Taking Risks with Your Dog (Part 2)

We often think about the risks to our own dog - but what risks might our dog pose to other dogs? What's the ethical and responsible thing to do if your dog fights with other dogs, even if he doesn't hurt them?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #208

In a previous episode, I talked about what risks we might find it acceptable to take with our dog’s safety, mainly in the context of deciding when and if to take off that leash. This week’s topic is the risks our dogs can present to other dogs. Again, the context I’ll talk about is bringing your dog to off-leash play areas. Next week, in the last part of this series, I’ll discuss the risk your dog presents to children – yours and other people’s. These are hot and complicated topics! I’ll try to give you a starting point from which you can go on to make your own judgments.>

Dog Squabbles

If you bring your dog to off-leash play areas, it’s a good bet you’ve seen plenty of typical dog squabbles. As I’ve said in earlier episodes, most such fights are ritualized – a matter of loud snarling and growling, over in less than a minute with no harm done beyond a nick or two. You could compare them with a loud human argument: no fun, but they happen once in a while, and they’re really no big deal.

Dogs Who Don’t Fight Often, But …

The risk presented by a dog who may not fight often, but who causes significant damage when he does fight, is an easy call: If that’s your dog, he shouldn’t mingle with other dogs. In fact, he should have only the most carefully monitored interactions with other dogs at all. And that goes even if you’ve worked diligently with a qualified consultant to modify his behavior.

Why that last caution?


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).