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When I walk my dogs I frequently meet other people with dogs that say that my dogs can't greet their dog because their dog doesn't like other dogs.

This claim always baffles me. Dogs are pack animals and live their first weeks or months of their lives with, typically, a handful of siblings that they play and interact with, expressing a lot of joy and happiness over the company.

How come they suddenly forget that experience and start going against their nature and dislike other dogs? Or are their owners projecting their own fear and nervousness on their dogs?

Of course, they grow up and are not as playful anymore (one of my dogs mostly ignore other dogs but if a dog come up and sniff him he justs ignores the sniffing dog and moves on with his business, no harm done) but going from there to actively disliking other dogs is quite a big step. How and why does this happen?

  • Why do you assume this is a function of age? The dog could have never liked other dogs. Some breeds are independent. – paparazzo Oct 28 '18 at 10:47
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    @paparazzo I have NEVER heard of puppies not enjoying other puppies. If you leave a litter of puppies alone and let them grow up together I very much doubt that they would start "disliking" each other. Instead a natural hierarchy would happen, and possibly some non-dangerous fighting would take place but they would tolerate each other. – hensti Oct 28 '18 at 12:09
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If a dog owner asks you to not let your dog interact with their own, you should comply with this wish.

There can be various reasons why a dog "dislikes" other dogs:

  • Sexually mature (non neutered) male dogs tend to be more aggressive towards each other because they compete for the favor of females.
  • If a dog was raised without much contact to other dogs (not socialized well), they are insecure in their behaviour towards dogs. This insecurity is very often expressed as aggression.
  • Dogs - like humans - treat family members and strangers differently. This dog may be very protective towards their owner, which may cause aggression towards strangers.
  • The dog might pull at the leash when wanting to interact with another dog. This sometimes changes the posture into one interpreted as aggressive by other dogs, provoking attacks and leading to the impression that "all dogs dislike mine" when actually the leash and halter are to blame.
  • The owner might be afraid that your dog is the aggressive one. They might simply not wish that their dog interact with yours.
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    I of course respect their request but I have some opinions about these dog owners and how they have raised their dogs. A sound dog that has "practised" with other dogs when they grow up shouldn't have a problem with meeting other dogs. Even if they start a fight, sound dogs don't injure other dogs on purpose (accidents might happen) when they determine who is the dominant party. – hensti Oct 28 '18 at 15:18
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    @hensti, some dogs were adopted as adults or had a bad past interaction with another dog. You don't know how they were raised, or who raised them. This isn't about dominance or working it out, this is an owner's preference and I think you should just leave it at that. – Catsunami Nov 13 '18 at 23:26
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Adding to what Elmy wrote, quite a few people adapt shelter/rescue dogs - we don't know what kind of life the dog had before - they may have been poorly socialized, mistreated, bullied, or otherwise traumatized. Since you can't counsel a dog to help it work things out, you can just try to give it the best chance of recovery.

Sometimes it's not possible to stop a dog from reacting aggressively towards other dogs. Even if it might be possible, a lot of owners are reluctant to get other dogs/owners involved in the process. There are some people who are less patient or forgiving. On top of that, the possibility that the dog might cause real harm, or just enough harm to warrant being put down could be enough to make it seem like the best option is to avoid the situation entirely.

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  • I do have access to two dogs that this dog is not aggressive towards. Can I somehow use them to calm him down? – hensti Nov 5 '18 at 20:57

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