How to Train Your Dog to Be Calm Around Other Dogs

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Dogs are pack animals. They are highly social animals that crave the attention and company of others, especially others of their own kind, so it is natural for your dog to get excited around other dogs. But what happens when your dog gets so excited he becomes completely out of control around other dogs? A dog that barks, whines, jumps at, or runs at other dogs may not be welcome with the other dog. This can put your dog in danger of being attacked if the other dog does not want their personal space violated. Another issue that can develop occurs when excitement morphs into aggressive behavior, especially where fear and anxiety are involved, as is often the case with hyperactive, excited dogs. Pulling back on a dog that is trying to reach another dog just creates further tension, which escalates the behavior, as does yelling, which just adds to a negative energy level and excitement. Punishing your dog can create a negative association with other dogs, and lead to unwanted behaviors. How do your stop out of control behavior and teach your dog to be calm around other dogs?

Defining Tasks

When your dog sees or approaches another dog, you want him to behave in a calm, friendly, confident manner. It is natural for him to be interested in the other dog, but not to rush into the other dog’s space, or vocalize excessively, which another dog may perceive as threatening, and can result in aggression. Teaching your dog to be calm around other dogs and making meeting other dogs a pleasant experience may take some time and insight on your part, to address the underlying causes for your dog's excitement. Many dogs who get overexcited are actually anxious, and addressing anxiety issues may need to be part of training your dog to be calm. The methods used to gain control over your dog's behavior and socialize them are useful in many situations, and are well worth investing the time in so that your dog can interact safely with other dogs and in a variety of other situations.

Getting Started

You will need to be able to restrain and redirect your dog during training. Because an excited dog pulls when around the object of their excitement, in this case another dog, using a front clip harness that will help protect your dog’s neck during training may be advisable. You will also need to find other dogs to help teach your dog to be calm when in the presence of another dog. Find a mature, calm, well-balanced dog to help. A young dog is liable to respond to excitement with excitement, an unsure dog could become aggressive when approached by an over-excited dog and will not be beneficial to training. Have treats available to provide positive reinforcement for calm behaviors. During training, avoid letting your dog have access to other dogs when not in a training session, so that exited behavior does not occur, and is not reinforced.

The Calm Reaches the Goal Method

ribbon-method-3
Most Recommended
8 Votes
Calm Reaches the Goal method for Be Calm Around Other Dogs
Step
1
Meet
Have a friend with a calm dog offer to assist you. Arrange to have your friend and their calm dog meet you while out on a walk. Put your dog on a leash and go for your walk to the arranged meeting place.
Step
2
Stop
When you see your friend and their dog from a distance, ask them to stop while your dog is still calm. Ask your dog to sit/stay.
Step
3
Retreat
Have the other dog approach.When your dog gets up and starts to act excited, your friend and the other dog should stop, turn around and walk away.
Step
4
Continue
Wait until your dog is calm again. When your dog is calm and sitting, your friend and the other dog can approach again. As long as your dog stays calm and sitting, the other dog can approach closer. If your dog gets up and acts excited, repeat step 3.
Step
5
Repeat
Repeat over a number of days until your dog learns that sitting calmly means the other dog will come over, while getting excited means the other dog will leave.
Recommend training method?

The Teach Sit and Stay Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
3 Votes
Teach Sit and Stay method for Be Calm Around Other Dogs
Step
1
Teach sit & stay or down & stay
Teach your dog to sit and stay or lay down and stay. Practice on and off leash.
Step
2
Trigger
Have a calm dog come over to your house or yard, or meet you on a walk. Put your dog on a leash prior to the dog entering the house or yard.
Step
3
Command
When the other dog enters, give your dog the down/stay command, use the leash to pull them to the side, not back, to direct them if necessary.
Step
4
Reward calm
When your dog is obeying the sit/stay or down/stay command, and is calm with the other dog present, give your dog a treat. Repeat in multiple sessions with different dogs, over several weeks, until your dog learns to calmly sit and stay or down and stay when a dog enters their home or yard, or when he encounters another dog on a walk.
Step
5
Reward calm with goal
After your dog is calm, call your dog over to meet the other dog.
Recommend training method?

The Teach “Get It” Method

ribbon-method-1
Least Recommended
1 Vote
Teach “Get It” method for Be Calm Around Other Dogs
Step
1
Provide treats for get it command
Put treats on the ground in front of your dog’s nose and say “Get it”.
Step
2
Move reward
Start dropping treats beside you, and then behind you, and giving the “Get it” command, so your dog learns to look for, and get his treats behind you. Use a loose leash, do not direct your dog let him find the treats. Do this repeatedly until it becomes automatic for your dog to go look for treats behind you when you say “Get it”.
Step
3
Expand
Move the “get it” game to more distracting environments-- go outside. Perform the get it game frequently on walks.
Step
4
Introduce another dog
Have an assistant with a calm dog approach you. When you see the other dog from a distance, provide the “get it” command and give treats, your dog should move behind you to get his treats, this distracts him from the other dog, teaches him a different behavior rather than getting excited, and puts you between the other dog, which is the object of excitement, and your own dog, which will further distract your dog. Provide lots of high quality treats in small amounts to distract your dog and keep him focused on the get it game and not the other dog.
Step
5
Increase stimulus
Gradually move the “get it” game closer to the other dog, providing treats to distract your dog, and providing an alternate behavior, so he does not get excited by the other dog, but remains focused on his “get it” treat game. Repeat this exercise over several weeks, until your dog starts to look for his treats as soon as he sees another dog, and does not direct his excitement at the other dog.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Tucker
Mutt
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Tucker
Mutt
6 Years

Fence and leash aggression towards other dogs/bikes

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1125 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emily, I would hire a professional trainer who is very experienced with aggression, leash reactivity, and prey drive to help you in person. The bike aggression is similar to car chasing - often triggered by a prey drive or suspicion of the fast moving object. This usually takes a higher level of obedience, desensitization and counter conditioning around bikes, starting with a stationary bike, slow moving bike, then progressively faster bike, while pup works on attention on you, leaving the bike alone, and heeling, being rewarded for all good responses - including no response to the bike, around the bike. The dog aggression, is sometimes specific to pup being on leash, and a similar approach is taken, where other dogs are in the distance, pup practices obedience with you, and pup is rewarded for all good responses while dogs are in the area. The training then progressively gets harder as pup improves, by decreasing the distance between the dogs, adding more excitement and movement from the other dog (think working gradually up to another dog fetching a ball in the area where pup can see them running around in the distance), or additional dogs and new dogs being practiced around. Sometimes a remote training collar is needed when it comes to the bikes if there is a really strong prey drive reaction, but I wouldn't do that training on your own. I would hire a professional trainer who has used that tool to address prey drive to guide that type of training very carefully, combined with rewards for wanted behavior, like calm responses, focus on you, and relaxed body language. If corrections are used incorrectly, they can make reactivity worse. It needs to be carefully layered with clear communication, teaching pup commands so they know what's expected and how to do that instead, rewarding good responses and desensitizing gradually, and correcting with good timing and at the right level of correction - to simply interrupt pup's aroused state long enough to make an opening to give pup feedback like a command, which you can then reward if pup obeys - relying most on the communication and rewards to modify behavior with corrections serving just as an interrupter and way to communicate no, while also communicating yes for behavior you want instead. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Holly
Standard Poodle
5 Years
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Question
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Holly
Standard Poodle
5 Years

I have spent thousands of dollars and numerous trainers and no one can seem to help! Whenever walking Holly if she sees another dog she goes absolutely berserk. I have tried the treats, a pinch collar ( not my choice) the can corrector, meeting with someone else etc. she loves her walks but is just very reactive jumps twirls etc

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1125 Dog owners recommended

Hello Laura, https://www.solidk9training.com/ https://www.upstatecanine.com/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Grace
Yellow Labrador
5 Months
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Grace
Yellow Labrador
5 Months

Grace is an excelent dog so far with me and my husband, but when we go for a walk or hiking and she sees another dogs she get SUPER excited, when i say SUPER i meen she get out of control, don't want to listen, she jump to the other dog like crazy. She was doing that with people but she's getting much better. I read method and I will gone to practice with her. There's anything else that I can do with her if this method does not work, I really wish she become calm with other dogs around. Thank you.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1125 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tania, I would practice the Passing Approach method from the article I have linked below, recruiting friends or family with friendly dogs to help you. The goal with this method is for pup to practice passing the same dog over and over and over and over again, until that dog becomes more boring and pup can respond calmly with the dog far enough away to help with that calmness, then reward pup for focusing on your instead of the other dog. Passing Approach method: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Neena
Border Terrier
2 Years
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Neena
Border Terrier
2 Years

I adopted my girl (she’s a border terrier/lab mix, a combination of energy and intellect) from the shelter and I did a meet-and-greet with my cats and she was completely comfortable with them. She grooms them, smells them, after walks she gets excited coming back home and wants to play with them (my cats are a little more mellow so she doesn’t always gets the attention from them). What I’ve noticed since her adoption (have had her for 9m now) is that whenever we go hiking (she has lots of energy so we always exercise), she gets very uncomfortable around other dogs, she starts to show somewhat of an aggressive behavior. So I usually have to turn her away from the dog and walk the other direction. When I go on walks, some people do not have their dogs on leashes so sometimes dogs run up to her and start barking so she starts to growl and bark back and I say “No” and calmly walk her back. It confuses me because when I first adopted her I took her to California, and we went to the dog beach and she was having the time of her life, she smelled other dogs and running around so to me that showed she was good with dogs. Came back home and we went to the dog park, a corgi came in and they were nose-to-nose, and it was a great interaction. After that, I’m not sure if she’s just territorial (which terries can be) or if she just feels the need to defend me. She knows how to sit and stay but in these situations, I struggle to keep her calm and maintain her composure. There’s a little white poodle that always play with the ball and Neena always wants to say hi, her behavior is calm with this dog but she whines and I don’t want to risk it because she can be unpredictable. I’ve trained her outside, off the leash, and she will stay still so as long as a dog is far away from her. Sometimes she ignores dogs and other times she gets timid. I don’t know what her past looked like but I just want what’s best for her. What can I do to help my dog in a positive way?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1125 Dog owners recommended

Hello Anaelys, It sounds like a lot of the interactions she does have are highly arousing and a bit tense for her - the dog park is a hard, highly arousing, unstructured location for most dogs who aren't super well socialized to know how to cope with that; having a dog run up to your dog face to face off-leash is very rude on the part of the other dog, and can put a lot of dogs on edge. I would look for social interactions that are controlled and facilitate calm time with other dogs, starting from a distance first, and avoid future interactions that are too arousing since that seems to be hard for her. Even once she does better around other dogs, look for things like dog hiking and walking groups on leash or with well trained dog-social dogs who are calmer, classes, one-on-one play dates with a dog who plays similarly and your dog likes, without other dogs present, or spaces where you can simply hang out with others and their dogs without the dogs having to interact, like training practice in public places with friends, where the dogs are working on focusing on you and being with but ignoring the other dog present. To address the reactivity first, I would see if there is a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area if the behavior is more severe. If pup's reactivity is something you feel you can work on on your own, check out the Passing Approach and Walking Together method from the article I have linked below. In your case, your goal won't be the nose to nose, side by side greeting or walking at first, but simply practicing being able to pass by and walk around another dog with pup calm, the repetition and control of distance are very important for success, so you will need others who can do this with you, so you can go back and forth. If you don't have anyone to practice this around, a dog training group with access to lots of other dogs would be good to work with. Look for someone who specializes in behavior issues like reactivity and has access to lots of other dogs for practice around. Passing Approach Method and Walking Together method: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Check out this video as well. Even though this situation is different than yours, you can still see desensitization being done in this case. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n_fPKPLA2g I would also desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle ahead of time gradually using food rewards for future use training with up close interactions. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Smores
German Shepherd
1 Year
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Question
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Smores
German Shepherd
1 Year

Whenever walking on a leash with other dogs she pulls like crazy and doesn’t listen like she does alone. Also whines and doesn’t even care for treats.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1125 Dog owners recommended

Hello Genevieve, Check out the resources I have linked below. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Once pup is doing better on the leash without other dogs around, I would also practice the Passing Approach then the Walking Together methods from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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