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

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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

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Effective

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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

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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.

By James Barra

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Betty

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Jack Russell Terrier

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3 Years

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Question

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0 found helpful

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0 found helpful

I have a Jack Russell Terrier and I introduced her to my 7 years old Basenji. At first he was jealous of her and one time he nipped her and every since then she doesn't want to play with him. She is even afraid to look at him. His behavior has been corrected and since then he has been protective of her if other dogs pick on her. The problem is how do I get her to feel safe again with my older basenji. (the nip was a one time incident they ahve been together for two years now and he loves her).

July 10, 2022

Betty's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Anthony, Is your Basenji wanting to play with her also and she won't play? Does she seem comfortable simply being around your Basenji even if she won't play with him? It might be that he told her that he doesn't want to play and set up their relationship that way, and part of the reason they are at peace now might be because she respects his boundaries. If he isn't the one initiating play right now, then the dogs might have an understanding between them that their relationship should be calm, and by pushing them to play and roughhouse if that's the case, you could actually start the aggression back up. At seven years of age a lot of dogs no longer want to play very often. They prefer to simply hang out with other dogs and have a common purpose - like hiking together and exploring. She might be avoiding looking at him because she recognizes him as more dominant and he has told her with stares not to look at him. Does she seem fearful of him or simply submissive and gives space? If he is trying to play and she won't or she seems overly fearful and not just submissive, I would pursue some structured bonding activates for them - like going on hikes with you together. I would also reward her without him seeing, whenever he enters the room where she is, to help her associate his presence with good things. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 11, 2022

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Grizzly

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toy poodle

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2 Years

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Question

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Hello there and thank you for your time. My partner & I have recently been taking Grizzly to the dog park. To our surprise, he does seem to enjoy it. He smiles, his tail wags, and he begs to be let through the gate when we arrive. Lately, however, we've noticed that Grizzly tends to stay very close to us while at the park. He lets dog come to sniff him, and he will approach other dogs to sniff. But he will not play. When another dog runs after him, Grizzly will often retreat backwards... never taking his eyes off the dog. And when the chasing dog gets the hint and disengages, Grizzly protests by barking and going after the would-be play mate. Grizzly does not respond to play bows from other dogs, but he does sneak in sniffs when he can do it without getting caught. If he's spotted, he usually retreats to his human with a face that says "ABORT THE MISSION! ABORT! ABORT!" I want Grizzly to feel that play is safe with other dogs. The story in my head is that he both wants to play and is also scared of it—conflicted. What can I do to help him?

May 30, 2022

Grizzly's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Some dogs, especially smarter ones, discover that play at a dog park with a bunch of dogs can result in things getting too rough or too many dogs joining in and sort of ganging up on the dog being chased or wrestled with. I would find someone with a playful but more gentle dog to have private play sessions where somewhere like someone's fenced backyard. Dogs often need to practice with someone more gentle with less dogs around to start testing out play and how to interact, before adding in the overwhelm of all the dogs at the dog park and the high energy and high arousal there. Being able to navigate the dog with without getting into a fight or things getting too rough takes a lot of social skills for a dog. For a new who hasn't developed those yet, they need the chance to develop those skills with less going on and a dog who is gentler but still playful. If there isn't a fence you can use for a playdate, you might find that there is a certain time of day when no one else tends to go to the dog park and arrange a playdate there at that time, so you can have the place to yourself with a friend for a bit. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 30, 2022


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