Over Arousal in Play with Other Dogs

dog aggression Feb 10, 2021

Does your dog have a tendency to get into fights with other dogs when interacting with them?  Does she go into initial greeting super aroused and excited?  It can be frustrating when it seems like he's fine one moment with some dogs and not fine with others.  But in most cases, behaviour is predictable if you know what to look for.  Here are the key signals to watch for if you think you have a dog that is overly aroused when interacting with other dogs.

Key Characteristics

  1. Overly excited and aroused when meeting other dogs.  This dog gets overly excited and aroused when seeing other dogs.  They lose focus on everything else except meeting the other dog.  If prevented from seeing the other dog, this dog may start barking and lunging at the other dog in excitement and frustration.  
  2. Rushing into initial greetings.  If allowed to meet the other dog this dog often rushes in with head and tail over the plane of his own body and over the body of the other dog.  His body is fairly stiff and he is frontal in his approach with the other dog.  While this behaviour isn't dominant, it certainly also isn't appropriate. It's much like someone you've never met coming up to you, and forcing you into a hug.
  3. Gets along with some dogs, but not others.  Depending on how the other dog reacts to this greeting, this dog may either start playing with him or attack him.  Typically, this dog exhibits bullying behaviours with very submissive dogs.  If the dog submits to his forward approach, his reaction is to attack the other dog.  If the other dog takes offence to his forward approach and tries to stand up for himself, this may also trigger the overly aroused dog to attack.  This type of dog only gets along with a small number of dogs that remains neutral - who neither submitting nor resisting his advances. 
  4. Overly rough in play.  This dog's play style is often rough and too overwhelming for most dogs to take.  He has a tendency to bite too hard in play and to go over top of the other dog.  
  5. Play can escalate into fighting.  Even if the initial greeting is calmer, it is not uncommon for this type of dog to engage in play and then flip from excitement to arousal to aggression.  This is where it can appear to many pet owners that while the dog seemed to initially get along with the other dog, he appears to attack the other dog mid play for "no particular reason".


  1. Sometimes genetic.. Just like with people, dogs are born with their own personalities.   Some are genetically more outgoing and boisterous than others, and this type of dog is often predisposed to having a general overall pushier and easily aroused personality.
  2. Poor quality socialization.  If this type of dog has not been socialized properly, he may assume that this is the appropriate way to greet with and interact with his own kind.  He's never learned the proper manners to enter an interaction with another dog calmly.  
  3. Over Socialization.  This can happen when owners focus too heavily on encouraging young puppies to get excited and play and interact with every single dog they encounter, thinking that socialization means as much exposure as possible.  In essence, the dog has been taught by his owners to become excited, manic, and obsessive about every dog he meets, and as a result, becomes overly aroused in his approach and in his interactions with other dogs.

How to Treat

  1. Obedience training.  It is vital for this type of dog to learn impulse control through obedience training.  Through obedience exercises, we can teach him to channel calm focus - a state of mind where he wouldn't be in a place to be aroused - when he's around other dogs.
  2. Strategic socialization.  When the dog has mastered calm focus, then re-introductions can be made back to other dogs.  Selection of temperament of the other dogs during rehabilitation phase is crucial in order to create success.  Ideally, neutral dogs that want minimal interaction with him are best, so he can learn to engage with dogs in a calmer way and learn that just being in the presence of another dog without obsessive interaction is pleasant.
  3. Engage in dog friendly sports or activities.  Exposing this dog to activities where he finds his owner and/or the activity more engaging and exciting than other dogs can be a huge part of the rehabilitation process.  It's all about finding a right channel to put his energy so he has less invested in over arousal with other dogs. 

Do you have a dog that shows tendencies of becoming overly excited or aroused around other dogs?  Email us now at [email protected] to see how we can help you!


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