Dogs are social animals that are most comfortable with companionship, but that doesn't mean that all dogs naturally get along. It can be embarrassing and even dangerous when a dog becomes a bully, but fortunately there are ways a responsible pet owner can correct their dog's bullying behavior.
Recognizing If Your Dog Is a Bully
Bullying behavior can be difficult to detect and is often dismissed as playfulness. Canine bullying is not necessarily aggressive or mean, and could just be an overzealous dog that is intimidating other dogs. Any dog breed may have bullying characteristics, and common signs of bullying include…
- Getting angry or excited very quickly but taking much longer to calm down
- Snatching treats or failing to wait for permission or commands
- Destructive behavior, particularly when excited
- Excessive growling or barking
- Inability to focus or follow commands, especially in new situations
- Directly staring at other dogs while holding the body and tail rigid
- Pinning playmates to the ground or ignoring signs of submission
- Excessive mounting as a domination tactic rather than mating
- Bowling over playmates and ignoring signs of subservience
While one or two of these behaviors may not seem disturbing, repeated bullying behaviors can cause trouble for both dogs and dog owners. A bully dog may get into fights or even inadvertently injure other dogs. If a dog's behavior is particularly bad, they may be refused service at grooming establishments, kennels, day care or boarding facilities, and there may be extra fees added to veterinary calls for a difficult animal. Correcting the bullying behavior can minimize these problems, however, and help a dog to socialize more appropriately.
Keep Your Dog From Bullying Others
If your dog is showing signs of being a bully, it is important to correct that behavior as early as possible. There are steps you can take before any bullying begins, and other techniques to help a dog behave more appropriately even if it is naturally more excitable and aggressive.
- Spaying and Neutering – An altered dog will have lower hormone levels and less tenancy toward aggressive behavior, including bullying. This does not mean that a spayed or neutered dog will never be a bully, but lower hormone levels can help minimize bully behavior.
- Socializing From Puppyhood – The sooner a puppy is socialized and learns to behave with its littermates, humans and other dogs, the more it will learn to behave appropriately. Puppies should begin socializing as early as 3 weeks old. As they get older, carefully exposing a puppy to different situations will expand its socialization.
- Consistent Training – A dog that has been trained to have good manners and has that training continually reinforced is less likely to be a bully. All family members should be consistent with the dog's training, and commands should be used firmly whenever needed.
- Interrupt as Needed – As soon as a dog shows any indication of bullying, that behavior should be interrupted and the dog's focus redirected. This can be through a "Pay attention!" or "Stop!" command, and the dog should not be permitted to resume its activity until it has calmed down.
- Exercise Appropriately – A dog that hasn't been exercised frequently will have more energy to burn off and is more likely to engage in bullying behavior when put into a stimulating situation. A good walk, ample playtime and other controlled exercise can help minimize bullying.
- Know the Dog's Limitations – All dogs have different personalities and any dog may become a bully under certain circumstances. Dog owners should be very attuned to their pet's clues and know how much stimulation the dog can handle before bullying begins, and limit excitable times to ensure there is no opportunity for bullying.
- Reward Good Behavior – When a dog stops bullying or responds to commands to stop undesirable activities, that response should be praised and rewarded appropriately. This will reinforce the idea of good behavior to the dog and help minimize bullying.
A bullying dog can be a danger to itself, its owner and other dogs. By understanding the signs of bullying and how to prevent it, dog owners can be sure their pets are always properly behaved.