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Let’s be honest for a moment. As humans, we often meet people we dislike or that rub us the wrong way. Part of being able to function in society, go to work and be social, however, is learning to get along with other people. The same can be said when it comes to training your dog to get along with other dogs. Even as an only dog in a household, Fido will often have to interact with other dogs when they visit the vet, go for walk,s or if they want to enjoy dog parks or other social and fun pet-centric events. Learning good doggy social skills, therefore, is a critical part of your dog’s core training.
The extent to which your dog will need to be trained to get along with other dogs will depend on their individual personality and the level of interaction you foresee. If you will be bringing an additional dog into the household, your pet will need to learn to share their space, toys, time, and resources with other dogs. If Fido is the only pet, your dog will need to ignore other dogs while out in public or greet them politely when they cross paths. Each of these skills will involve gradually introducing your dog to other canines and building positive associations with the experience of being around each other.
For the best results, you should begin training your dog to get along with other dogs as early as possible. Starting your dog off young builds positive experiences that your pup can refer back to time and again as they encounter dogs in the future. As with any training, you will want to have a wide selection of treats in a varying range of attractiveness or value. Dry, bite-sized dog cookies, small pieces of cheese, hot dog slices, and cooked steak or meat are all good options. You will need a sturdy flat buckle collar and a medium length leash, preferably with a second loop for shortening length if needed. Finally, a calm and friendly neighborhood dog and their owner will be a great mentor and can often help to create good interactions and pawsitive reinforcement of doggy manners.
The Positive Reinforcement Method
Distance and treats
This method for teaching your dog to get along with other dogs works well if you don’t have another pooch to help you practice. It can also be trained in a variety of settings. Start out on a bench or sitting well away from a path where dogs frequently walk. Every time a dog comes into view, immediately treat and praise your pooch.
After several sessions, slowly decrease the distance between your dog and the path. Eventually you should be several feet away from other dogs but not close enough for the dogs to touch or interact. Remember to treat and praise every time they see a dog and react calmly.
After several sessions, walk parallel to the path, well away from other dogs. Try to keep your dog’s attention and treat and praise for good behavior and calm walking. Keep your dog a far enough distance away that they aren’t able to touch or interact with other dogs.
The meet and greet
After some time of this type of positive reinforcement and acclimation, ask another dog owner with a calm, friendly-appearing dog if your pooch can say hello. Keep the initial greetings short and be sure to treat and praise immediately after the positive interactions.
Repeat with multiple dogs
Repeat the positive introductions with multiple dogs of varying sizes and energy levels.
The Introduction Walks Method
Walk off energy
Start off by spending some time playing and walking with your dog. Many calmer dogs will often become nervous around others with higher energy levels. Working off some of their excess energy which will lead to calmer interactions between pups.
Parallel walking from a distance
Start out by walking your dog next to a friendly dog from a great distance. This is called parallel walking. Your dog should be able to see the other dog, but not touch or interact. 15-20 feet is a good amount of distance. Sporadically give your dog treats and praise them for acting calm.
Walk the dogs towards each other in arcing paths towards each other. This will allow the dogs to approach each other but not actually interact. Treat and praise your dog for good, calm behavior, especially after reaching the apex of the arc and as your dog is walking away.
Repeat walking your dog in arcing paths, decreasing the distance at the apex of the arc each time. Remember to treat and praise your pooch for remaining calm. Towards the very end your dog should just be out of reach of the other pooch.
Meet and greet
Allow your dog to meet the other, calm and friendly dog. You should approach the other dog from the side with the friendly dog remaining stationary in a sit or calm stand. Try to keep the leash slack and remain calm yourself. Repeat this introduction with a variety of dogs to build positive associations.
The Teaching to Give Method
Prepping the toy
Start out by getting your dog excited by a favorite toy. Play a game of tug and otherwise let your pooch enjoy the toy. The idea is to make the toy valuable to your pooch so that they wouldn’t willingly want to give it up for nothing.
Trading for treats
Take a treat in your hand and show your dog that it is there. With your other hand, grasp the toy. Move the treat near to your dog’s mouth and gently tug on the toy, prompting your dog to drop it and take the treat. Praise your dog when they release the toy.
Add in the command
After several sessions of trading, add in a command word such as “give” or “drop”. You should say the command as you are removing the toy from your dog’s mouth.
Remove the trade
After reinforcing the command word over several sessions, remove the trading aspect by saying the command without having a treat in hand. Your dog should drop or release the toy. When this happens, immediately treat and praise. If your dog doesn’t willingly release the toy, go back a step and reinforce the command.
Repeat in multiple scenarios
Repeat this training in multiple scenarios, including with other dogs around, to help get your dog used to giving up and sharing their toys. The idea is to train your dog that when they release a toy they will receive a reward and positive reinforcement of their good behavior.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 10/08/2017, edited: 01/08/2021