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

ribbon-method-2
Most Recommended
9 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

ribbon-method-3
Effective
5 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

ribbon-method-1
Least Recommended
5 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
Milo
Shih Tzu mix
4 Years
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Question
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Milo
Shih Tzu mix
4 Years

He doesn't listen when he sees something he likes or finds interesting. He runs across busy roads to see other dogs, and follows pack mentality with the bad example of a dog he walks with, e.g barking and 'screaming' at other dogs and doesn't know when the dog is aggressive.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
942 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emily, Check out the Premack Principle and the section on using a long training leash, for teaching a reliable come around distractions: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Heel - Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Listening in general: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you 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, as soon as 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. 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. This also makes the walk more pleasant for him in the long-run. 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. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Reactive dog - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY8s_MlqDNE Aggressive dog - 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 Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ 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. Until pup is under complete voice control and has an off-leash level of obedience pup will need to be walked on leash. Otherwise, your training efforts with not help since you won't be able to enforce the training at that point. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Teddy
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
2 Years
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Question
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Teddy
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
2 Years

Alarge dog went for him a few months ago and ever since everytme another dog comes towards us he growls and gets up on his back legs and then barks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
942 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jess, 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. Start with the dogs very far apart, far enough for your dog to take directions from you, and do a LOT of passes from a distance pup can handle, rewarding pup with genuine praise and treats whenever pup stays calm when they can see another dog. Watch pup's body language so that you are rewarding calmness and not a dog who is waiting to explode and fight or flight. You want to condition that calm response and help pup associate the presence of other dogs with good things again. Once pup can be calm at a close distance with the first dog, you will need to recruit a new friend and their dog to start the process over again with that dog. This will need to be done with at least a dozen dogs. Because of the resources and repetition this requires, it can be a lot easier doing this with a training group who has access to multiple well mannered dogs who can schedule these types of training scenarios, being able to control the factors like distance and repetition. Passing Approach and Walking Together methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Nala June
Pit bull
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Nala June
Pit bull
2 Years

I am needing help maiming my dogs excitement/anxiety when we see other dogs. She starts to pull and almost squeal/cry and sometimes barks. we have a bark collar, prong collar, and a kong harness. I am open to anything, i want to be able to take her back to dog parks without her behavior escalating. Thank you and hope to hear back.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
942 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hannah, Check out Thomas Davis from America's Canine Educator. Leash aggression - fear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_AA3MKLrKQ Anxiety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LpqkObkEkU I would also be aware that some dogs never do well in a dog park environment due to the highly arousing environment of the park itself, with its lack of structure. Dogs who struggle with a lack of impulse control or a high prey drive or high defense drive can actually develop issues from going to the dog park where things are highly charged, arousing, and there is a lack of structure. Instead, I recommend finding structured ways to interact with other dogs, like local dog walking or hiking groups, with structured obedience incorporated. Calmer canine sports, obedience classes, one on one interactions with friends' dogs who you know your dog does well with, and similar structured activities that incorporate obedience and self-control while around other dogs, in an environment where you can be consistent without putting your dog or others at risk (a leash and certain tools, like food or training collars are not safe at dog parks generally). I don't dislike dog parks for all dogs, but they are just not beneficial for every dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Fundy
American Staffordshire Terrier cross
5 Years
0 found helpful
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Fundy
American Staffordshire Terrier cross
5 Years

Very excited when she sees other dogs and pulls like crazy. Also nips at other dogs if owners let them sniff her

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
942 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tia, Check out the Passing Approach method from the article I have linked below. I recommend practicing that with friends who have well mannered dogs, with the objective of passing over and over and over again at a distance pup can obey at, until pup gets bored enough with the other dog to pay attention to you and allow you to reward the calmness and attention on you, without reacting to the other dog. As pup improves, decrease the distance between the dogs until they can go on a walk together calmly. This is going to take a lot of sessions to get to that point. Once pup is good with one dog, practice with other dogs, starting from the beginning again each time, to help pup generalize the training to all dogs. When you allow pup to greet other dogs, the lead up to that greeting needs to be calm, through practicing things like the above training I mentioned, otherwise pup is highly aroused and tense during the interaction already. I would also keep interactions to no more than 3 seconds. That allows enough time to sniff and satisfy a little curiosity but ends the interaction before they start competing and tensing up too much. When you end the interaction, tell pup "Let's Go!" in a cheerful voice, then immediately walk away so that pup has to follow on leash. When pup turns toward you and away from the other dog, even though it will be because of the leash at first, praise pup and give a treat. This helps pup learn to follow you on their own when you say Let's Go, and to associate leaving with good things instead of getting frustrated being interrupted. Passing Approach - later the Walking Together method too: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs If you can find a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area, pup might also benefit from attending one of those for the reactivity. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lucy
Pit bull
6 Years
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Question
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Lucy
Pit bull
6 Years

I have two dogs, Lucy is 6 and does not like other dogs. Mikiyu is 7 and does well on walks by herself, but becomes aggressive and barks while on a walk with Lucy, once Lucy starts barking at other dogs. While both dogs are barking, I try to tell them no and pull them in the opposite direction of the dog walking by, but it makes it difficult to take them places, and they do not stop whining until the other dog is out of sight.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
942 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nicci, I would focus the majority of your training Lucy, since Lucy is probably the main reason why Mikiyu is reacting. See if you can find a G.R.O.W.L. class anywhere in your area to enroll in either with just Lucy, or ideally if you have a second person who can handle Mikiyu, with both dogs, with their own handler, or in two different classes than each other. If you cannot find a G.R.O.W.L. class, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who is part of a training group with access to other well behaved dogs, like the trainers' dogs, to practice a lot of trust and respect building commands with you and Lucy, and a lot of gradual desensitizing around other dogs, through things like heeling past another dog over and over and over again at a distance pup can respond to you at, until pup gets calmer and bored passing that dog, then you can reward good responses and slowly decrease distance and practice with other dogs, one at a time to help pup generalize it to dogs as a whole. I suspect you will need to interrupt Lucy at times. You will want to determine with a trainer what the most effective way to do that is to break through to pup without overwhelming them. You need to also be aware that any reactive dog can redirect their aggression to whoever is close when highly aroused, so you need to take precautions not to get bitten if pup redirects toward you ever. A basket muzzle is generally the safest way to do this. It should be introduced in a calm location ahead of time using food rewards, so pup doesn't find it stressful and doesn't associate it just with the other dogs on walk. Once Lucy does well with you, then you will need to repeat the training with both dogs, going through the same steps you did with just Lucy with both dogs together, possibly wearing basket muzzles so they don't aggress toward each other also. Once both dogs can do well around other dogs, proactively continue desensitizing by rewarding any good responses when other dogs are around, keeping your attitude confident and calm. Check out trainers like Sean O' Shea from The Good Dog on Youtube. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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