Does your dog pull you towards dogs you see out and about on walks in an attempt to say hi? Is your dog reactive, fearful, or showing some sort of aggressive behavior toward other dogs? No matter the situation, if your dog has trouble with their behavior around fellow pets, it’s time to train them to ignore other dogs!
Sniffspot conducted a proprietary survey that found 66% of people with dog-reactive dogs report attempting to teach their dog to ignore other dogs. Of people that have not yet tried to teach their dog-reactive dog to ignore other dogs, 54% are confident that they would be successful while 46% are not confident that they would be successful.
If you're in that 46 percent, this article is especially for you!
Your dog being able to ignore other dogs can help keep you, them, and other pups safe. It also makes public outings easier for everyone involved (especially in crowded environments) — and it shows you respect the people and pets around you!
Many dog parents want their dog to love other dogs and interact often. That can be a great goal depending on your lifestyle — but socialization is about far more than direct interaction.
Teaching your dog to ignore distractions (including other dogs) to focus on you instead can be a gamechanger for your relationship, behavior out in public environments, and confidence on both ends of the leash.
In general, by the time you're showing your dog it's okay to say hi or not, they should already understand and be able to ignore other dogs the majority of the time on walks.
You may be okay with your pup interacting with other dogs while on a leash at certain times. But it’s essential that, first and foremost, your dog knows to ignore the other dog first.
This means you need to determine how to let them know it is okay to socialize. There are a few ways to do this:
Be respectful of other dogs and their owners. Just because you feel good about your dog socializing does not mean the other owner does. Always ask before approaching another dog and handler — if possible, from a good distance away so there isn't any pressure on the situation.
When in doubt, pay attention to everyone's body language (and never follow another dog-handler team if they turn away from you, cross the street, or otherwise seem like they're trying to create distance).
Not much is required for training, but these are a few basic things to have on hand:
Being around other dogs is a huge and common distraction. By training your dog to ignore other dogs, you can keep your dog from disrupting others on walks or prevent a dog fight.
In a sense, you’re not teaching your dog to ignore other dogs — you're more accurately teaching them to pay attention to you when you request it, regardless of what is going on in the environment. It shouldn’t matter if you’re walking and passing other dogs or different distractions.
Of people that have tried to teach their dog-reactive dog to ignore other dogs, 37% report via Sniffspot's survey that they've been successful.
Sometimes referred to as command, a more positive-sounding term that means the same thing is a cue. Regardless of what you call it, you’ll want to choose your phrase and stick with it. Some familiar cues include:
Pick your cue phrase before you actually start training your dog. Planning ahead can help you avoid any in-the-moment confusion to make sure you stay consistent.
You don’t want to immediately throw your dog into a high-energy situation and expect them to know what to do.
You want to be sure that you can gain and maintain your dog’s attention when there is zero distraction before adding others dogs into the mix.
Begin your training in your home or an enclosed private yard.
This begins by teaching your dog a cue (sometimes referred to as a command) that indicates that they should look at you. Once your dog looks at you and is paying attention to you, you can tell them what to do next, whether to heel, sit, lay down, etc!
To teach this cue, give your dog a lot of positive reinforcement when they look at you. Try to make sure the eye contact behavior is reliable before you actually associate the action with our verbal phrase.
You can start by holding a treat up to your face. When your dog makes eye contact with you, give them lots of praise and a high-reward treat.
Continue to do this until your dog makes eye contact with you before looking at the treat.
After this point, you can now add in a cue phrase. You can choose whatever you like, but always be consistent and say the phrase as you hold the treat up while giving positive reinforcement when they make eye contact.
Continue practicing this until your dog looks at you without needing the treat.
Before moving on to high-energy and high-traffic environments, you need to make sure your dog can walk politely on a leash.
To do this, say your cue phrase while walking on a leash. Keep a tight leash (with no slack) so your dog is next to you. Carry a bag of treats and give one to them every few minutes as you continue walking.
If your dog starts getting distracted, repeat the cue phrase. Once they turn and make eye contact, give them a treat and plenty of praise.
Practice this on every single walk. Eventually, your dog should walk next to you politely and look toward you during walks without treats.
If your dog pulls hard on the leash, it could hurt itself. This puts a lot of pressure on their neck, and many may feel the need to buy tools such as prong collars, but this can lead to even further injury.
Instead, you may want to try a harness. Harnesses no longer hurt your dog, and they’re difficult for your dog to escape from. However, some dogs pull even harder with them.
In these cases, you may consider a harness that clips in two locations and will require the use of a double-ended leash. This harness and leash combination gives you much more control over them and doesn’t hurt them in the process.
Once your dog looks at you after you use your cue phrase and without needing a treat, you can then move on to practicing in different environments and with distractions.
Start by taking your dog on walks in different locations. Go on various routes, so the distractions are frequently new and different.
Try practicing in these places:
We want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified force free trainers.
This is the trainer that reviewed this article:
Rayanne Spence CPDT-KA, IAABC-ADT
Professional Dog Trainer - Animal Medical Center of Hattiesburg
Sniffspot Research 2023, n = 4,092
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