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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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Written by hannah hollinger
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 06/11/2017, edited: 03/11/2021
0 found helpful
My dog is pretty good with most dogs, but when a more dominate dog is around, he immediately goes into hiding. The more dominate/alpha dogs 100% sense this and they end up picking on him. I feel like he gets bullied sometimes, how do I get him to stick up for himself?
0 found helpful
My almost 1 year old golden retriever is terrified of dogs. I think it's because of lack of socialization. We're going to a trainer fairly regularly but it's going to be a long process. He's going to be a service/therapy dog so I'm fine if he doesn't have this huge desire to play with other dogs, but just so that he's comfortable around them and could go into a dog park without trying to stay away from the other dogs and cowering away. He's going to slowly be introduced to a dog from my trainer, but again, it'll be a long process. She also recommended going around, not in, the dog park to see if he can be okay with that. But if he's on the other side of the fence he'll growl, bark, and try lunge. If we meet dog on our walk path his tail goes between his legs and he crouches down-at any dog regardless of size or anything.
0 found helpful
I just got a 1 year old puppy who is well socialized and LOVES the dog park. But when we go on walks she gets really wound up when she sees other dogs. She was not like this when we first got her (only a couple of weeks ago), but after a few dogs barking at her aggressively on our walks she has now picked up the bad habit/fear. We thought it was leash reactivity but yesterday we went on a walk, and lately we have had to keep an eye out for other dogs on our walks to avoid them, but one dog was off leash and came up to her and approached her nicely and she had no problem with him at all. It almost makes me think she thinks she is only concerned about other dogs that are on leash. Now whenever we spot a dog from far away I start giving her treats as she looks at them.
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