How to Train Your Dog to Play With Other Dogs

Medium
1-8 Weeks
Behavior

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.

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.

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!

The Gentle Familiarization Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Open Bar Method

Effective
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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Leave It Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Yuna
Chihuahua
9 Months
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Question
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Yuna
Chihuahua
9 Months

Hello, I have 2 Chihuahuas. They wrestle together but Yuna would also like to play with toys (Tug-O-War/Fetch). Our other dog tends to only want to wrestle with Yuna but he likes to play with toys by himself. However we cannot get them to play with toys together. Any tips? Thank you!

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

If they haven't had much exposure to other dogs, they may not actually know HOW to play. You might want to consider a few trips to the dog park to help this. They are still young enough that there is plenty of time left for this kind of socializing, and it will likely be a quick fix!

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Happy
Golden Retriever
5 Months
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Question
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Happy
Golden Retriever
5 Months

My dog suddenly starts barking at other dogs. He’s good with them until he decided to bark exessively

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

Hello. I am going to send you some training exercises you can use to help make your walks or outings a bit more peaceful. 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 he is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram his opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage 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 his (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell the dog, sit, "watch me" or whatever command you want to use for this exercise. Remember to go slowly. You will see a significant change in his behavior after a month of consistent practice.

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Question
Yeager
Mixed
1 Year
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Question
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Yeager
Mixed
1 Year

He has been very aggressive to our other dogs in the home we got him when he was 8 weeks and he grew up with our other dog who is just 6 months older but now he has been turning on him and they both get into dog fights and we try to stop it but we have gotten bit by breaking them up but our older dog is very timmid now and he has become scared and has gotten hurt by Yeager and we are worried that it could get worse we are unsure now what to do

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
914 Dog owners recommended

Hello Camille, This is a situation I would hire a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression, and comes well recommended by their previous clients, to come to your home and help you in person. You need someone to evaluate the dogs together, see what's triggering the fights and show you how to change the routines and rules for the dogs together in your home. If there is something like possessiveness of you, resource guarding of objects or areas, or competing for dominance, those specific issues need to be addressed, as well as laying down a lot of boundaries for the dogs right now - like having them work for what they get in life by doing a command first - sit before feeding, Down before going on a walk, sit before petting, ect... I would recommend both dogs learn a solid Place command and have separate place beds that you can send them to for 1-2 hours at a time (working up to that long gradually, and giving a chew toy on each dog's place, that's taken up after they are released to get off place so there is no guarding of it). I would work on Heel - especially with Yeager (building respect calmly with you is important here too). I would desensitize Yeager to wearing a basket muzzle while the aggression is still going on. Your timid dog will need confidence built again using treats and obedience commands. Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Neither dog should be given attention or rewarded when being pushy or demanding of you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Marty
Siberian Husky
1 Year
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Question
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Marty
Siberian Husky
1 Year

I have just adopted this dog from animal rescue. He is really a sweet and smart dog, but with his background, things get really difficult for me.
He has been tied outside 7/24 for his past life. He missed the golden time to socialize with other dog. He might have played too rough with my current 2 year old dog, he seems like just want to play but very vocal, growling, jumping, and very rough. My the other dog used to be really nice and I think because this new dog is really hurting her, she is showing aggression after a few seconds of play, they can’t play with each other for more than 2min.
Is there a way to train this new dog to play nice with other dog?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
914 Dog owners recommended

Hello Meitze, I would work on teaching Marty to simply leave your older dog alone and coexist calmly with them. At this age they don't have to play with each other to be happy. I recommend crate training the new dog, teaching both dogs Place, and teaching Marty Out and Leave It. In place of playing with your other dog, I would find ways to stimulate Marty mentally and physically, through things like regular obedience practice, walking or hiking with weights - start without weights too and only add if pup needs more challenge, teaching fetch with obedience commands incorporated, feeding pup meals in things like hollow chew toys, puzzle toys, ect.. part of the time, or starting a canine sport. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M 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/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Bow
Catahoula Bulldog
1 Year
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Question
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Bow
Catahoula Bulldog
1 Year

My dog Bow just doesn’t understand play time. He’s a rescue with little training and relatively new to the home. We have 2 other, older dogs Jax and Lulu. When he wants to play, he barks in their face and runs around them. Being older dogs, they either engage for a couple minutes or dismiss him. Bow tried to nip at the other dogs for attention but ends up being corrected. I’m nervous for Bow to play with new dogs or kids considering this behavior. Please send some tips!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
914 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alyssa, I recommend teaching Bow the Out and Place commands, so that when pup is getting over-excited or pestering others, you can direct him and help him calm back down. I also recommend giving him a dog food stuffed chew toy on his Place to focus his energy on. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s 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 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Scotch
Dashalier
8 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Scotch
Dashalier
8 Months

I have a small dog and he got into a fight with another dog about 2 months ago. He growled and started a fight with my neighbor's new black lab mix. How can I get them to like each other after their fight?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
914 Dog owners recommended

Hello Abby, For this issue I recommend working with a professional trainer in person, who specializes in behavior issues like aggression. The dogs would need to be carefully desensitized to each other while wearing basket muzzles. At first doing something like the Passing Approach method and only decreasing distance between them as they are completely relaxed around each other, rewarding good interactions. Switching to the Walking Together method with muzzles when they are doing well enough, then practicing things like Place, Down Stay, and other obedience commands around each other to further desensitize them to each other while they are in a calm mindset. Passing Approach method: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs This all needs to be done very carefully, gauging when to decrease distance or increase it again based on reading pups' body language and responses around each other. The dogs would need to be desensitized to wearing the basket muzzles ahead of time using food rewards, so that they don't associate the muzzles just with each other and get tense when you bring the muzzle out, expecting the interaction with the other dog, but view the muzzle as something normal like a leash. I don't recommend working on this on your own. If you don't need to dogs to ever be in close proximity, you could also teach them to simply ignore each other, which would be easier than helping them truly get along, but wouldn't allow you to have them in close proximity. It sounds like pup may also benefit from something like a G.R.O.W.L. class in general, to help them get over their general fear related dog aggression that they now have after being attacked. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Mowgli
Shih Tzu
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Mowgli
Shih Tzu
6 Years

I think he’s scared of other dogs , he doesn’t bark at them he just stands still and then suddenly lunges and starts biting mainly their neck and pinning them down trying to be on top, I don’t think he’s hurting them as they don’t whine and try to play with him after I pull
Him off , but he snarls and his lip curls but again he’s not barking , some dogs he plays with but some he snaps and I never know which he will do .

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

Hello! Yes, that does not sound like true aggression, but more like he is just telling them to go away, or to not play with him. Because there is so much that goes into socializing an adult dog, I am sending you a link to a great article to read. https://www.dogtopia.com/blog/how-to-socialize-an-older-dog/

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Question
Kenji
English Cocker Spaniel
9 Weeks
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Kenji
English Cocker Spaniel
9 Weeks

My puppy is 9 weeks and has just started socializing with another puppy who is 3 and half months old, he’s a cocker and poodle mix. But it seems like my puppy either plays rough or is acting aggressively towards the older puppy as he snarls at him and continues biting him, his ears, his legs. Although I know this can be normal puppy playing behavior, I do get worries it might be aggression as he doesn’t stop even when the older puppy walks away from him. What can I do in this situation?

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

Hello! He is super adorable! While that behavior can be normal, cockers have tendencies to lean towards the more aggressive side of things. So you are doing great by wanting to get a handle on this while he is still young. Because socialization is a bit of a process, I am including a link to an article for you to read. https://www.rover.com/blog/how-to-socialize-dog/

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Question
Rosie
Australian Shepard cross cattle
10 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Rosie
Australian Shepard cross cattle
10 Months

My nearly 11 month old Australian Shepard cross cattle dog is scared of other dogs, she will give a playful bark and want to run with another dog, but when they come near her, she just drops to the ground and lays flat or comes and sits on our lap,
Any tips to help her become more social with other dogs?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
914 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kerry-Anne, I would see if there is a dog walking or hiking group that walks or hikes with dogs on leash. If not, an intermediate obedience class or calm canine sport, or setting up training times with friends where you practice heeling the dogs together and obedience commands around each other. The calm structured activities around other dogs, especially the hiking or walking can help pup build their confidence around other dogs while keeping interactions calm enough for pup not to feel overwhelmed. You will probably find pup eventually picks out one dog of similar play style that they feel a bit more confident with. If pup and the other dog do well together and know when to give each other a break during play, you can then let pup build their confidence more by playing with another individual dog for short periods of time, interweaving walking on leash near each other with some off-leash play where safe to do so, like in your yard at the end of the walk. Make sure both dogs have a reliable recall around other dogs though since playing dogs may take off in chase games and get far quickly if not in a fenced area. When pup does greet other dogs, you can also keep the greetings to no more than 3 seconds at first. At the end of the 3 seconds, tell pup "Let's Go!" happily, and start walking away, giving pup a treat when they turn to follow you - even if the leash is why they turned. This helps pup learn to come happily when you say Let's Go, keep the ending to the encounter pleasant, but keeps the overall greeting short enough both dogs can say hi but be less likely to intimidate, challenge, or fight one another - which can help your dog have a pleasant associate with other dogs. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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