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What are Afraid of Other Canines?

There will be times when you notice your dog acting afraid of other dogs, when this is normal behavior that is when you need to become proactive and determine how to help your dog overcome their fear. Sometimes, a dog does not experience socialization with other dogs and they become afraid when unfamiliar dogs approach. There may have been a past traumatic experience that is causing your dog to be afraid of other dogs. Dogs that are naturally submissive may also be fearful when encountering a more dominant dog.

Understanding your dog’s behavior and how to help your dog overcome the fear that they are experiencing will be important in having a well-adjusted canine companion. If you are getting a puppy, be sure to ask about their socialization with other dogs including their littermates. Once your puppy has been fully vaccinated, begin socializing them with other dogs in a safe, controlled environment. 

The three main reasons your dog is afraid of other dogs include:

  • Past trauma
  • Submissiveness
  • Lack of socialization

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Why Afraid of Other Canines Occurs in Dogs

It can be frustrating when your dog is afraid of other dogs. This limits the activities that you can engage in with your dog such as taking long walks together, going to dog parks or even competing in dog events such as obedience or agility. Figuring out what is the cause of your dog’s fear is paramount in helping them overcome that fear. 

Past Trauma

Your dog’s fear of other dogs may stem from a past trauma. Dogs that have been attacked by other dogs will be fearful when they encounter unfamiliar dogs. Your dog will be unsure of the unfamiliar dogs and expect the worst to happen based on their past experience. As your dog’s leader or authoritative figure, it is up to you to convey confidence and make it a positive experience for your dog. 


Some dogs have a softer nature or are more submissive because of their pecking order in their litter. Puppies that are less dominant in the litter will tend to be more submissive. These puppies can show fear or uncertainty around other dogs. While you can teach a submissive dog to be more assertive, they will always have a tendency to submit to a more dominant dog. 

Lack of Socialization

Dogs that were never properly socialized with other dogs will be afraid of other dogs. Socialization begins with their litter and their mother. Once they are weaned from their mother, they should still have interactions with their littermates. Litters of only one or two puppies or puppies pulled from their littermates too early will have a lack of socialization. They will be unsure of how to behave with other dogs and may show fear when other dogs approach them.

What to do if your Dog is Afraid of Other Canines

Your dog’s fear of other dogs is not a medical issue, it is a behavioral issue. While your veterinarian will not have any treatment options available, they may be able to refer you to a dog behaviorist or a professional trainer. A dog behaviorist can determine what is causing your dog to be afraid of other dogs and teach you how to help your dog become more confident. 

You may try desensitization with your dog. This is when you expose your dog to the thing that is making them afraid, in this case, other dogs. This is done in a gradual way so that their confidence is boosted and they become accustomed to being introduced to and interacting with other dogs.

Another approach is to pair the meeting and/or interacting with other dogs with something that they enjoy. Have your dog’s favorite treats handy and when a dog approaches give your dog a treat. When the other dog is walked away, you stop giving the treats. This begins conditioning your dog that good things occur when they meet or interact with other dogs. Make sure that this is being done in a controlled setting where the other dog cannot become aggressive or dominant. 

Take your dog with you to places where they would experience meeting new dogs and interacting with them in a positive situation. Never push your dog to interact with another dog as this can further traumatize your dog. 

Prevention of Afraid of Other Canines

Proper socialization and monitoring of all interactions with unknown dogs will help prevent your dog from being afraid of other dogs. Puppies should be properly socialized by their breeders both with other dogs and with people.

Avoid dog parks or other situations where your dog could be vulnerable. Allow your dog to have supervised play times with neighbors’ or friends’ dogs so they learn the social skills necessary to be confident with other dogs.

Cost of Afraid of Other Canines

A dog behaviorist can cost between $100 and $300 per hour, depending on where you live and the experience level of the behaviorist. Most dog behaviorists will begin by doing an assessment that can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Some behaviorists will complete an assessment for free. A professional dog trainer can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 per session; most sessions last about an hour. Some trainers will offer group classes at a decreased rate.

Afraid of Other Canines Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

3 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms



We adopted our Schnauzer, Kirby, October 1, 2017. He is absolutely wonderful. Loves kids, loves walks, loves my husband and I...what he doesn't love is other dogs--specifically big dogs. Kirby will eventually warm up to them but he gets VERY aggressive, especially around big dogs. He is better once he has a chance to get to know them. For instance, even though he is still a little wary, he is becoming tolerant of our friend's Mastiff/Boxer mix and he loves his cousins, a Schnauzer mix and a big big Beagle.

If I sing to him he will calm down too, but when we are on walks, I don't always have that luxury.

Kirby was a stray when he was brought to the shelter but he is so well mannered, I know he had an owner before he came ours. However, while being a stray, I am definitely thinking he had his share (or at least one bad one) of run-ins with bigger dogs, especially Shepard breeds, as he is the most aggressive with them--you can see his panic. We are trying to ease him in and socialize him but no dog parks since we still want to have control of the situation and not overwhelm him. He is not what some would call a "foodie" as he is very cautious with any kind of treats so we haven't tried incorporating this into the socialization environment.

How often should we be making these social interactions happen? Is there anything further we can do to help him?

Thank you for any help.


Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. I agree, without knowing what experiences Kirby has had, it is difficult to know what his reactions will be. Infrequent, very positive social interactions will help, making sure that none of them get out of control or you will be right back to square one. Obedience classes might help, not becuase he needs training necessarily, but becuase those can be a controlled source of more socialization in a controlled environment. Your veterinarian may also be able to recommend a good trainer to work with him. I hope that things go well for him!

*If I bought a shih tzu puppy

I have a 6 months old shih tzu and he is so afraid of other dogs. If ever I brought treats, he won't take it because he's focused on getting away with the other dog quickly. I'm also unsure what's causing his fear because I already have him since he was 3 months old and no negative experience with other dogs occurred from the time I got him. So where can I start in helping him to be more confident to be with other dogs? And also, do you think it is okay if I a shih tzu puppy? Will it be harmful to him? Thank you :)

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2 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms


Recently got a 6 week old pup but my dog that is a 2 year old chihuahua is running away from him and gets scared anyone know how to help him get over his fear of the pup (We have a douchshoud that use to be friendly but now tried to attack the chihuahua and gets into fights with him idk if that would of made him afraid of dogs). Anyways the puppy keeps wanting to play with the chihuahua but he runs away super fast and hides from her when we first introduced them they played for like 5 minutes then he became afraid then he. Played with her again but he hasn’t played with her since and is remaining fearful

Kurro has started growling at the pup as he runs but has not attacked her

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Cocker Spaniel
9 Years
Mild condition
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Mild condition

Has Symptoms


I have a cocker spaniel mixed with some other unknown breed of dog. She's 9 years old soon to be ten. We recently adopted an Australian Shepard and she's currently 2 years 1 month old. They dont flat out fit in front of us at least. But my Aussie seems to have her intimidated as my elder dog doesn't come near me when she's around and looks at me sad and scared when I put the Aussie away and have individual cuddle time with her. I would like to have cuddle time with both of them at the same time. My cocker spaniel gets along with every animal she meets be it cat, chicken, frog, etc. She loves them all but up until now she has always been the bigger dog in the household. Is there anything I can do about this? I would hate taking my Aussie back to the shelter. I just care alot about my dogs psychology and well being that I'm willing to give my new baby up for a puppy or a dog closer to her size if I need to.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1415 Recommendations
I'm sorry that your dogs are having this conflict. It may be something very simple to fix that you aren't aware of - since I cannot observe them, it is very difficult for me to evaluate the situation, but it would be a great idea to hire a trainer to work with them and identify the problems that they are having so that they can get along. If you are not aware of a good trainer, your veterinarian should be able to recommend one - you just want to make sure it is a trainer that works with positive reinforcement techniques, rather than punishment. I hope that all goes well for everybody.

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