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When do dog to dog corrections become bullying type behaviours?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 12:13am PST 
I think the main point is what is violent? A dog fight is violent. A dog-to-dog correction is not violent, it is a communication. A fight ensues when/because communication has broken down. Normally, these communications help keep the peace, not jeopardize it.

Puppies experience taking corrections, seeing the world doesn't fall apart and that the friction resolves with the relationship unharmed. These are then dogs who as adults are steady and remaining in social trust should an interaction have some conflict. Dogs who are pressing some line are told to knock it off and do.

Obviously, these are healthy corrections. With some degree of social context within the moment. No wild lunging, savaging, etc. Neither would they be a repeated correction that is going nowhere. Certainly some sentry is involved. But surely I'd want my dog able to receive a social correction and not flip into violence. I'd want my dog to be able to give one as well....feel confident enough in himself and the world to do that when need be. Obviously, if he's about to do that to a highly stressed dog, that's time to intervene also.

I really can't help but wonder if due to not experiencing the side of a social life with dogs there is some assumption that corrections lead to fights shrug That's not's unusual. It's not that it doesn't/can't happen, but that is exceptional circumstance with either dysfunction at play or clear signal that neither dog was going to budge and then one upped the ante. Dogs normally get along if given the chance to do so.

We don't ask our kids to duke it out, but heaven help them if they are not encouraged to WORK it out. They'll be highly ineffective adults if they can't master those skills. Speak up when you feel a need to do so, take stern criticism when you've pressed some boundary, learn from it and grow. I am not into anthropomorphic examples, but it struck me that particular one was given.

Edited by author Sat Feb 2, '13 12:18am PST

Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 12:24am PST 
It's not violence. Why on earth would one think it is violence? It's communication and social learning.

Corrections don't lead to fights absent of exceptional circumstance. Nature is not that stupid. And neither are dogs. We as owners owe them our eyes and intervention in exceptional circumstance. But we as owners also owe them the right to be dogs.

Edited by author Sat Feb 2, '13 12:26am PST

Sawyer- *ADOPTED*

Shy Boy
Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 5:19am PST 
I think it highly depends on the dogs you are working with. If you have two, socially well-adapted dogs, you can allow them to correct each other without a huge risk of it turning into a fight. If you have one socially inept dog in the mix, that mode of thinking can lead to disaster.

One of the puppies I worked with was very friendly with other dogs. To the point of being obnoxious. She was all in their face and totally ignored any social cues from them. If the dog corrected her, she continued on as if nothing had happened. It was up to whoever was working with her to intervene before she really ticked off the other dog. She could have started a fight because she didn't understand how to knock it off. This pup needed human intervention to learn that she needed to listen to other dog's signals and to keep from stressing out the other dog. Corrections certainly didn't phase her or diminish her love of other dogs but her inability to listen could have started a fight.

I have also put two dogs together who have dog-dog issues and it's very tricky. If one gets a bit upset about their interaction, it doesn't take much for it to become a huge tiff. (Not a fight as no one was injured nor was it difficult to break them apart in my experience.) Neither dog is confident in the interaction and, once they get upset, their fear takes over and they cannot back down. They panic. With dogs like that, you really have to watch the signals and intervene quickly before it has a chance to escalate.

I have also put socially well-adjusted dogs with my own reactive, fearful dog. This can be tricky as well; I need to make sure the other dog listens to the signals given so as not to overwhelm my dog and cause the other dog to get corrected unjustly.

I agree that a well-adjusted dog should be able to understand the signals given by other dogs and not take them as a slight against them. That they should read them for what they are, communication, and heed the warning behind it. So that, ideally, a dog would not have to resort to an actual correction (like an air snap or an inhibited bite). While life is not perfect and things like that can happen, I aim to not let it escalate to that.


too old to eat- any more KD
Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 8:58am PST 
Corrections don't lead to fights absent of exceptional circumstance. Nature is not that stupid. And neither are dogs. We as owners owe them our eyes and intervention in exceptional circumstance. But we as owners also owe them the right to be dogs.

I think it highly depends on the dogs you are working with. If you have two, socially well-adapted dogs, you can allow them to correct each other without a huge risk of it turning into a fight. If you have one socially inept dog in the mix, that mode of thinking can lead to disaster.

Totally agree. When Squ'mey was brought into the house he came in, as a puppy, into an established 3 dog pack. It only took one correction from our "grouch" for Squam to learn that Oscar was to be left alone. Wiley & our bitch administered proper corrections that were taken in the spirit they were education & preparation for further social interactions.
Now before I got Squ'mey we had a pit mix that was "socially inept." He did not know how to respond to the corrections he received from the others. As a result, the corrections increased in intensity, until it did reach critical levels. It reached a point where the bitch would actively seek him out & attack. And yes, one day, all 3 dogs ganged up on him, & there is no doubt they meant to finish him off. We broke it up, but we knew that boy had to be rehomed.
Found him a fabulous home, where he could be a singleton.
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 11:11am PST 
I totally agree with Sawyer....who apparently Risa is fostering and is stinking adorable! Some dogs really do need our far greater involvement and nothing I have said about dog-to-dog corrections is anything I carry around as a steadfast rule. It is more a world of ideals, which quite frankly breeder dogs tend to be (responsibly raised breeder dogs, that is!) with good, balanced genetics, full time spent with his litter, continued socialization with dogs as he continues to grow.

Tiller went through a pretty dread teenage stage where he was literally too much of a bozo for any dog. Exceedingly rough and was trying to pop fights....not aggressive per se himself, but in a testing stage where he was really trying to spike something. He wasn't allowed loose with any strange dog at that time. He was kept exposed so that he remained socialized, and when I felt he was leveling off had a happy occasion to find a vigorous playing Pit who also happened to be deaf who I took on as a foster, the deaf part being brilliant as Tiller's vocalizations were still pretty ghastly. But Barton couldn't hear, could weather Tiller's rather intense playing style, and that reinitiated him to play without incident and from there he leveled off. Now I can use him to proof DA because he's extremely steady on lead....very erect as he tends to be, but will be still, won't bark, growl, etc., because he's over his bad stage but also very socially confident and composed as in his bad stage he was kept around dogs and asked for composure.

Some dogs struggle with social skills....that can be bad experiences, poor socialization or simply genetics coming into play...and for them it is a different world and we really owe them very carefully supervised interactions.

But in the optimum world, we do owe our dogs the right to be dogs. Which does include the occasional correction, which isn't about violence. I do question people who see them as such. Any puppy raised with mom and litter has been corrected. Any puppy past nine weeks is highly likely to have received sterner corrections. Those are things far removed from building a dog who has bad associations, but quite to the contrary can deal with stressors confidently and who also have learned some impulse control, which is something I think not everyone understands. We aren't the only ones who teach that. Most puppies learn how not to be bratty around other dogs through corrections when young. It's a fundamental part of their learning when everyone goes right. We ourselves need to stick with positives to deal with unhinged behaviors with pups as we don't speak their language. They can't translate what we are doing into dog language. And that's a critical difference. We certainly owe them those positive teachings, but not because we are evolved beings and can teach them an evolved way to be dogs. The rest of the dog kingdom is not involved in that teaching and so ultimately social isolation from their kind becomes a possibility due to our refusal to allow them to engage in a normal part of dog culture.

Nature is smart. Whatever normal behaviors there are are contributory to building a functional adult. Corrections are a part of that. Not a violence, but part of a social structure. Squ'mey's example of the Pit mix is a good example of things not going as they are supposed to. INEFFECTIVE corrections are healthy for no one and are putting all members of the interaction in a situation no one in the mix can really handle....everyone is being put in a position where things WILL get violent. But the corrections to which they were unresponsive are not themselves violent. We can see they are not working, and that's when we need to step in.

Air snaps or inhibited bites should bring response. If they don't, that's nothing to allow to continue. But those reactions in and of themselves are still expressions, conversations. Natural and functional to dogs and as long as they are occasional, not chronic (were they not those things, this really would be cueing a dog who simply may not have the patience to enjoy hanging out with other dogs)something we should not read wrongness into. Such an interpretation is a little odd because it's a natural part of dogs being dogs, and being uncomfortable with the nature of our animals is to me off the mark.

Q.E.D., baby,- Q.E.D.!
Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 12:14pm PST 
"But seriously, no one is saying you're going against a dog's nature or making dogs believe they're human, as if that were possible. Those excuses to justify leaving it up to your dog to settle matters with violence is just that, excuses to justify it."

Isn't this contradictory?

"I think it highly depends on the dogs you are working with."

I can agree with this also - seems to be common sense. smile

Edited by author Sat Feb 2, '13 12:17pm PST


Member Since
Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 12:28pm PST 
"You know what, I'm sorry. I forgot to take into consideration that you guys use corrections (I'm not sure about Guest because I couldn't look at your profile) and so of course inter-dog corrections aren't a problem and likely aren't mediated before it comes to that, so it's no wonder that you guys don't see dogs who regularly choose non-violent solutions. After all, dogs practice what we teach them. Violence begets violence.

But believe me or not, they exist. Peaceful dogs are out there. Dogs who find new solutions to things because trying new things is encouraged, rather than corrected away. Maybe you guys could speak to some positive reinforcement trainers about this so it's not just my word for it. Or not. Whatever floats your boats."

You know, I really disagree with this, and yes, I train using positive reinforcement. There is training, and there is Nature. You cannot use training to effectively counteract Nature - two different things and to me has nothing to do with force free vs 'balanced' training styles.

"Corrections don't lead to fights absent of exceptional circumstance. Nature is not that stupid. And neither are dogs. We as owners owe them our eyes and intervention in exceptional circumstance. But we as owners also owe them the right to be dogs."

This I agree with..again, the separation between training and nature should be, to me, evident.

Edited by author Sat Feb 2, '13 12:32pm PST


Champion PPH
Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 12:33pm PST 
shrug I must be a sadist, as I cannot see how corrections, either by human or dog, could be considered as violence. Attacks: Yes. Beatings: Yes. But, setting behavioral limits is not violence.

My Cocker never gave out corrections to other dogs, and he got rolled many a time. He adores rough & tumble play, always comes back for more, and never gave a correction; he just came back to me.

Lately we've been going out to the lake with a Belgian and a Ridgeback. The RR is used to physical play with her Pittie neighbor, knows Rusty likes to play, and pushes his limits at times. Since she never attempts to harm him, I finally told the owner to let them figure it out. Sure enough, he let out a growl & air snap, and she gave him more space. They continued to play, but the RR respects his boundaries. There are no fights and the dogs enjoy their play & interaction.

Human corrections are also not violence. Rusty lives in my home, needs structure in his life, and I will give a noise interrupter or verbal correction. He is not damaged. He is getting very confident in what is expected of him, and complies with a wagging tail. He is negotiating the human & canine worlds with good grace. I do not have a dog that needs to exist in a bubble, nor do I have to shovel food down him for compliance. He does so willingly & happily.

Missy, I get that you are a different dog than mine, and I know you have worked on your issues for quite a while. I applaud your continuing efforts to figure out what drives your dog's actions. I wish I had a succinct answer for you, but do not. Sorry if I got off track, but felt the need to address the violence aspect.

Member Since
Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 12:50pm PST 
I just think dogs speak dog better than humans do. There are all sorts of objections to the alpha/dominance train of thought, and one of the primary rails against it has to do with dogs knowing humans are not dogs, and so the whole assumption of clear communication or understanding social dynamics is thrown off. This sounds like something in the same vein - just as humans should understand that dogs know that humans are not other dogs, and will not respond as such, so humans should know that dogs are dogs, and will not conform to human standards of what is considered "decent" behavior which is something very different in the canine world of Nature. To me, anything else sounds like anthropomorphizing.

Edited by author Sat Feb 2, '13 12:52pm PST


Barked: Sat Feb 2, '13 12:59pm PST 
Still addressing the violence issues. I too, use verbal interruptors, which I don't think makes me a violent person. And the mildest of all with my timid dog -- isn't teaching 'leave it' an interruptor after all? thinking

An example is the timid rescue I brought into my home recently, Rolo the Toller mix. He was afraid of men, household noises, doors, etc., but not other dogs. He has excellent dog manners. One hump onto him, and there was a loud growl, 2 air snaps, and he wasn't humped again. I don't consider that a violent correction. I don't consider that there is a more peaceful solution to this. This is a dog's solution, a solution effective in the world of dogs. Of course any more than this, and you break it up.

This has nothing to do with positive training, clicker training, marker training, drive training, balanced training, etc. It's common sense if you believe in social learning in dogs.
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