How to Train Your Dog to Greet Other Dogs

How to Train Your Dog to Greet Other Dogs
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon6-8 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Imagine being out on a walk with your dog in your neighborhood, when you suddenly spot your neighbor out on a walk with her own dog. Now imagine being able to walk up to that neighbor with your dog and have a wonderful conversation with her, while your dog waits calmly by your side.

Training your dog to greet other dogs nicely can make walking your dog less stressful since you do not have to worry about your dog pulling on the leash and barking every time he sees another dog approaching. It can also enable you to bring your dog places where other dogs are present, such as pet stores and parks, and it is very important if you would like to pursue more advanced training with your dog, such as Therapy Dog training, Canine Good Citizenship Certification, and off-leash training.

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Defining Tasks

Knowing how to greet other dogs nicely is a very important skill for all dogs to learn. Having a dog that knows how to greet other dogs is not only beneficial to you, the owner, but it can also benefit your dog by increasing the number of places he gets to accompany you and by preventing him from getting into dog fights that are due to poor greeting behavior.

Be patient with your dog while teaching this. For some dogs, usually those with calmer personalities, this is a relatively easy behavior to learn, but for others, like those with more excitable personalities, this can be a very challenging behavior to learn and it will take them more time.

The goal is to teach your dog to approach another dog calmly and to interact with the other dog politely and briefly. This is something that benefits dogs of all ages, and the earlier you begin training it, the sooner you can enjoy a polite dog!

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Getting Started

To begin, you will need some small, tasty treats that are soft enough that your dog will not choke on them while moving. Something such as freeze-dried meat treats can work well for this. If your dog is not food motivated, a favorite toy or item can also work well.

If you are able to, recruit a volunteer with a calm dog to help you. If you cannot recruit someone, you will need to pick a location where you are likely to see other friendly dogs at various distances from you.

You will need to work at your dog’s own pace. Only increase the difficulty level once your dog is consistently succeeding at the current level. It is important to be patient for this reason, and to practice this several times a week to help your dog to improve.

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The Passing Approach Method

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1

Warm up

Practice walking your dog at a heel beside you, without any other dogs around. Reward your dog with a treat or a toy for paying attention to you and for staying by your side.

2

Pass by

Once your dog is focused on you, have your volunteer and his dog pass you from across the street. Keep enough distance between the two dogs for your dog to remain calm.

3

Reward

Continue heeling your dog past them, and reward your dog for acting calmly, for paying attention to you, and for walking right beside you as they pass by.

4

Decrease the distance

If you dog remains calm, have them pass by again, but this time decrease the distance between you and them by a couple of feet.

5

Repeat

Continue to decrease the distance between you very gradually as long as your dog is remaining calm and attentive towards you. If you dog begins to get distracted, work at the current distance until they are calm and focused again.

6

Greet

Once you are close enough to the volunteer and other dog that the two dogs can almost touch each other, stop and command your dog to “say hi” while giving your dog enough slack in his leash to be able to greet the other dog. Have the volunteer do the same with their dog.

7

Leave

Let the dogs sniff briefly, and then command your dog to heel again and leave. This will help your dog stay calm during greetings and will decrease the chance of fighting between the dogs.

8

Practice!

Now practice, practice, practice with all different types of friendly dogs. Practice in different locations, such as neighborhoods, pet stores, and parks to help your dog generalize his new skills to many new dogs and locations.

The Walking Together Method

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1

Warm up

Practice walking your dog at a heel beside you, without any other dogs around. Reward your dog with a treat or toy for paying attention to you and for staying beside you.

2

Walk together at a distance

Once your dog is focused on you and heeling, have your volunteer walk his dog parallel to yours from across the street.

3

Reward

Reward your dog with a treat or toy for paying attention to you, acting calmly, and staying by your side while you walk parallel to the other dog.

4

Decrease the distance

If your dog remains calm, then decrease the distance between you and the other dog by a couple of feet. If your dog does not remain calm, then work at the current distance until your dog is once again attentive and calm.

5

Repeat

Continue to decrease the distance between the two dogs by a couple of feet every couple of blocks that you walk. Reward good behavior as you go.

6

Greet

Once the dogs are close enough to each other that they can almost touch, stop and command your dog to “say hi”. Have your volunteer do the same thing with his dog, and allow the two dogs to sniff each other briefly.

7

Keep moving

After the dogs have briefly sniffed each other, command your dog to heel, and have your volunteer do the same to his dog, then continue the walk with both dogs walking side by side with each other.

8

Practice!

Practice this with many different dogs and in many different locations in order to teach your dog how to greet all dogs nicely wherever you go.

The Slow Approach Method

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1

Warm up

Practice walking your dog at a heel beside you, without any other dogs around. Reward your dog with a treat or a toy for paying attention to you and walking beside you.

2

Introduce from a distance

Have your volunteer stand with his dog about a hundred feet away from you, where your dog can see them.

3

Reward

Reward your dog for paying attention to you, for remaining calm, and for sitting.

4

Movement

Take a step towards the other dog. If your dog stays calm and remains beside you, reward your dog with a treat or a toy. If your dog barks or pulls, then turn back towards the direction that you came from and take a step away from the other dog.

5

Repeat

When your dog is calmly standing by your side, repeat taking a step towards the other dog. If your dog remains calm, reward your dog and continue to take more steps, one at a time, towards them.

6

Take it slow

If your dog begins to bark, pull on the leash, lunge towards the other dog, or get too excited, take one step away from the other dog and wait until your dog calms down and is acting politely before taking another step towards them again.

7

Greet

Once your dog is close enough to the other dog to almost touch him and is acting calmly and politely, tell your dog to “say hi”, and instruct your volunteer to do the same to his dog, then allow the dogs to briefly sniff each other.

8

Keep it short

Once the dogs have sniffed for a couple of seconds, command your dog to heel and leave. Keeping things brief will help your dog to remain calm, and it will decrease the chance of the dogs fighting.

9

Practice!

Practice this often with as many different dogs as you can, and in as many different places as you can, to ensure your dog will know how to greet all dogs calmly wherever he goes.

By Amy Caldwell

Published: 12/29/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Frankie

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Jack Russell Terrier

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18 Months

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Question

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Frankie is a very playful easily aroused JRT who has difficulty greeting some other dogs in a calm happy way. She loves playing with and going to greet new dogs whilst off the leash but often snaps or lunges toward the other dog which sometimes leads to a fight. She mostly wants to play after she has displayed this behaviour or see the other dog off in some way. She also reacts whilst on the leash to some dogs passing by, barking or growling at them. She has been well socialized from a youg age, walks happily in groups with her dog walker and plays well with lots of new dogs too. I am afraid this behaviour may be escalating and am not sure what is causing it.

Feb. 7, 2022

Frankie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Nicole, I recommend working on calmness and more socialization. For the calmness, I suggest working on the structure of your walk first. You want pup to be working during the walk - having to stay behind you, focus on you, perform commands periodically, and not have her mind on scanning the area in search of other dogs. The walk should start with her having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if she isn't calm. She should wait for permission ("Okay" or "Free" or "Let's Go") before going through the door instead of bolting through if that's an issue. When you walk she should be in the heel position - with her head behind your leg. That position decreases her arousal, reduces stress because she isn't the one in charge and the one encountering things first. It prevents her from scanning for other dogs, staring dogs down or being stared down, and ignoring you behind her. It also requires her to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused, stressed, and reactive she is. Additionally, when you do pass other dogs, as soon as she starts staring them down, interrupt her. Remind her with a gentle correction that you are leading the walk and she is not allowed to break her heel or stare another dog down. It is far easier to deal with reactivity when you interrupt a dog early in the process - before they are highly aroused and full of adrenaline and cortisol, and to keep the dog in a less aroused/calmer state to begin with. Staying in a calmer mindset also makes the walk more pleasant for her in the long-run. Once pup can walk past other dogs more calmly, you can carry small, soft treats hidden in a treat pouch or plastic bag in your pocket. When pup's body language stays calm, they remain focused on you, or are very obedient when other dogs are within sight, reward pup with a treat and very calm - almost monotone praise (too much excitement can make the situation harder for pup). Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo If she barks, I suggest also teaching the Quiet command from the Quiet method in the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Once pup is calmer in general after the initial training, practice exposing her a lot to the things that trigger the barking normally (make a list - even if it's long). Whenever she DOESN'T pull/bark/get tense/react to something that she normally would have, calmly praise and reward her to continue the desensitization process. Finally, if pup is friendly with other dogs up close and isn't aggressive, work on calm socialization, and don't skip rewarding pup for calmness around other dogs once she is doing better on walk and is calm enough to reward it! That can help ultimately. For socialization, do things like joining obedience classes, trainings clubs, group dog hikes and walks, canine sports, ect...Your goal right now should be interactions with other dogs that have structure and encourage focus on you, calmness around the other dogs, and a pleasant activity with other dogs around - opposed to roughhousing or tense environments with tons of unpredictable dogs loose which increases adrenaline. Recruit some friends with well mannered dogs to go on walks with you and your dog, following the Passing Approach method and Walking Together method to help the dogs learn how to be calm around each other, while also continuing socialization. Passing Approach and Walking Together methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Feb. 7, 2022

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Aramis

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Mix,Staffordshire

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8 Months

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Aramis seems to be getting quite excited when he sees new dogs. I have recently seen his hackles up and started thinking he was overly excited. Just yesterday, he went to meet a small dog, he was wagging his tail, he walked up sniffed, the other dog didnt seem to do anything but was a little hyper, and then Aramis growled. I pulled him away and we left. I am scared and nervous letting him meet other dogs but I know I can make this worse

Sept. 4, 2021

Aramis's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Lorie, It sounds like he may be challenging other dogs. When pup wags their tail is it stiff looking or relaxed? A stiff wag can be arousal and not be friendly. Is he neutered. If not, neutering can decrease some of the hormones associated with pup wanting to challenge other dogs. Neutering alone doesn't tend to resolve it though, it can just make training easier. Pup is approaching sexual maturity at this age, so certain behavior like aggression can be associated with that. I would work on building pup's impulse control, trust and respect for you, and general manners and expectations you have of him around other dogs. I suggest working on the structure of your walk. You want pup to be working during the walk - having to stay behind you, focus on you, perform commands periodically, and not have his mind on scanning the area in search of other dogs. The walk should start with him having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if he isn't calm. He should wait for permission ("Okay" or "Free" or "Let's Go") before going through the door instead of bolting through if that's an issue. When you walk he should be in the heel position - with his head behind your leg. That position decreases his arousal, reduces stress because he isn't the one in charge and the one encountering things first. It prevents him from scanning for other dogs, staring dogs down or being stared down, and ignoring you behind him. It also requires him to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused, stressed, and aggressive he is - it makes him feel like the responsibility is on your shoulders not his around other dogs. Additionally, when you do pass other dogs, if he starts staring them down, interrupt him. Don't tolerate challenging stares at other dogs. Remind him with a fair correction that you are leading the walk and he is not allowed to break his heel or stare another dog down. Leading the walk this way can actually boost a dog's confidence in the long run around other dogs because the dog feels like you will handle the situation so they can relax. Be picky about which dogs he greets. Avoid nose-to-nose greetings dogs who lack manners. A simple "He's in training" tends to work well. Be picky about who and how he meets other dogs. Avoid dogs that don't respect his space, pull their owners over to her, and generally are not listening well - those dogs are often friendly but they are rude and difficult for some to meet on leash. Also, avoid greeting dogs who look very tense around your dog, who stare him down, who give warning signs like a low growl or lip lift, who look very puffed up and proud - that type greeting with a dog is likely to end in a fight since your dog doesn't know how to diffuse that situation. A stiff wag is also a bad sign. A friendly wag looks relaxed and loose with relaxed body language overall. A tense dog with a very stiff wag, especially with a tail held high is a sign of arousal and not always a good thing. If your pup is already giving these signals to another dog before greeting, don't greet. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Outside of the walk you can work on building pup's trust and respect for you in other ways too. The following commands and exercises are also good for that: Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo A long down stay around distractions is a good thing to practice during walks periodically. A good way to do introductions with other dogs is to recruit friends with calm dogs and use the Passing Approach and the Walking together methods from the article linked below. After a few practice session of this, when the dogs can calmly walk side by side finally, take pups on walks together with both in a structured, focused heel. This gives both dogs something other than each other to focus on, keeps their energy calm, and helps them associate each other with the pleasant experience of a walk. Repeat this with lots of different dogs, one or two dogs at a time - you want other dogs to be associated with calmness, pleasant experiences, and boring things - not roughhousing, wrestling, nose-to-nose interactions always, or being rushed by them. https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Sometimes you can even find others to practice with through obedience clubs, meetup groups, or hiking groups. When he does greet another dog nose-to-nose, give slack in the leash, relax yourself, and keep the greeting to a max of 3 seconds, then happily tell him "Let's Go" or "Heel" and start walking away, giving him a treat when he follows so that she will learn to quickly respond to that command in the future. Keeping the greeting relaxed and short can diffuse tension and give the dogs enough time to say hi before competing starts. Structured heeling walks or hikes with other dogs, where there is more side-by-side interactions instead of head to head, tends to be a better way to socialize as well. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Sept. 6, 2021


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