Dogs have been man’s loyal friends and companions for thousands of years. However, a large minority of dogs engage in bullying behavior towards other dogs. It’s important to know if your dog is a bully and what you can do about it.
Why You Need to Know if Your Dog is A Bully
A dog that exhibits this type of behavior often will cause his or her owner significant embarrassment and the ire of other pet owners. In the worst case, the dog bully will attack and injure, or worse – kill – another dog. This can result in potential lawsuits and the loss of your dog. Therefore, the impact of socialization is of critical importance, particularly if your dog is large, is a “bully” type breed and/or has a reputation for aggressiveness.
How to Tell If Your Dog Is a Bully
Most people associate bullying behavior by a dog as a sign of hostility. However, this behavior is likely a result of social insecurity due to little or poor socialization as a puppy. A bully dog may enjoy playing with other dogs, especially off-leash. But the lack of training and socialization leaves this animal unaware of the proper way to play and interact with other dogs. Examples of this social ineptness can show up in several behaviors:
- Over-eagerness in playing with other dogs to the point of chasing them and knocking them down
- Posturing or growling in a non-playful manner
- Excessive mouthing or nipping of other dogs
- General dominant or intimidating behavior towards other dogs
How to Prevent Bullying Behavior from The Start
The best method for preventing bullying behavior in a dog proper training and socialization as a puppy. Dogs have a keen and almost instinctual ability to communicate with humans and other dogs using body (e.g. tail-wagging) and facial gestures. In a well-socialized dog, these gestures become an integral part of its nature by about 4 months age. And, if the dog was able to stay with its mother until reaching 7 weeks of age and having positive and productive interaction with humans afterwards, it is more like to not be a bully.
Dogs who lack this advantageous upbringing can learn appropriate behavior, particularly if they are paired with a well-socialized dog. If an owner of a dog “bully” does not have access to a socialized dog to assist in modeling the desired dog behavior, then there are other steps that can be taken to mitigate and minimize the bullying. We will review these steps in Part II of “What to Do If Your Dog Is a Bully”.