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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How do I get my dog to like other dogs?

Depending on your dog, you may or may not get her to like other dogs, but it's definitely possible for your dog to not lunge, growl,  snap at, or bite other dogs.

The main thing to remember is to never let your dog form negative associations with other dogs.  This means you must never hit, poke, jab, kick, or yell at your dog when he is around other dogs. Never ever yank your leash when your dog is around other dogs - even if your dog is lunging and growling.  If your dog sees another dog, then gets a leash yank, your dog will associate pain with other dogs and will hate them even more. Never ever alpha roll your dog around other dogs. This is scary and will also make your dog form negative associations with other dogs.

You must use desensitization and counter conditioning to help your dog become more comfortable with other dogs.  A good trainer can help you with this. Do NOT use a trainer who tells you to use leash corrections or any other harsh methods with your dog.  If the trainer doesn't provide details on positive desensitization and counter conditioning, then find another trainer or behaviorist. 

Sometimes harsh methods like leash yanking will make your dog stop growling (or could make your dog worse) but it won't help your dog to like other dogs. Even though you might have suppressed the behavior, the underlying problem is still there.  You dog still won't like other dogs.  And sometimes if you suppress growling, it could make your dog bite without any warning.

In addition to desensitisation and counter conditioning, loose leash training can help your dog tremendously.  Dogs can feel uncomfortable on a tight leash when they meet other dogs. An excellent pamphlet on loose leash walking is MY DOG PULLS - WHAT DO I DO? by Turid Rugaas. More info on loose leash walking below.

How do you desensitize and counter condition your dog?  You start below threshold and set up your dog to succeed. 
Start with a dog who your dog already knows - like a friend or relative's dog.  Have someone walk by with that dog; when the dog passes by, you praise your dog and give her a really tasty treat.

Do this several times until you see your dog getting happy about getting a treat.  This could take a few days.  If your dog knows other dogs then try the other dogs until you dog is happy about seeing the dogs.

Next try this with a less familiar dog, but with a dog who is very calm (this is where using a positive trainer can be helpful). The dog has to be far away enough that your dog is comfortable and not lunging and growling.  This might be 50 feet or 300 feet.  If your dog gets upset, you are starting too close and moving too fast.  When the dog passes by, praise and treat your dog.

Don't let the dog get any closer until your dog starts looking happy and excited about the other dog.  This could a take couple of days, a couple of weeks or a couple of months. Moving too fast can make things worse. 
Once your dog is happy, the other person can move in a couple more feet but not too close.  And day by day or week by week or month by month, you can get closer and closer.  You must take your time.

While you are working on counter conditioning and desensitization, you are going to have to manage your dog to keep her from being upset about other dogs.  So try to walk her early in the morning or later in the evening when fewer people are out. Or  put him in your car and drive to neighborhood or park where people don't let their dogs run around off leash (which is very dangerous any way)

Some excellent books on helping your dog become more comfortable around other dogs:
Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog

Scaredy Dog! Understanding & Rehabilitating Your Reactive Dog 

Since your dog has already bitten another dog, you must consult a positive only professional to help you.  Your dog must be on a secure martingale collar so she can't break free ( a professional can show you how to properly fit one so it won't choke your dog and won't slip off).  A harness can also work great because dogs can get more aggressive if they feel pressure around the neck; but make sure it is secure.  Be aware that a martingale is more secure. I usually attach a martingale to a harness when I walk my dogs.

Please see the below links and videos for more info on loose leash walking, desensitization and counter conditioning, etc..

Loose Leash Walking:

Counter Conditioning and Desensitization


  1. my dog is going to be 7 or 8 years old. the only dog she got along with died and she does not even like the two nabores houses dogs. what if non of this works and it is lonely all its life.will dogs who don't get along with other dogs get along with puppys easy than groun up dogs?

    1. I'm sorry about your dog's passing.
      Here is some info for you:

  2. Great post! For some reason my pup just can't seem to get along with other dogs, whether it's in passing on the sidewalk or a the dog park. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Hi @Jessica. I'm sorry you pup is having a hard time. Here is some updated information
      Please read from bottom up

  3. My dog HATES other dogs, if he sees a dog, he lunges, barks, and pulls. He is very trained and is turning 3 in June. It's so bad that we can barley take him on a walk. What do I do? I don't want to put the other dog in danger but I also don't want to stress any more.

    1. I'm so sorry you dog is having a hard time.
      Here is some info. Please read from bottom up

  4. My pooch appears to "dislike" other dogs but yet she appears to want to play with them at the same time. To me as her owner her body language is, "I am afraid of you but I want to meet you." However, she is a pitt and strong so I lead her away with distractions and continue our walk. The halter works 100% better than any other collar I have tried. (I HATE PRONG COLLARS) I sometimes worry that a unleashed dog will barrel up to us and she will be in total freak out mode. I have a plan in place but I don't know if it would work. She doesn't like small children either so I am always looking for running kids that might want to pet the "cute dog." Ugh so frustrating. I would so love to take her to the park and the creek but I am always so worried. This really limits her life and mine. Gotta get her to a sure if she will even like a trainer.

    1. Great job on keeping your dog safe. After a dog is mature, he really doesn't need to interact with other dogs. I'd just make your goal being able to calmly wait while dogs pass by at a safe distance (on leash of course)

      A trainer is a good idea. Just be very very careful. Make sure you use one that only uses classical conditioning and positive reinforcement. No flooding or punishments.

      I wrote the above post a long time ago. Here is the update