she keeps going to bite. We’re currently considering a muzzle but we’re unsure as to whether that would be the right step to take if it would make her more stressed.

Basically we are really stuck as to what to do. Another thing is that she has also recently become aggressive to children because they’re quite boisterous and get too close to her, so she’s snapped multiple times (luckily she has never actually bitten them) and now has to be shut in a small room when children are round (our house is small which doesn’t help).

If anyone has any advice for me I’d really appreciate it. She is the sweetest dog to me and my family, and always wants to be cuddled and close to us, but with dogs and children (and a handful of adults) she is a totally different dog. Please help!

Thank you.
First, I would definitely muzzle her, for the protection of other dogs and children, but also for her protection - it wouldn't go well for her if she bit a child. My dog always wears a muzzle on walks and accepts it 100% - he's a grouchbag at times and would object to having it put on if he didn't like it!

Second, you need to keep her further away from other dogs, and don't let children approach her close enough to upset her. To socialise her to other dogs you need to start at a distance she is comfortable with, even if it's half a mile away or more. At first, you're doing this most to let her stress levels settle - after an 'incident' they can be raised for a few days. Then, when she sees a dog you can give her a treat (and move away from the dog, not closer). You want seeing a dog to be a predictor of a treat, so when she sees one she's happy, and turns her focus on you for a treat - and then you can work very gradually on reducing the distance, always working within her comfort zone. Much more detail here: Behavior Adjustment Training: A New Approach to Problem Behaviors

Ignore people's comments, and don't worry about then jumping to conclusions when they see the muzzle. If they turn away from you and avoid you, they're doing you a favour!

You might have to adjust the times and places you walk to make it possible to avoid other dogs - some people end up walking at horribly unsociable hours, but hopefully this won't be for ever. And there will be times when you can't avoid other dogs, such as when you walk round a corner and practically bump into one - you can only aim for getting it right as much as possible.
I agree re get her used to a muzzle ...3 of mine wear muzzles (to protect the wildlife )
Have you asked the Rescue to help with her issues .....
I have a fear reactive dog ...he lives with 4 other dogs and has had numerous foster dogs share his home for the past 8 yrs but is fearful outside ....he can be reactive to men ...thankfully he adores children. ...
I tried everything with my boy ...facing his fears head on ...Big mistake. ..made him worst i changed my life for him ...for the past 4 years i walk at 430am every morning with a huge headtorch that way he has a 90 min off lead walk (he is always muzzled whilst offlead )
He is a lovely dog indoors too ...having a reactive dog is hard word but the love they give back is rewarding ...
Can you use a dog gate at home so whilst she is seperated she can still see you ...
My first lurcher we got her at 6 weeks old always hated small children .....
Just to reiterate a couple of points JudyN made..

You won’t be able to always keep a safe distance between your girl and other dogs which trigger her reaction.
When you find yourself too close to a trigger - walk away.

Some folks with reactive dogs try to put their dogs in a sit and just wait for the trigger to pass. I find this very counterproductive, it just unnecessarily prolongs the exposure to a stressful situation. The only reason for this I can think of is trying not to appear rude or unfriendly by walking away. Don’t worry about human perceptions. Just walk away, remove the girl from stress or trigger as quickly as you can, you don’t owe anyone any apologies or explanations.

And also - keep a close eye on your dog during encounters. When mine was younger and prone to getting into scraps with other boys - things could escalate very quickly (seconds, just like with yours), but there were warning signs beyond growling, I just had to discover them.

For Ari it was tail stiff (not tucked in, but not wagging either), so during meet and greets with other dogs I would watch his tail, and the moment it became stiff - “let’s go!” or more often “let’s run!”... and if the other human is looking at you as if you’d suddenly lost your mind - so be it. You can wave to them Adios! when you are safely far away :)

Good luck.

Nothing is wrong with a muzzle when necessary to ensure safety, as long as it’s the right kind of muzzle, which allows the dog to pant, open her mouth, stick her tongue out.. I have never used one, but if I had to - I would probably go with a soft rubber basket type.
Aggression always has a basis in anxiety. If you can make everything you do tend towards calming her fears I'm sure it will gradually resolve.
My dog was similar to yours, @megf.h and also a rescue. He is the perfect dog around people/children and enjoys their company, and is the most affectionate dog. He does have a problem with other dogs and when we first had him just over two years ago, behaved exactly as you've described, but without he biting. He's a lot better now, although he still has some issues with other dogs. We visited two trainers, and whilst they helped a bit, in hindsight, I don't think it was worth what we paid out (lots!), but we definitely picked up some good tips from the second trainer. We've honed our/his behaviour over time to ease his reaction to other dogs which is definitely fear based (prior to him coming to his, he'd been attacked by other dogs and has several scars as a result). Here's what we do:

  • Avoid others dogs as far as possible. If our dog sees them coming and isn't too close, he's generally - but not always - OK. Of course you can't always avoid other dogs, especially if they surprise you when coming around a corner, for instance (when ours will inevitably bark).
  • On approaching another dog that he's seen, lots of reassurance and a treat is given.
  • If he behaves well in the vicinity of other dogs, a treat and lots of praise is given.
  • It's got the point when we say "good boy", he looks at us expecting a treat, directing his attention from the other dog.
  • Asking your dog to sit and wait whilst a trigger passes can be a positive thing - if your dog hasn't kicked off, get him/her looking at you in the eyes. The purpose is to get them to focus on you and not the other dog. Again, your success will depend on the circumstances. Practice this in the home!
  • Walking away is sometimes easier said than done, especially if your dog goes into statue mode!
  • Familiarity - on our walks, if he sees the same dogs day after day, he's generally OK passing them. We don;t have any nearby friends with dogs, but we have walked with other dogs and what worked with us was my wife going up to the other dog and talking to it and stroking it so ours could see it wasn't a threat and they were able to walk side-by-side without an issue. Other dogs approaching him we're always wary of as we can't tel when hes going to get upset, so we try and let him greet other dogs if we can. That said, if they come bounding over to him at speed, he will react by barking.
  • Always kept on a lead - he has no recall at all, despite our best efforts, so always remains on a lead. He has a 6m lead that offers some freedom, and their is an enclosed field near us we can book to let him have a run about without other dogs.
I would say in your situation a muzzle sound essential - people on here can give advice on the types. I hope my experience helps - I know it's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but a few pointers might help to get things started. Keep us updated :)

Welcome to Dog Forum!

Join our vibrant online community dedicated to all things canine. Whether you're a seasoned owner or new to the world of dogs, our forum is your go-to hub for sharing stories, seeking advice, and connecting with fellow dog lovers. From training tips to health concerns, we cover it all. Register now and unleash the full potential of your dog-loving experience!

Login or Register