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
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Question
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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
53 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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Question
Rudy
collie x husky
2 Years
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Question
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Rudy
collie x husky
2 Years

My dog is great with other dogs outside the house. He loves to play chase etc. he is very obedient generally although he has had food issues since a pup as he was the runt of the litter and i think he was being bullied by the others. he is improving with the food issues, and is not really food orientated. My friend moved in 18 months ago with her 2 greyhounds. They are very food orientated. My friend feeds them what she is eating from her hand etc etc. They will try and eat my dogs food and he will snap at them. They are generally disobedient, doing what they want, on the furniture, sleeping on my friends bed. The male greyhound who is 9 and has been castrated can be snappy at other dogs and people. I don't allow my dog on the furniture or to sleep on my bed. My dog snaps at them occasionally in a half hearted way at the backs of their legs. He will also stand in the way of them getting past sometimes. My friend also has other dogs visiting and Rudy snaps at them in the same way, particularly if he has uneaten food in his bowl. My dog is being treated like he is the problem and being told off but I think there is a much more complex dynamic going on here. Please advise what I should do.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
53 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emily, In an ideal scenario all three of the dogs would be your dogs and you could deal with this issue by building all of the dogs' respect for you and being the one to create and enforce the house rules and not let any of the dogs be in charge. Since that is not your reality here are a couple of other suggestions. First, Rudy needs to be fed twice a day and only twice a day and the food should not be left out. Feed him in a secure location, such as an Exercise Pen, gated off area, or room with the door closed, where he can eat in peace without feeling threatened by the other dogs. Give him fifteen to twenty minutes to eat in that area, and then if he is not actively eating it by the end of that time, take the food up and try again at dinner time. At dinner time give him both his dinner portion and whatever remaining breakfast amount there was also. Expect this to take about a week before he will catch on to eating when it is presented. Many dogs will eat more at one meal and less at the other, and that is fine. You can also feed him the entire amount at breakfast and then simply feed him what is left at dinner time also if you discover that he is a bigger breakfast eater than dinner eater. If you are concerned about him not eating at first and you normally come home for lunch, then you can offer it at lunch also at first. It is simply not realistic in your situation to expect the other dogs to leave his food alone, and it is creating unnecessary stress for him. If you can supervise him the whole time that he is eating out in the open, then you could work on the issue by standing five feet away from him while he eats and blocking the other dogs with your body and walking towards them to herd them out of the area while telling them "Ah Ah! Out", in order to communicate that they should leave him alone, but that is only guaranteed to be effective while you are in the room, and he will likely eat more if he is undisturbed in a calm location. Also, if the greyhound has been known to bite people, then you will have to consider your own safety. Help Rudy relax more about the presence of the other dogs by feeding him treats whenever the other dogs come into the area but before they are close enough to come over and beg for a treat also. If Rudy prefers toys and affection, then play with him with a toy and really love on him and make things pleasant for him whenever they come into the area instead of giving him treats. If he finds the toy and affection very rewarding, then that would actually be a better reward for him since the other dogs are so food motivated. As soon the Greyhounds leave the area, stop the fun and go back to being calm so that he will begin to associate the fun with their presence and enjoy them being around more. Ideally, come up with rules for all of the dogs with your roommate. Make these rules practical and something that you can both agree on. A compromise will probably have to be made. See if your roommate will agree to you and her both having permission to teach and gently discipline all of the dogs when one dog breaks a rule. The word discipline means "to teach", not simply punish, so have in mind what type of corrections, communication, and boundaries can you use in different situations to teach the dogs what to do and not do. For example, if one dog is sitting on the couch and growls at a person or a dog who approaches the couch, then that dog must immediately get off of the couch and leave the room. If one dog takes another dog's bone, then a person disciplines the dog who took it and gives the bone back to the original dog who had it, but the dog whom it was stolen from is not allowed to bite the thief. You be the one to handle the situation. If your roommate agrees to this but the Greyhound tries to bite people, then I suggest temporarily using a soft silicone basket muzzle on him until he stops trying to bite when you enforce a rule. You want all of the dogs to respect the people in the house and their rules, and not be allowed to be in charge, make rules for another dog or person, or enforce those rules. Build the dogs' trust in you by being consistent and enforcing the rules for them so that no dog has to be the enforcer. If Rudy is blocking a doorway and not letting another dog through, then tell him "Ah Ah! Out" and herd him out of that doorway by gently but firmly walking into or toward him until he leaves the area. He is not allowed to own the doorways and the greyhounds are not allowed to own the couch, and prevent others from being there. What the Greyhounds do in your friend's room should not effect Rudy so I would not fight the bed battle with her, but you and her will have to decide what you agree on about the downstairs furniture. I personally have no issue with dogs being on the couch IF those dogs are not being possessive of it, will immediately get off when told "Off", and everyone in the house is okay with the dogs being on the couch. Some dogs have dominance and aggression issues and should not be on furniture. Other, generally well behaved, respectful dogs are completely fine being on the furniture if that is what their owner desires and they are obedient when told to get off. You and her will have to evaluate whether or not it is causing any issues and agree based on that criteria if she is willing. When there are other dogs visiting, advocate for Rudy. If another dog is bothering him, then block that dog from getting to Rudy and patiently but firmly tell the other dog to go somewhere else. Make sure he has space of his own when he needs it while other dogs are around, so that he does not feel a need to defend himself. He should believe that you will defend him and that it is your job and not his. It is also okay to encourage Rudy to be polite toward other dogs and to allow them to briefly sniff his bottom and say hi, but they should not pester him if he does not want to play afterwards, and you be the one to interrupt any dominance establishing behaviors. Sniffing bottoms is the dog version of a hand shake and a good canine interaction should involve that and not just nose sniffing, but it should be brief and respectful. Reward him if he allows that and try to act confident, in control, and up beat yourself. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Daisy
Terrier of some kind
8 Years
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Daisy
Terrier of some kind
8 Years

My son was transferred to Japan for 3 years. He left his wonderful family dog Daisy, and 2 cats, with us. My husband is disabled. Daisy is great company and a comfort to us while my son and his family are so far away. Daisy loves running across the street to the city lake, where we currently live. She goes to the edge of water and will play with

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
53 Dog owners recommended

Hello Maggie, It looks like your message explaining your problem and question was cut off and not finished when you submitted your question. Please let me know exactly how I can help you, and I would be glad to reply to your question. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sami
miniature poodle
5 Years
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Question
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Sami
miniature poodle
5 Years

Sami generally gets on well with other dogs. However, when we're at the dog park there are a couple of dogs who want to play ( he's not much for playing). He will warn them by growling, but very often they will continue to pester him. I try to get him to follow me to another part of the dog park but most of the time the other dogs follow and after a time he just gets fed up with them being in his face and goes for them. I give him credit for warning them over and over with the growls, but I'm afraid one of these days he might actually bite one of them. What else can I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
53 Dog owners recommended

Hello Elizabeth, When the other dog bothers him, you either need to block the other dog from getting to him and herd the other dog out of his area by walking toward the dog until it leaves, or you need to leave the park. If you were outside of a dog park you would do the same thing, but you could also give Sami treats being tolerant to create a positive association between him and the other dog. Inside of a dog park giving out treats is very dangerous because of food possessiveness and potential fights. It is also typically banned. By keeping the other dogs away from him when he has had enough you are increasing his trust in you and you are decreasing his defense drive, which is leading him to finally attack. If he feels like you will handle the situation, then he will be less stressed out by the other dogs and feel less of a need to attack. If he attacks anyway, then correct him and leave. The goal should be to prevent him from attacking the other dogs in the first place. He shouldn't have to put up with being harassed over and over. There are many young dogs in a dog park who simply haven't learned how to be respectful of another dog's space yet. There are also many insecure dogs that are constantly trying to dominate other dogs. Truly dominant dogs have nothing to prove. If he is constantly feeling the need to defend himself, then his unpleasant view of other dogs and his aggressive tendencies are likely to get worse. The best course of action is for you to take charge, or to remove him from the situation entirely if that does not work in a particular case. When you herd the other dogs away by walking toward them, only do that if you feel like you can do it safely with a particular dog. Also, it does not have to be harsh or offensive looking to the other owners. You can simply tell the other dogs "Ah-Ah. Out" and point away from your dog, and then calmly get between the other dog and your dog and walk toward the dog so that you are blocking him from getting to your dog and making your dog more boring. Imagine that you are a firm brick wall when you do this. Your body language when you do this is telling the other dog that Sami belongs to you and this is your space. You are demanding that the other dog respect your dog by respecting you. Dogs understand body language very well when it is done correctly. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bonita
Labrador
1 Year
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Question
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Bonita
Labrador
1 Year

Bonita got into a dog fight with a dog at home now all she does is growl and lunges on the leash when she sees other dogs at home and xuring walks. How do we stop this behavior?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
53 Dog owners recommended

Hello Denise, You need to find a training facility that does Board and Train, and is setup to do aggression management and rehabilitation training. Look into doing Private sessions with trainers at that facility then at your home. The reason you want somewhere that does Board and Train is so that there are plenty of other dogs on that property for you and the trainer to work with her around. Bonita needs an experienced trainer to work with her and you. She needs someone to correct her aggressive behavior while she is wearing a muzzle and to reward her calming signals and her tolerance of other dogs in the area, to help her re-associate dogs with pleasant experiences. If there was no blood drawn during the fight, then you might be able to find a G.R.O.W.L. class in your area to attend with her to reintroduce her to dogs in a positive way again, and to deal with her reactions in a safe environment under the instruction of a trainer. If Bonita drew blood during the fight, then I would look into Private Training right away and not try to handle the situation on your own. While you are looking into training options, start by purchasing a soft silicone basket muzzle for her. Get her used to wearing that by giving her treats whenever you show it to her, touch it to her, and eventually, put it on her. Do this gradually over the next few weeks. If introduced properly, wearing a muzzle should not be a negative experience for her. Having her wear a muzzle will allow you to get her close enough to other dogs during training exercises to deal with her behavior. This will need to be done prior to many other training exercises. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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