Training Your Dog to Ignore Other Dogs

-Training your dog to ignore other dogs is an important skill for every canine citizen. It’s the foundation of good leash manners. It helps keep your dog safe and makes him a more enjoyable companion on walks, at the park, or even in “doggie daycare.” You can teach it using positive reinforcement, which is not only kind but also incredibly effective. Here are some tips to help you get started with this valuable training skill.

Find high-dis reaction environments for practicing this exercise

-While keeping distractions to a minimum during training is important, don’t avoid realistic distractions altogether. It’s also unwise to train only when there are no other dogs around because that means you’re not really testing whether your dog will ignore another dog when the situation is real. When it comes time to test his behavior, make sure you choose situations with plenty of real-world distractions (other dogs doing normal dog stuff) so that you can be sure your training has prepared him to act appropriately in the real world. Just don’t expect miracles—even when your dog is an expert at ignoring other dogs during training, he’s not likely to ignore another dog if it’s coming right at him (unless you’ve also done plenty of counter-conditioning work).

Counter-condition your dog before practicing this exercise

-Since you’re not looking for anything beyond a simple “sit” or “look,” it’s usually not difficult to get this behavior before practice with other dogs. However, conditioning your dog (with yummy treats) to associate other dogs with something good will increase his interest in performing the behavior even more quickly. This training step is important because it means you’ll be able to get the behavior even when he’s distracted by another dog.

Make sure your dog is hungry before practice sessions

-Most dogs who aren’t too pushy or food-aggressive will work well for treats, even if they tend to guard resources. With, it’s important not to use high value treats in training around other dogs because it can increase tension and arousal which can decrease the likelihood that a dog will perform under distractions. Some dogs may be distracted by other dogs but still willing to work for high value treats even when faced with another dog’s presence (it depends on everyone’s level of interest/excitement about the treat). However, this “high value = increased distraction” dynamic does not hold true for all puppies and adult dogs. To be safe, it’s best to opt for low value treats when training around other dogs if you’re not sure that your dog will remain interested

The nude method:

Go for a walk:

-Go for a walk with your dog while wearing a bathrobe, towel, etc.

-When you encounter another person walking a dog (and they’re not too close), allow your dog to briefly see and smell the other dog before walking away. Repeat this process several times until he’s completely unfazed by the sight or smell of another dog. You can also do this with cat scented scarves and towels if you want to test his reaction during low-distraction practice sessions (just make sure you don’t plan on getting any work done in your home for at least 24 hours!)

Remain calm:

-Don’t make a big deal out of the presence of other dogs when practicing this exercise. In fact, try to remain completely calm and still while he’s focusing on you because otherwise you might make him nervous, and his response may be compromised. If you’re anxious or stressed out about the behavior, your dog will sense that, and it can negatively influence his performance.

No pull:

-If you’re using a leash during practice sessions, ensure that it’s not attached to anything since you don’t want him to get used to dragging his owner over toward another dog.

Practice until the behavior is 100% reliable:

-The reliability of this exercise depends on how well your dog can remain calm and focused in the presence of other dogs. Therefore, we recommend practicing until he has demonstrated an ability to remain calm and focused for at least 20 minutes before proceeding with the next phase (where treats will be used).

Nudge him:

-If your dog looks away from the other dog before you give him permission to look, or if he moves toward (or starts barking at) another dog without permission, simply use a leash correction (no more than one quick pop on the collar should be necessary) and immediately get his attention back with eye contact.

Sharp tugs are better:

-It’s important to get your dog’s attention back when he looks away from you. However, don’t use a tug on its leash unless it necessary (i.e., not giving you enough focus) because constant leash tugs can habituate it to jerky movements and decrease his sensitivity to your body cues.

Praise like mad:

-As soon as he looks at (or focuses on) you for an extended period without other dogs in sight, give lots of praise/treats! And make sure that he knows how great the behavior is by smiling, stroking his fur gently, or getting excited about another activity like playing fetch or going for a walk. This creates a positive association with other

Keep trying:

-Keep trying! Even if your dog is quite “into” you when there’s another dog in sight, this doesn’t mean that he’ll automatically be able to focus on you instead. With time and patience, however, the outcome will likely be worth it because most dogs love learning tricks, especially ones that can also help them with their social skills

Dog play:

-This exercise is best used for adult dogs who are already familiar with each other. It should only be used if they get along well together without showing aggressive or overly possessive behavior. If you have a puppy, use positive association instead of training to introduce new dogs.

Conclusions:

-The outcome of this exercise will be a dog who can remain calm and focused on you instead of reacting to other dogs. This is a very reliable behavior because the sight, sound, and/or smell of another dog should no longer cause an unfavorable reaction.

Lisa Thompson
 

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