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How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Other Dogs: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Picture this: you’re enjoying a leisurely walk with your furry friend, when suddenly, another dog appears on the scene. Your dog starts pulling on the leash, barking, or displaying other unwanted behaviours. Sound familiar? Don’t worry – you’re not alone! Many dog owners struggle with teaching their dogs how to ignore other dogs, but with a little patience and dedication, it’s entirely possible. In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of how to train your dog to ignore other dogs using positive reinforcement, ensuring a more enjoyable and peaceful walk for both you and your pup.

    Step 1: Understanding Your Dog’s Natural Behaviors

    First things first, it’s essential to understand your dog’s natural behaviors. Remember, your dog isn’t being “bad” or “disobedient” when they react to other dogs – it’s just their natural instinct. By understanding your dog’s natural behaviors, you can more effectively work with them to achieve the desired outcome.

    Aggressive Behaviors vs. Calm Behavior

    When it comes to reacting to other dogs, there are two primary types of behaviour: aggressive and calm. Aggressive behaviours include growling, barking, and lunging, while calm behaviour involves little to no reaction. Your goal is to replace your dog’s aggressive behaviours with calm associations when they come across other dogs.

    calm dog on walk

    Step 2: Building a Strong Foundation

    Establish Eye Contact

    One of the most crucial aspects of training your dog to ignore other dogs is teaching them to maintain eye contact with you. When your dog is focused on you, they’re less likely to be distracted by other dogs. To build this foundation, start by practicing at home with minimal distractions.

    1. Get your dog’s attention by calling their name or using a cue word, like “watch” or “look.”
    2. When your dog makes eye contact with you, praise them and offer a treat.
    3. Gradually increase the duration of eye contact, rewarding your dog each time they maintain focus on you.

    Develop a Solid “Leave It” Command

    The “leave it” command is invaluable when it comes to teaching your dog to ignore other dogs. This command tells your dog to disengage from whatever they’re focused on and pay attention to you instead.

    1. Place a treat on the floor and cover it with your hand.
    2. As your dog tries to get the treat, say “leave it.”
    3. When your dog stops trying to get the treat and looks at you, praise them and offer a different treat as a reward.
    4. Repeat this exercise, gradually increasing the difficulty by using higher-value treats or leaving the treat uncovered.
    Dogs socialising on a walk

    Step 3: Introducing Controlled Encounters

    Once your dog has a solid foundation with eye contact and the “leave it” command, it’s time to introduce controlled encounters with other dogs. Keep in mind that this process may take time and patience – don’t rush it.

    Start at a Distance

    1. Find a quiet area where you can see other dogs from a distance, such as a park or a quiet street.
    2. When your dog notices another dog, use the “watch” or “look” cue to establish eye contact. Reward your dog for maintaining eye contact and exhibiting calm behavior.
    3. Gradually decrease the distance between your dog and the other dog, rewarding your dog each time they maintain eye contact and remain calm.

    Use a Double-Ended Leash and Leash Combination

    As you begin introducing controlled encounters, consider using a double-ended leash and leash combination. This setup allows you to have more control over your dog and helps you maintain their focus on you. A double-ended leash attaches to both your dog’s collar and a harness, giving you two points of contact for better control. A leash combination can include a standard leash paired with a head collar or front-clip harness for additional support.

    1. Attach one end of the double-ended leash to your dog’s collar and the other to a harness.
    2. Hold the leash firmly but avoid keeping it on a tight leash, as this can create tension and stress for your dog.
    3. Practice walking with your dog, rewarding them for maintaining eye contact and remaining calm.

    Step 4: Dealing with Unwanted Behaviors

    Despite your best efforts, your dog might still display unwanted behaviors when encountering other dogs. It’s crucial to address these behaviors immediately to prevent them from becoming ingrained habits.

    Redirect and Reward

    When your dog begins to show signs of unwanted behavior, such as barking or lunging:

    1. Use the “leave it” command to redirect their attention to you.
    2. Once your dog’s focus is on you, ask them to perform a simple command, like “sit” or “down.”
    3. Reward your dog for obeying the command and refocusing their attention on you.
    Rewarding good dog

    Create Positive Associations

    To further reinforce calm behavior around other dogs, create positive associations with these encounters:

    1. Keep high-value treats on hand to reward your dog for remaining calm in the presence of other dogs.
    2. Practice obedience training, like “sit” and “stay,” in the presence of other dogs to build a positive association between being calm and receiving rewards.

    Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice

    Training your dog to ignore other dogs isn’t a one-time event – it takes consistent practice and repetition. Continue working with your dog, gradually increasing the difficulty of encounters with other dogs. Remember to always reward calm behavior and redirect unwanted behaviors. Over time, your dog will learn to associate remaining calm and focused on you with positive experiences, making your walks more enjoyable for both of you.

    In Conclusion

    Learning how to train your dog to ignore other dogs can be a challenging but rewarding process. By understanding your dog’s natural behaviors, building a strong foundation with eye contact and the “leave it” command, and consistently practicing controlled encounters, you’ll be well on your way to helping your dog replace aggressive behaviors with calm behavior. So, grab your leash, some high-value treats, and your furry friend – it’s time to hit the pavement and start training!

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    Emma Wally is the founder of, a website for dog owners in the UK and the rest of the world. Emma has a lifelong love of dogs and has devoted years to learning and training dogs of various kinds and ages.

    Emma’s Experience
    Emma’s love for dogs and animals started as a child with looking after many different pets from fish, to dogs and even sheep. This love for animals led her into the world of dog training; with a real passion in positive reinforcement techniques.

    Dog training specialist
    Emma has completed multiple certifications in dog training, focussing on positive reinforcement techniques.

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    Emma is also the founder of 'Stony Stratford Puppy and Dog Group'. This growing community of dog enthusiasts provides weekly socialistion for new puppies and dogs wanting to integrate into socialisation, as well as giving specialist training advice for dog owners wanting to address problems... Or just wanting to give their pup the best life they can!

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    Kobe is Emma's current fluffy best friend. Being a Tibetan Terrier she can be stubborn at times but has the biggest personality for such a small dog.

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    Emma Wally is more than just a dog trainer; she is a mentor, a guide, and a friend to all dog owners seeking to build a better relationship with their furry companions. Her commitment to enhancing the lives of dogs and their owners is evident in every piece of advice she shares, making her a trusted and respected figure in the dog training community. Trust Emma, and you trust a true dog geek.

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