How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Other Dogs

Hard
4-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

First, let's set the scene: you and your pup are walking along the sidewalk and everything is peaceful and relaxed. Suddenly, up ahead another person is coming your way with their pup. Your dog starts to bark excitedly and lunges towards the other dog. Not only is this type of behavior unseemly, it could lead to someone or someone's furry friend becoming seriously injured.

Now let's look at it from a different perspective. You and your pup are walking along as above, but this time your dog calmly walks by your side as the other pair walk by on their side of the sidewalk. Doesn't this seem like a much better scene? It can be yours as long as you are willing to put in the time to train your dog to ignore other dogs. You can teach a dog of any age to behave in this manner as long as they are old enough to have mastered the basic commands. 

Defining Tasks

In this case, you are training your dog to behave in a specific manner under certain circumstances rather than teaching him a new task or chore. While you may need to use some form of command word in the beginning, the intention is for your dog to ignore other dogs without having to be told. This is a very important behavior for your dog to learn as you need to be able to take for walks without worrying about his behavior. If you can't do this, it becomes far too easy for your dog to not get the exercise he needs.

You should teach your dog to ignore as young as possible, preferably while you are training him to walk on a leash. But at the same time, you can train an older dog to behave on walks, it might just take a little more time.  No matter what age your pup happens to be, learning to behave around other dogs could save him from serious injury or worse if he ends up in a fight.

Getting Started

Not much is needed in the way of supplies when it comes to training your dog to ignore other dogs. But more than anything else, you will need the time to go for walks every day and preferably more than once each day.  But you will need these things:

  • Leash: For when you go for a walk.
  • Treats:  For when your dog behaves.
  • Time: Time for two or three 15-minute walks every day.
  • Patience: Your pup is going to get it wrong at first, be patient and never punish him for getting it wrong

Remember, training your dog to ignore other dogs is more about time and patience than anything else. Also, the more you jerk on the leash, the more excited your pup will become. The calmer you remain, the more quickly your pup will calm down and back off. 

The Attention and Reward Method

Most Recommended
4 Votes
Step
1
Before you go
Before you go out for a walk, call your dog by his name. If he looks at you give him a treat.
Step
2
Repeat the process
Do this several times around the house over the next few days until he always looks up at you when you call his name.
Step
3
Distance walks first
Start walking your dog at a distance from other dogs. Note when first notices them and call his name. When he looks at you, give him a treat.
Step
4
Slowly get a little closer
Start working your way closer to other dogs using the same method. Rewards if he behaves, move further back out if he doesn't and start again.
Step
5
Keep going
Keep working closer until you and your dog can pass by others at close quarters without your having to worry about your pup misbehaving.
Recommend training method?

The Nudge Method

Effective
2 Votes
Step
1
Go for a walk
Start by taking your dog out for a walk around the neighborhood.
Step
2
Remain calm
As you walk, remain calm and relaxed. Your pup can sense this and will behave in the same manner.
Step
3
No pull
If your dog starts to lunge towards another dog, do not pull on the leash, this will only make him pull harder.
Step
4
Nudge him
Instead of pulling on the leash, anticipate the behavior and using your knee gently nudge your pup in the side to distract him. If he settles down, give him a treat.
Step
5
Sharp tugs are better
If he doesn't back down, you may need to give the leash a short sharp tug to get his attention while calling his name. Reward him for good behavior.
Step
6
Keep trying
It can take a few weeks for your dog to fully accomplish the change in behavior you are trying to teach him, be patient, it will happen.
Recommend training method?

The Friend Method

Least Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Talk to a friend
Have several of your friends agree to bring their dogs over for training sessions.
Step
2
Bring your pup in
Find a large area where you can put your pup on a leash and stand with him.
Step
3
Conga-line time
Have your friends line up spaced about 20 feet apart with their dogs on leashes.
Step
4
Ready, set, go
One by one, have your friends walk their dogs past where you and your pup are standing.
Step
5
Each time he lunges
Each time your pup lunges towards the other dog tell him "No!" and make him sit. When he does, give him a treat.
Step
6
Keep the line going
Keep the conga-line moving around in a big circle for training sessions of at least thirty minutes each day or at least several times a week. Once he has mastered this, you should be able to take him for walks in public and expect the same behavior.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Bonnie
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
2 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Bonnie
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
2 Years

We just rescued a 2 year old female pitbull. She is super sweet but she tends to bark and jump and becomes antsy around other animals either seeing or hearing them. She's never been aggressive just noisy. With her being a pit I'm worried how people will react. We think she was abused at one point and was in a foster home but supposedly wasn't allowed around the 6 other dogs there. I need to figure out how to stop this reaction. Unfortunately I don't have other friends with dogs to help me out. What would be the best methods to try?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
114 Dog owners recommended

Hello Katie, If Bonnie is just excited and distracted around other dogs, but you have no reason to believe that she is at all aggressive, then I suggest enrolling in a leashed obedience class with her. Look for one with a really experienced, well respected trainer, who also has advanced or specialized classes. Even though you will just be doing a basic obedience or intermediate obedience class with her, you want a trainer that is very experienced. Many trainer will be willing to evaluate her beforehand to see what class is or isn't appropriate for her. Not all trainers will let an over-excited dog join, so mention it and look for a trainer who is open to it if they feel like she is safe and won't be too over-stimulated. A class that is help outdoors or in a large, spacious area will be better than a small indoor class, which might be too stimulating for her. Bonnie needs to practice obedience and focused exercises around other dogs, while being rewarded for calm behavior and focus on you. This will help her form a positive association with the other dogs, will make them less exciting if she practices with them as background noise often, and will help her focus on you more around other dogs. Another great way to accomplish this is to find a group that does pack walks with a number of dogs. Start teaching her a really structured, focused "Heel" command, then go on a walk with the group and don't be afraid to hang in the back and practice your turns and focus. It might feel frustrating at first when you can't keep up with everyone because she won't stay heeling, but if you go regularly every week when they meet, then she will improve with practice. Meetup.com sometimes has local dog walking groups. Clubs and rescues are other good places to ask. Finally, go places where there are other dogs, like open parks or dog parks with adjoining fields, and practice her obedience with treats and fun, while the other dogs are in the background at a distance she can handle. As she improves, gradually get closer during training sessions overtime. DO NOT take her into the dog park fence though, this can make the over-arousal worse at this stage. She needs to practice calm, friendly interactions, and that is not always the environment inside a dog park. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Loki
Border Terrier
19 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Loki
Border Terrier
19 Months

Hi, Loki has fantastic recall - providing there are no other dogs around. He is super friendly and just wants to say hi, but I don't want him to run up to every dog he sees - they may be unfriendly or recovering from illness. I've tried and tried but he ignores me, but as soon as I approach him he knows he has been naughty. I don't shout or hit him, just say nothing and put him on the lead. Any suggestions?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
114 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sharon, Practice his recall on a long leash around other dogs. Intentionally go to places, like dog parks and parks that dog's frequent, and practice the recall on a leash. When you go to a dog park do not go inside while training. Simply practice his recall in a safe park of the parking lot or grass area next to the fence, so that Loki encounters dogs passing by and in the background. You can also recruit a friend with a dog that Loki likes to practice this with on the long leash. Check out the article that I have linked below and follow the "Reel In" method. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Grim
Mixed
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Grim
Mixed
1 Year

Hi,my puppy is a service dog in training. I'm training him myself. The most main problem I'm having is reactivity. He crys when he sees dogs, barks and lunges at kids, barks at some adults and loses focus around those distractions. How do I re-focus him on me and to ignore everything and only allow him to greet people/ dogs on command?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
114 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kailah, Look into a Canine Good Citizen Class in your area. That class will work on teaching dogs to ignore other dogs and people and act calmly while out in public. The focus around distractions simply comes with practice. If he is struggling to focus around people and dogs, then add more distance between him and others and break the training into much smaller steps for him. A class will still require mostly owner-training from you, but it will provide an environment to practice obedience around others in a controlled way, will give you the support of your fellow owners, and a trainer to show you what to do so that you can continue to practice what you are shown past when the class ends, to the level you will need for Service Dog training. Look for others in your community who are doing owner-training for Service Dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs. Try to get together with them regularly and practice your dog's obedience, focus, and calmness around them and their dogs. Change factors to keep the training at the level Grimm is ready for, by staying further away, moving closer as he improves, having the other owners act calm or act silly, adding more or less people, and so forth. Think though the scenarios that you dog will need to handle one day as a Service Dog and break those distractions down into pieces, like environment, noises, people, dogs, ect, and practice with only part of those distractions until he is ready for you to add another distraction to the mix. If you feel like Grim is lunging and barking out of aggression and not excitement, then you need to hire a professional trainer immediately. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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