How to Train Your Dog to Stop Growling at Other Dogs

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Going out for a walk or to the local dog park with your four-legged friend should be a lot of fun for both of you. But the fun can suddenly come to an end when your pup takes it into his head to growl at other dogs in a menacing way. It can only get worse if your dog and one of the other dogs decide to get into a fight, as the situation can easily turn dangerous. While growling is more than just a nuisance noise, there are times when it is appropriate and times when it is not.

In most cases, your pup growls simply because he is trying to communicate. He might be trying to tell you he is afraid of the other dog or he may be verbally staking his claim on "his territory." Most owners quickly become upset when their pup growl and quite often their first reaction is to scold or punish their dogs. In most cases, all this does is make your dog more anxious and growl even more. The only way to move past this is to teach your pup that this type of behavior is simply unacceptable. 

Defining Tasks

The idea is to teach your dog to behave in a more social manner towards other dogs while you are out walking, in the yard, or at the local dog park. You need to be able to take your dog out for a walk or to play in the park as he needs the exercise, plus it will help him to burn off excess energy and become more balanced and calm.

While teaching your pup not to growl at other dogs is the idea behind this training, you also need to train yourself. "What," you say, "why do I need to train myself?" If your dog is already growling at other dogs, chances are good that you become nervous and anxious any time it looks like your dog is going to get close to another pooch. Your dog will pick up on this fear, which will only make him more protective and more likely to growl. Teach yourself to remain calm in the face of the "enemy" and your pup will learn to copy your behavior. 

Getting Started

There are several ways you can go about training your dog to not growl at other dogs. When it comes to this type of training, you don't need much in the way of supplies. However, you will need the following:

  • Treats: Keep a steady supply of your pup's favorite treats on hand to give your dog as a reward.
  • Leash: To take your dog out for a walk
  • Another dog: See if you can arrange for a few friends to bring their dogs over for training sessions.
  • Space to work: Whether it is in your yard, the dog park, or on the sidewalk, you need space to work.
  • Patience: As with any other type of training, you will need plenty of patience. Never get over-excited or angry with your dog, it will only make the training harder and less likely to succeed. 

Remember that your dog will pick up on your emotions (dogs are funny that way), so no matter how frustrated you get, remain calm and keep on training. 

The Desensitization Method

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Step
1
Have guests
Arrange for one or more "guest" dogs your pup does not know to come to your home.
Step
2
Create a blind
Since your pup growls when he sees other dogs, you need to keep the other dogs out of sight at first. The easiest way to create a blind is to park two cars end to end with a gap between them.
Step
3
Walk on by
Have your friend walk his dog slowly past the gap while you stand 20 feet away from the gap. If your dog starts to growl, give him the 'sit-stay' command to distract him. If he obeys and stops growling, praise him and give him a treat.
Step
4
Rinse and repeat
Have as many people as you can arrange to walk their dogs past the gap. Each time your dog starts to growl, make him sit. Reward him when he complies.
Step
5
Move closer
Move the spot you and your pup are standing on half the distance to the gap and repeat the training. Be sure to use lots of treats and praise when he gets it right.
Step
6
Practice
Keep repeating this training until your dog no longer growls at the dogs walking by him.
Step
7
Out on the street
Take the training out on the street by taking your pup for a walk. Start by cutting a wide path around the oncoming dog and reward your pup when he doesn't growl. Keep working him in closer until the two of you can go anywhere without having to worry about whether or not he is going to growl at any dog you might happen to come across.
Recommend training method?

The Signs of Aggression Method

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Step
1
Signs of aggression
Pay attention to the early warning signs such as whining, ears pointing forward, pulling on his leash, raised hackles, or staring the other dog in the eye. These are all signs of aggression that are likely to be followed by growling and more aggressive behavior.
Step
2
No rewards
Giving him a treat or praising him for this aggressive behavior is simply not acceptable, all this does is teach him to behave in this manner. It also means not giving him any attention whatsoever as this will also serve to reinforce the behavior.
Step
3
Avoidance is better
When you see another dog coming your way, take your dog across the street, or if this is not possible, walk at an angle perpendicular to the one the dog is coming from. In time, your dog will learn that avoidance is better than being confrontational.
Step
4
No leash pulling
Simply walk away in the other direction. Just do it, don't pull on the leash, your dog should automatically follow you. Give him a treat if he does.
Step
5
Use positive reinforcement
Each time your dog follows you without growling, reward him with a treat and praise. Each time he doesn't, don’t punish him, just go back and repeat the training.
Step
6
Slowly cut the distance
Slowly cut the distance between your dog and the others, rewarding him each time he passes another dog without growling. With practice, your pup will soon learn to be in the company of other dogs or walk past them without growling.
Recommend training method?

The Positive Reinforcement Method

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Step
1
Start on a leash
Clip your dog on his leash and remain as calm as possible, he will pick up on your vibes and calm down as well.
Step
2
Go for a walk
Take your dog for a walk in an area where there are other dogs, give him a little extra leash to start with.
Step
3
Every time he growls
Every time your pup growls at another dog, use the 'quiet' command. When he obeys and stops growling, give him a treat. When he doesn't, make him lie down until the other dog has passed.
Step
4
Repeat this process
Continue having your dog lie down each time he growls. This will help to teach him that this behavior is simply not acceptable. Every time he remains quiet laying down, reward him and give him a treat.
Step
5
Keep practicing
It can take a few weeks of practice to get your pup to stop growling at other dogs. Remember, the more you socialize your pup with other dogs, the less he is likely to growl at them. Be patient, the payoff is more than worth the effort when you can take your dog for a walk and not worry about how he will behave.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Millie
Poodle/Lab/Samoyed
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Millie
Poodle/Lab/Samoyed
1 Year

My dog has started to growl at some dogs when they approach her, both on and off the lead. She does this despite knowing most of them and sometimes after the growling she is happy to play with them. What can I do to stop this growling behaviour.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
32 Dog owners recommended

Hello Diane, Millie probably needs a lot of positive but calm experiences with other dogs. There are two different things I suggest you work on. The first is to take Millie to as many places with other dogs as possible. When you take her, keep your distance from the other dogs at first. Go where she can see them from a distance and every time that she looks at another dog, before she growls, praise her in an upbeat, happy tone of voice, and then give her a treat when she looks at you when you praise her. If she starts to get upset, then call her name and then quickly have her do at least five commands in a row, to address her attitude, remind her to depend on you and respect you, and to get her focus back on you and off of the other dog. This might look like: "Millie, Heel. Good girl. Sit!. Good girl. Down! Sit. Good girl. Heel. Sit. Good girl. Attention. OK. Sit. Good girl. OK". These commands would be given quickly to address her attitude and to keep her so busy that she could not look at the other dog. When you do this, your attitude should mean business, and being firm but calm. Think of a drill sergeant telling you to do push ups or run laps in quick succession. By correcting her growling by shifting her attention back onto you and having her work for you, and by rewarding her for noticing other dogs but still remaining calm, you are addressing her anxiety, frustration, and possibly rude behavior, and teaching her to pay attention to you, remain calm, and view the other dogs as boring. As she improves, you can practice this closer to the other dogs, and when dogs pass by her. If you have other friends with dogs, then I would also recommend going on "Pack Walks" together. Do this with as many different well socialized, friendly dogs as you can, one or two at a time at first ideally. When you go on a walk together, keep the dogs moving forward and focused. Have the dogs heel and pay attention to you and the other owner, rather than pulling and competing to be in front or sniffing and bothering one another while walking. To get the dogs close enough to walk together practice either "The Walking Together Method" or "The Passing Approach Method" from this Wag! article, "How To Train Your Dog To Greet Other Dogs", bellow: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Going on walks with other dogs should help Millie to socialize with other dogs in a calm, focused, and controlled way. Right now she is likely experiencing anxiety, frustration, or simply rude behavior during interactions with other dogs. Her expectations of interacting with other dogs need to shift from tense or anxious to relaxed, calm, and almost boring. Changing her emotional state while she is around other dogs should help with the aggressive tendencies. Begin training as soon as possible. The earlier that you begin working on something like this, the easier it typically will be to address. If the issue gets any worse, then do not wait to contact a trainer in your area with experiences dealing with reactivity and aggression. Reactivity is often caused by the frustration, anxiety, and arousal that build up while a dog is anticipating another dog's interaction. Overtime the dog can become reactive due to all of those heightened emotions and the dog's view of other dog's becomes unpleasant. Reactivity is less severe than aggression because most reactive dogs are still friendly when they are off-leash with other dogs, but the issue can get worse overtime. It is easier to address early while the dog is still social with other dogs while off-leash. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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