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
8 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
3 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
4 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 and Success Stories

Question
Riley
German Shepherd
8 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Riley
German Shepherd
8 Months

Riley constantly lunges at other dogs when on his leash any advice thanks

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
131 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell her fear. First we reduce her fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make her concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at her (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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Question
Cooper
Catahoula/ Australian Sheperd
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Cooper
Catahoula/ Australian Sheperd
1 Year

How to train my dog to ignore other dogs without wanting to get off his leash?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
131 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell her fear. First we reduce her fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make her concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at her (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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Question
Duke
Indian Spitz
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Duke
Indian Spitz
4 Years

While walking or traveling when he sees another dog ( some dogs who he doesn't know)starts barking a lot and pulling ...we should have given him training before but we didn't think abt it much cause when he was a pup he was much more friendly...

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
131 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell her fear. First we reduce her fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make her concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at her (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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Question
Stokeley
Pitbull mix
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Stokeley
Pitbull mix
2 Years

How do I get him to stop lunging and barking at dogs? We recently rescued him from a shelter and he’s amazing with humans but with dogs he just loses his mind. I’m nervous to bring him around other dogs because when we take him for walks he lunges, starts barking, and it’s hard to control him. It seems aggressive but I’m hoping he’s just excited.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
131 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell her fear. First we reduce her fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make her concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at her (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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Question
Rocky
Rottweiler
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rocky
Rottweiler
7 Months

Hi when we take our pup out for a walk as soon as he sees another dog he goes crazy. Barking, whining and lunging. I can get his attention for a split second then he focuses back on the dog. He is friendly when he meets them. Because of his breed and size already many people think he is being aggressive and I suppose him being up on his back legs barking does look aggressive but what is the best way to deal with this please? Tell him no or quiet? We try to distract using treats but it doesn’t work and I’m worried I’m going to reward this behaviour by doing this.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nicola, I recommend working on calmness, the barking specifically, 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 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 reactive he is. Additionally, when you do pass other dogs, as soon as he starts staring them down, interrupt him. Remind him with a gentle 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. Staying in a calmer mindset also makes the walk more pleasant for him 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 You need a way to communicate with him so 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 Next, once pup understands what Quiet means you will choose an interrupter - neither too harsh nor ineffective. A Pet Convincer is one example of an interrupter. A pet convincer is a small canister of pressurized, unscented air that you can spray a quick puff of at the dog's side to surprise them enough to help them calm back down. (Don't use citronella and avoid spraying in the face!). In situations where you know pup will bark or is already barking (catch them before they bark if you can), command "Quiet". If they obey, reward with a treat and very calm praise. If they bark anyway or continue to bark, say "Ah Ah" firmly but calmly and give a brief correction. Repeat the correction each time they bark until you get a brief pause in the barking. When they pause, praise and reward then. The combination of communication, correction, and rewarding - with the "Ah Ah" and praise to mark their good and bad behavior with the right timing, is very important. Once pup is calmer in general after the initial training, practice exposing him a lot to the things that trigger the barking normally (make a list - even if it's long). Whenever he DOESN'T bark around something that he normally would have, calmly praise and reward him to continue the desensitization process. Finally, work on calm socialization, and don't skip rewarding pup for calmness around other dogs once he 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. If pup does really well playing with other dogs, have one-on-one play dates with a friend and their well socialized dog and intermittently practice obedience with them together so they learn how to also be calm and responsive to you around another dog. 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

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