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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My roughly ten month old mastiff has met other dogs well however if the other dog growls at her first she will snap. She has never drawn blood or caused an injury but I do not know if this means that she is aggressive or trying to assert dominance. She has never been the one to growl first but will not tolerate another dog growling at her. How do I tell the difference?
 

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It means neither. It means she was growled at (a threat), and is saying back "Don't mess with me, I will defend myself, back off, please" It's just dog language. Since they lack the luxury of words, the growl, snap, or bark. A snap is a waring, not an attack. She isn't trying to be "dominant" she's saying "don't threaten me". She may be a big dog, but she's most likely reacting this way from fear.

(I personally don't like the term of "dominant", as it is based on a now-debunked theory that wolves in the wild fight for dominance in a hierarchy. The idea that dogs are dominant to people has been disproven. As has the idea that wolves fight for dominance and have a pack hierarchy. I don't know the current scientific standing on domestic dog-to-dog dominance, though I am still wary of using that idea in any application. I defer to other members here, though, like I said- I don't really know.)

If you were out for a walk, and suddenly someone pulled out a knife (like the other dog's teeth) and is threatening you (growling), you probably wouldn't smile and keep walking. You would tell them to back off, maybe say your dog will protect you, threaten to call the police, or something like that (aka your dog snapping). Your dog doesn't need to tolerate another dog threatening her. If you want the behavior to stop, (which you likely do) try redirecting her, leading her away, getting focus on you, and standing between her and the threat to make her feel safer. The goal is to teach her that she's safe with you, and has no need to defend herself.

Be sure not to punish this behavior. She could learn that growling/snapping is bad, and therefore skip straight to a bite if she feels threatened.
 
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Why is she even meeting other dogs? This is something you do not do.. on leash especially. I know of very few dogs who like to meet other dogs face to face. I have German Shepherds and this is something you NEVER do. I wouldn't do it with ANY dog.

Growling is a warning. Get out of my face! But you should be advocating for your dog and not allowing another dog to get that close in the first place. Allowing it tells your dog you don't care and you don't have her back. If you don't have her back she will take it on in her own way. This is the first step to full blown reactivity. Get between her and any other dog and move along.. no meet and greets and when someone asks to pet your dog say NO. They want to pet a dog they can get their own dog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
It means neither. It means she was growled at (a threat), and is saying back "Don't mess with me, I will defend myself, back off, please" It's just dog language. Since they lack the luxury of words, the growl, snap, or bark. A snap is a waring, not an attack. She isn't trying to be "dominant" she's saying "don't threaten me". She may be a big dog, but she's most likely reacting this way from fear.

(I personally don't like the term of "dominant", as it is based on a now-debunked theory that wolves in the wild fight for dominance in a hierarchy. The idea that dogs are dominant to people has been disproven. As has the idea that wolves fight for dominance and have a pack hierarchy. I don't know the current scientific standing on domestic dog-to-dog dominance, though I am still wary of using that idea in any application. I defer to other members here, though, like I said- I don't really know.)

If you were out for a walk, and suddenly someone pulled out a knife (like the other dog's teeth) and is threatening you (growling), you probably wouldn't smile and keep walking. You would tell them to back off, maybe say your dog will protect you, threaten to call the police, or something like that (aka your dog snapping). Your dog doesn't need to tolerate another dog threatening her. If you want the behavior to stop, (which you likely do) try redirecting her, leading her away, getting focus on you, and standing between her and the threat to make her feel safer. The goal is to teach her that she's safe with you, and has no need to defend herself.

Be sure not to punish this behavior. She could learn that growling/snapping is bad, and therefore skip straight to a bite if she feels threatened.
This is very helpful. I appreciate the feedback. Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Why is she even meeting other dogs? This is something you do not do.. on leash especially. I know of very few dogs who like to meet other dogs face to face. I have German Shepherds and this is something you NEVER do. I wouldn't do it with ANY dog.

Growling is a warning. Get out of my face! But you should be advocating for your dog and not allowing another dog to get that close in the first place. Allowing it tells your dog you don't care and you don't have her back. If you don't have her back she will take it on in her own way. This is the first step to full blown reactivity. Get between her and any other dog and move along.. no meet and greets and when someone asks to pet your dog say NO. They want to pet a dog they can get their own dog.
She does not do meet and greets. I live in a rural community and a lake community where everyone including friends and family take their dogs everywhere with them so she is inherently around other dogs.
 
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