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Ask the Trainer: Help My Dog Get Along With Other Dogs

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Labradoodle

Dear Kevin,
Sophie is a great natured, well behaved 8.5 year old labradoodle. She has one problem …. she does not like other dogs (all sizes) and becomes aggressive with them if they try to sniff or get to know her. At first I thought she was just jealous if I paid attention but then I noticed she did it if I wasn’t even close to her. How to I train her to be kind to other dogs? She is exceptionally well behaved in all other aspects except dealing with other dogs. I like taking her to the park and to other dog events but it is difficult since she doesn’t get along with other dogs.
-Jan

Hi Jan,

Being 8.5 years old it may take a little bit longer for my advice to kick in with Sophie. This is because I am assuming she has been this way her entire life. What I am going to recommend doing is getting her to look at dogs and then get something she absolutely loves. (e.g. hot dogs, bacon, real meat, etc.)

Start off by going to a park that is pretty large (not inside a dog park). I would keep her on a shorter leash (4-6 foot). What you want to do in the beginning is get very far away from other dogs. Watch Sophie like a hawk because as soon as she looks at another dog, I want you to give her that high value item. I even want you to do it if she reacts. (Yes I am aware that it sounds contradicting.) The more distance between her and the other dog the easier it will be for her not to react.

With rewarding her either way what you will start to see less reaction from her and more anticipation of getting the good thing. Timing is very important because we want her to associate looking at the other dog with good things. It sounds like the reaction she is giving is because she is either unsure, or fearful. With giving her things she enjoys, over time she will start to associate dogs with things she loves. This will cause her to not be afraid or unsure, and will stop the outbursts.

The distance part that I mentioned is extremely important. If you try to start off too close there is a good chance you will push her past her threshold and she will not take rewards. When she is showing that she is comfortable from a far distance slowly start to get closer to the other dog. If she reacts you can always give her a bit more distance to try to get her to calm down. If done at the right pace though you should slowly start to be able to get closer and closer. You will need to do lots and lots of repetition of this. You will also want to do different environments.

You could also look around in your area for a reactive dog class. This will be a class taken along with other dogs that react. It is pretty chaotic in the first 1-2 classes but you’d be surprised what you can accomplish in a couple of hours in a structured environment. If you search for those make sure you do not go to a trainer that is using devices that cause pain. (e.g. shock, pinch or choke collars.) This will make the issues worse in the long run. You may see what looks like instant results from these devices, but what really is happening is “learned helplessness.” Basically the dog shuts down because it learns no matter what it does it is going to feel the pain from the collar.

Once again this behavior modification will take lots of repetition. But doing it this way will give you a dog that ends up enjoying being in the presence of another dog. The more you do, the quicker it will happen. One last thing is to try to keep her moving when you are doing this. I’ve found that the more movement on her part the less she will lock on to the other dogs. It may be a good idea to purchase a harness like an EasyWalk or a Freedom harness so that the leash hooks in the front of the dog’s chest. This will give you a bit more control when it comes to moving her around if need be.

Thanks for the question. Stay patient and consistent.
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA

Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org)  and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V,  follow him on Facebook by clicking here.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar Of Amanda

    Amanda

    says:

    I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT, whenever I take him for a walks, we have problems. My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

  2. Avatar Of Rc Gilbert

    RC Gilbert

    says:

    I have a 2.5 yr. old Border Collie bitch. She is fear aggressive with all other dogs. She is fine with our other home dogs. It is any new dogs. She growls, puts her tail between her legs but does not submit. She becomes almost apoplectic.
    I have put her in dog care ( a few hours at a time) separated but it did not work. I even had my 14 year old male accompany her for security. None of it worked.
    She is however great with all people; men, women, children,
    babies and strangers.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    RC Gilbert

  3. I need help with my 2year old labrador Joey he is NOT AGGRESSIVE he won’t play with other dogs I did spoil him when he was a puppy? Any suggestions to get him to play

  4. Avatar Of Darlene

    darlene

    says:

    I have a pug and a labx and every time i go to answer a knock at the door they start to bite at each other and bark like crazy what can i do ? I dont like to go to the door anymore .

  5. Avatar Of Brad

    Brad

    says:

    I have an am staff terrier who is 7, and an oeb that is 1 yr and a month. We got the oeb when she was 8 weeks and up until her first heat 3 months ago, the two got along great, played well, were not aggressive, nothing. After the oeb went into heat she became highly aggressive towards the staffie, to the point I have had to break up two violent confrontations and got bit in the process both times. So we now keep them separated. The staffie was a rescue, very friendly, never any issues, and was fixed before we adopted. The OEB is friendly to everyone else, very lovable, but put another dog in the picture and she becomes tense and ready to attack the other dog. She has been fixed now 4 days ago, we have also been working with bark busters for both dogs for the last 3 months since the first attack, but that is once a month. I have also ordered the leather basket muzzles for both in case they should cross paths again and get through the barriers and routine we have established to keep them separate. The oeb is also on anxitane now, and I think I will add that to the staffie’s regimen to as she is simply scared to go in that part of the house to go outside.

  6. Avatar Of Davena Neier

    Davena Neier

    says:

    This is excellent advice that has helped me make great progress with my 7 month old bull terrier’s similar issues.

  7. Avatar Of Heather

    Heather

    says:

    Does this type of training also work if your dog is aggressive only towards puppies? My french bulldog (4 years old) is very sweet and well-behaved, and even loves playing with other dogs, except for puppies (less than 8-9 months old). We live near an off-leash dog park and take him there daily, but I have to remove him when a puppy arrives. I would love to try this type of training with him but don’t want to waste my time if there’s another way to deal with the puppy issue.

  8. Avatar Of Doris

    doris

    says:

    I have trouble with my dog witch is inside I have 2 cats outside he barks at them like he could eat them up this has been going on 2 years I thought he would get use to them by now he will be 3 this April do you have any suggestions

  9. Avatar Of Liz Brown

    Liz brown

    says:

    I have a jack Russell / pug mix, she is. 5 yrs old. She is a sweet dog but she too does not like other dogs. When ever I take her out she barks and grawls at other dogs and I have to pick her up and walk the other way. We took her to puppy class, but she acted up with certain dogs . Especially bigger dogs , I was told it is leash aggression. How can we prevent this? Also she gets jealous of our 8 yr old yellow lab. She is very sweet , both dogs are bad when it comes to people coming to the door we always have to put them upstairs. Any advice will be appreciated!

  10. Avatar Of Jan

    Jan

    says:

    Thanks so much Kevin! Sophie and I will get to work!

  11. Avatar Of Kathy Lagler

    Kathy Lagler

    says:

    I moved to another state 3 yrs. ago and since I moved My 8 yr. old Choc Lab doesn’t get along with other dogs. Before I moved she was fine with other dogs. When my kids visit and bring their dogs she gets along good with them, but she was raised with them. She loves people, and I have a cat she does well with. I don’t get it. I tried to let her sniff a couple of dogs and she ends up snapping at them. Especially small yippy dogs. Help!!

  12. Avatar Of Deb Perkins

    Deb perkins

    says:

    I have a 4 month old labradoodle and two shelties. The labradoodle is very dominate and has the shelties scared of him. I do not know what to do. I put him in his kennel when he acts up. I do not want to keep putting him in his kennel. Other than finding him a good home I am at wits end. He’s a good dog other than being so bad with the other dogs. Help. I really don’t want to find him another home. Help

    Deb perkins

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