It can happen that even the friendliest of dogs growls at or starts a fight with another dog.
Aggression between dogs is natural. It should never be a regular thing, but it’s a result of a dog’s natural ability to resolve any problem in the moment. Humans like to ponder, plot, and plan fights and arguments… We hold back from a fight and think, „Oh, she probably didn’t mean it“ and we don’t talk to the other person up front about what’s bothering us.
Dogs talk about it the moment it comes to mind. There are rules in the dog world when it comes to fighting and this is something they (should) learn when they’re young. Isolated puppies, dogs living in kennels, and dogs generally not socialized, don’t learn rules and manners! That is why they might act aggressive to all dogs or start a fight without a „phase 1“ or warning (growl, glance, tension, high tail, etc).
The more our dog sees us as their leader and someone who is able to stand up for them, the less they are likely to take part in fights (even if the other dog „started it“). I’ve had my dogs get barked and lunged at by other dogs while they were all off leash. Instead of fighting back, they just ran over to me and made eye contact.
That is the correct reaction!
On the other hand, my dog, Mowgli, is allowed to growl at my dogs-in-training, or any other puppy for that matter, when they don’t behave politely around him. He is older than them and doesn’t like to be jostled around in their games, so he lets them know and then leaves it at that. He’s disciplining them and teaching them the rules.
There’s no fighting, no biting, no chaos – it’s a growl or a bark and a stern glare.That’s it.
I allow this, yes, because if I didn’t, it would bottle up and come back as frustrated aggression. It’s like that child of four: All of the other siblings bother him, shove him around, pull his hair, play tricks on him, and when he tells them to stop, his parents tell him to not be so mean. Pretty soon, that child will be very fed up and frustrated!
There are times when we can just allow our dog to tell a dog to leave him alone – and remember, the louder the fight (growls, barks), the less dangerous it usually is. It’s the silent quick fights that usually cause some blood shed and those are the ones you want to stop!
We want our dog to be well socialized and learn manners, as well as have the ability to stand his ground, but we also don’t want them to become aggressive and take charge of every situation, so we also need to prove that we can watch out for them. It’s a necessary balance!