How your dog responds to the presence of other dogs is an essential part of their upbringing.
For a well-behaved and enjoyable companion, you want your dog to know that some dogs need to be ignored. They also need to know when it’s time to socialize and when it’s time to focus on something else.
Some dogs might be fearful or defensive when other dogs are around. In contrast, others are too friendly and will want to run to every potential playmate.
Either way, you should consider training your dog to ignore other dogs if you often find yourself struggling on walks and bringing your dog to public spaces.
This article will walk you through the steps of how to train your dog to ignore other dogs when necessary.
How To Teach Your Dog To Ignore Other Dogs
The most effective way to teach your dog to ignore other dogs is to give them something else to focus on. Then, offer high-value rewards for every time you successfully pass by another dog without incident.
You’ll need to take this slowly, be generous with your rewards, and create many safe opportunities to practice. But with enough patience and determination, it’s easy enough for any dog to master.
Depending on how your dog currently responds to the presence of other dogs, you might think of this as an impossible task.
However, training your dog to ignore other dogs is perfectly doable as long as you do so systematically and you’re willing to put in the effort.
Prepare what you need and follow this 4-step guide for guaranteed success.
What You’ll Need
- Leash – Use something sturdy that will give you a good, comfortable grip.
- High-value rewards – Good treats will ensure you get your dog’s attention when needed. Remember that the treats should be more attractive than the other dog. If your dog isn’t food-driven, find other ways to get their attention (e.g, toys, high-pitched praises, petting, etc.)
- Consistency – Practice as often as you can until it has become natural behavior that doesn’t need bribes and rewards.
- Patience – Understand that this isn’t a behavior your dog will immediately learn. Expect a few setbacks and don’t let them frustrate you. What matters is that you keep trying and you progress no matter how slowly.
What You’ll Do
Once you have everything you need, follow the step-by-step guide below. Remember to be patient.
Move on to the next step only when you’re already getting consistently good outcomes with the current one. Then, take every opportunity you can to practice.
Step 1: Master Getting Your Dog’s Attention
At home where there are few distractions, call your dog’s name and reward them every time they look at you or come to you.
Do this randomly throughout the day until you can successfully get your dog’s attention whether they’re resting, eating, or playing.
Then, you can start doing this in other places where there are more distractions. Avoid other dogs first but expose them to different people and scenarios.
Once you can get their attention no matter where they are, what they’re doing, and what’s going on around them, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Step 2: Expose To Faraway Dogs
Do the same exercise of getting your dog’s attention while in the presence of another dog. Make sure that the other dog is close enough for yours to see but far enough so they don’t get too excited.
Whenever you successfully get their attention, reward them.
It helps to start training with calmer dogs that don’t pay too much attention to yours. Your dog might find barking and whining too distracting no matter the distance. Calmer dogs would be much easier to ignore.
Step 3: Get Closer
When you can consistently get your dog’s attention at a certain distance, try to move closer and closer. This can happen over a few days or weeks.
Remember to take it slowly no matter how well you’re doing. The more successful attempts you get, the better your dog can master the skill.
Step 4: Keep Going
Eventually, you’ll be able to walk by other dogs without any reaction. When you get to this level, don’t stop practicing.
You can slowly transition to lower value treats and then to simple pets and praises, but it’s essential to keep letting them know when they’re doing well.
Additionally, every dog you encounter will be different. So, if you keep practicing, your dog will develop the skill of ignoring other dogs no matter how they act or what they smell like.
Why Teach Your Dog To Ignore Other Dogs?
Certain breeds are more friendly with other dogs than others but a lot depends on their upbringing.
For example, many German Shepherds are sociable and will want to approach every dog they encounter. But, sometimes, they are also fearful, aloof, or overprotective of their companions.
These might translate to seemingly aggressive behaviors.
In any case, not all dogs can be approached safely. Doing so might be unsafe for your dog, the other dog, or both.
You might not immediately know when another dog has legitimate fears, health problems, and behavioral issues.
For everyone’s safety, the responsible thing to do is always to ask permission from the human companion and introduce every dog slowly.
Additionally, there are times when socializing is appropriate and when it isn’t. When you’re out for a walk, you want your dog to be focused on you and where you’re going. It’s not the right time to dart off and meet new friends.
Furthermore, if you want to engage your dog in activities like rollerblading, biking, and canicross, the inability to ignore other dogs may lead to serious accidents.
How To Help A Dog Understand The Appropriate Time For Socializing
The best way to help your dog understand when it’s a good time to socialize freely or when it’s essential to ignore other dogs is to teach them to wait for permission.
Train them to stay at your side by default no matter how close another dog gets. Then, you can associate a command like “go play” to release them from your side and let them know it’s safe to go and make friends.
Additionally, it helps to set your rules and be consistent with following them. For example, they should always ignore other dogs when walking on the street.
If you follow this rule all the time—correct them when they don’t follow and reward them when they do well—they will eventually understand contexts and scenarios in which they can socialize and when they can’t.
Tips For Successful Training
Although the step-by-step guide should be enough to tell you exactly how to get your dog to ignore other dogs, here are a few more tips to set you up for success.
As with every other skill, command, and trick, it’s easier when you start while your dog is still young and isn’t yet set in their ways. It also helps that they’re physically smaller and much easier to control.
Master The Basics
The most basic obedience commands like sit, down, and stay will be helpful in redirecting any kind of unwanted behavior.
Motivate your dog to follow them and take every opportunity to practice so they’re more likely to follow even if there are strong distractions (i.e., the presence of other dogs).
Make Yourself The Best Reward
To be successful in training, your dog has to like you much more than anything that might capture their interest. You can achieve this by associating yourself with high-value rewards and excited praises.
Eventually, your dog will be able to ignore distractions, give you their full attention when you call on them, and immediately follow the commands they’ve already mastered.
When training, progressing too quickly means setting your dog up for failure. Take it slowly and reward every successful step forward.
Having a dog that lunges, barks, or runs towards every other dog they see is unenjoyable. More importantly, they can cause accidents and lead you to dangerous situations.
Part of having a properly socialized dog is training them to ignore other dogs and letting them understand when socializing is appropriate. Thankfully, this is something you can train your dog to do as long as you’re armed with lots of treats, praises, and patience.
Apart from ignoring other dogs, you should also teach your dog not to pull on a leash. Doing so will enable you to have even more safe and enjoyable walks and spend lots of time outside the house.