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How to Train Your Dog to Play With Other Dogs

How to Train Your Dog to Play With Other Dogs
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-8 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Everyone’s together for great grandma's 80th, all the grandchildren are there, all the aunties and uncles, and a whole host of household pets. But while everyone else’s dogs play relatively harmoniously together, yours is too nervous to join the others. Instead, he stays close to your side and misses out on the canine fun going on around the BBQ. If you do manage to get him close to other dogs, he displays signs of aggression and you have to quickly pull him away.

Training him to play with other dogs is important, not just for you but for his wellbeing too. He should be able to have fun and blow off steam with other dogs. A dog that is sociable with other dogs is more likely to be sociable with people too.

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Defining Tasks

Training can be a slow process. The key is to gradually familiarize your dog with other dogs to build up his confidence and to keep him feeling comfortable. You need to motivate him with food and reward positive play with a variety of easy treats. If he’s a puppy, bringing him out of his shell could take just a week or two. If he’s older with years of anti-sociable behavior under his collar then the process may take up to a couple of months.

Your patience will be rewarded though. You’ll have a happier dog who can enjoy the company of other pets when he’s out and about. This training will also build up his confidence so he’s more willing to try any number of other things, from swimming to playing with your kids and their friends.

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Getting Started

Before he becomes one of the 101 Dalmatians, you’ll need to get a few bits together. You’ll need treats or his favorite food broken into small pieces. The tastier the food the more eager he will be to learn. You’ll also need access to other dogs in a controlled environment. Friends' or neighbors' dogs should do the trick.

Apart from that, you just need time to commit to training each day and all the patience you can find. Once you’ve collected all of that it’s time to get to work!

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The Open Bar Method

Most Recommended

2 Votes

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Most Recommended

2 Votes

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1

Stock up on treats

This clever method works be pairing the presence of other dogs with happy talk and tasty treats. If you can make every dog encounter upbeat and positive, then he’ll feel comfortable and want to play with them.

2

Open the bar

As soon as you see another dog in the distance, start talking to your dog in an animated and happy voice. At the same time, keep giving him the odd treat. Really make another dog being in the vicinity a trigger for great attention and rewards from his owner.

3

Close the bar

As soon as the other dog leaves, stop with the treats and happy talk. Return to normal and go about your walk or whatever it is you were doing. Repeat this process every time you see another dog for the next couple of weeks. Soon he will associate the sight of other dogs with great and wonderful things.

4

Encourage play

Now you can let him play up close and personal with other dogs. Try and stay present throughout play so you can react if things turn sour and so you can retain control. Your presence will also make him feel more comfortable. Give him the same happy talk and treats during play time with other dogs.

5

Shut down the bar for good

After many weeks or months of successful encounters using the open bar method, you can shut up shop. By this point you will have made seeing other dogs a pleasant and positive experience. He will no longer need treats to behave. Just stay relatively close in case anything does happen and always resort back to the bar method if his behavior goes down hill.

The Gentle Familiarization Method

Effective

1 Vote

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Effective

1 Vote

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1

A dog he already knows

Get hold of a friend who has a dog your canine pal already knows to some extent. Just walking past each other on walks is enough of a connection. Then head out to a local park or field with that friend and your dogs.

2

Slowly approach

Hold your dog firmly by your side on a leash and gradually make your way towards the other dog. Ensure you are between the two dogs, that will make your dog feel safer.

3

Reward consistently

As you approach the other dog, give him treats and praise for as long as he looks calm and happy. Continue to praise him and reward him as you walk around the dog and let them sniff around each other.

4

Upgrade to play

When they’re comfortable with each other, let them off their leashes and throw a toy into the mix. It’s important both owners stay close and give their dogs reassurance and praise as long as they play nicely together.

5

Introduce other dogs

Once he’s comfortable with this dog, it’s time to follow exactly the same process with other dogs. You need to slowly approach and consistently praise him and be there every time he meets a new dog. Then throw in a neutral toy and encourage them to play. If either dog shows any signs of aggression, pull your dog away and wait until next time. You need to ensure positive, friendly play at all times.

The Leave It Method

Least Recommended

1 Vote

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Least Recommended

1 Vote

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1

Start with food and toys

You’re going to train him to come away from his food and toys, so when he’s at his most excited around other dogs, you can calmly call him away. So make sure you have his favorite treats with you at all times.

2

‘Leave it’

Issue the 'leave it' command when he’s about to eat or playing with a toy. Say it in a clear but firm voice and use a treat to lure him over. Start by standing very close to him, but increase the distance as he gets the hang of it. Keep practicing this every day for a few days until you can call him over from a different room.

3

Introduce another dog

Only let him play with another dog for a short amount of time. This will stop him getting over excited. Encourage them to play by throwing balls for them and giving them consistent praise. Also stay close to them, this will make your dog feel safe and protected, putting him more at ease.

4

Use the command

Whenever there is any aggression or you want play time to come to an end, issue the ‘leave it’ command to call him away. It’s important you use this regularly, this will keep play controlled and on your terms.

5

Build up exposure to other dogs slowly

Don’t suddenly plunge him into a place with a whole load of dogs, that will freak him out. Instead practice the above procedure with dogs he somewhat knows to start with. Then upgrade to dogs he might bump into on walks. Then go on to let him play with other dogs in locations like dog training classes.

Written by James Barra

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 10/23/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Lupin

Dog breed icon

Labrador Austratrilian Shephard mix

Dog age icon

Seven Months

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Question

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My puppy rolls on his back during play with bigger dogs, he lets himself get pinned down. When we separate them, he goes running back for more. My sister's dog (8 months old (pit bull mix) puts her whole mouth on his face, and play bites until we separate. But at the dog park, she plays well with other pups. How do I get my pup to be less submissive and encourage turn taking.

Jan. 10, 2023

Lupin's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Most puppies will learn how to hold their own with maturity and practice. At seven months of age, its normal for your puppy to defer to another more dominant dog to avoid a fight. Since they are going back to the other dog right after, that's a good sign they are still having fun. At the dog park, there are more personalities pup can choose from to play with, to find puppies or dogs that are more similar in play style and take turns practicing submission and dominance. It sounds like your sister's dog has less impulse control than some of the other dogs Lupin is playing with. I would facilitate more structure in Lupin and your sister's dog's play. Not waiting for Lupin to set boundaries and your sister's dog to learn how to respect boundaries but practicing activities with both, where they learn how to calm back down and listen while excited. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play by happily calling them to two separate people, having each person give their puppy treats for obeying commands, let everyone calm down practicing that obedience, then let the most timid pup go first (usually Lupin) to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppy go too when they are waiting for permission. When puppies show signs of trying to escape the other puppy, getting tired, or getting so wound up that self-control starts decreasing or things are getting even rougher, then it's time to end the play if you haven't already done so. Additionally, I would focus even more on having them interact in ways that facilitate calmness to begin with, to help their relationship balance out and be calmer overall. Some good activities for this are: 1. Having them stay on separate place beds, being periodically rewarded for staying, for longer periods of time. Start with just a couple seconds of staying and overtime work up to adding in one step away from them before returning and rewarding, then another, then another, ect... Two seconds of staying, then another two, then another five, ect...Until pup's can stay on their places in the same room calmly for thirty minutes, chewing their own chew toy. 2. Practice walks where both pups are working on structured heeling, focusing on their owner while ignoring each other, to facilitate them adventuring together but without competing, while being respectful of you and calm, to help them associate that same attitude with each other. 3. Practice activities that develop self-control around the other dog. Have one dog practice Sit-Stay or Down-Stay with their owner, while the second dog practices Come and Heel across the yard where the first dog can see them moving. Reward both for obeying their given commands, have both on six or twenty foot leashes so you can enforce staying and coming instead of running over to each other. Periodically switch who is coming and heeling and who is watching and staying. Alternatively, you can have one Sit-Stay while the other fetches. Work up to this one gradually once they can stay during come and heel practice, taking turns being the one to fetch and the one to "honor" - something commonly taught in duck hunting and similar sports. 4. Teach both an Out and Leave It command, helping them learn that they don't have to wrestle and play all the time, but can give breaks and space when told to. Out - leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Activities and commands that help with impulse control are especially good for your sister's dog. Activities that help with confidence and trust in you can be especially helpful for your dog. Obedience practice, especially around distractions like another dog, once the dog has worked up to being ready for distractions, is great for both impulse control building and confidence and trust building. My biggest concern for a more submissive dog in your dog's position is simply to make sure they aren't becoming fearful of other dogs through constant bullying - their own body language will tell you whether they are liking the rough play or feeling overwhelmed and tolerant of it. Moderate and facilitate calmness for him, to keep his view of other dogs positive; if it stays positive and not fearful, then he is likely to learn how to hold his own on his own as through continued socialization with others, once he matures mentally and sexually. "My own retriever was constantly being humped and rolling onto her back during play and off leash interactions with other dogs, she was timid around other puppies at first when young, but I advocated for her, kept my attitude confident and up beat in situations that made her nervous, handled situations like another dog humping or persistently following her by having the other dog leave the area or moving her to another location, and looked for opportunities to socialize her around other more respectful dogs also. As an adult, once mature she is fantastic with other dogs! She is my best dog for helping me with clients with nervous dogs, puppies, or dogs who need to practice counter conditioning for reactivity. She patient sets boundaries and tells dogs to back off, but is also incredibly patient with timid dogs and puppies, and not overly phased by dogs who are upset. She is great at diffusing tense situations that could have led to a fight with another dog - like a strange dog encountering us off leash on a walk. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 10, 2023

Dog nametag icon

Blessing

Dog breed icon

Havanese

Dog age icon

Four Years

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Question

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How do I get my puppy to play nicely with my older dog?

Nov. 28, 2022

Blessing's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, How old is your puppy and what are they doing right now? Are they a puppy six months or younger who is simply being too rough, or are they a young adult dog who is bullying or behaving aggressively or fearfully around your older dog? If this is a puppy, I recommend looking for a puppy class or puppy play group, that has time for off leash puppy play with other younger puppies. Puppies tend to learn how to interact with other dogs best from playing with other puppies, opposed to adult dogs. During play the puppies will yelp or withdraw from each other if a puppy is too rough. Puppies learn how to control the pressure of their mouths, how to adjust play style so another puppy will play, and when to give breaks when they are needed. A good class instructor will let you know when to intervene and call puppies apart to help facilitate those breaks when one pup gets too rough, then let more timid pups go first to see if they are ready to play again before letting rougher puppies go again. Those social cues learned from puppies can help a puppy learn how to be more respectful when playing with an adult if the puppy is simply too rough, opposed to a more serious aggression or fear issue from an older young adult dog or old puppy. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 28, 2022


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