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How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Other Dogs (Facts + Infographic)

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David Adams

February 01, 2024

Dog Training

How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Other Dogs (Facts + Infographic) thumbnail

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!

Why should I train my dog to ignore other dogs?

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!

  • Some dogs are reactive to other dogs, especially on a leash. If you come across another dog that doesn’t like yours, it's best if your dog is able to ignore them. 
  • It can be frustrating and dangerous to have your dog become fixated on another dog while on a walk. 

But I want my dog to be social with other dogs!

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.

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When and how to teach your dog it's okay to directly socialize

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:

  • If you come across a friendly dog that you are okay with them socializing with, simply stop walking and don’t give your dog the cue to look at you. (We go more into training this cue in the next sections!)
  • After a few moments, most dogs will realize it is okay to socialize with this particular fellow pup. When it is time to continue the walk, give them the cue to look at you and then continue your walk. 
  • Alternatively, you can designate a different cue like "say hi" or "it's okay" to let your dog know that this is a situation where they can greet. This can be a great option for pups who are good at generalizing or who benefit from extra clarity in your communication.

Never assume another dog wants to meet yours!

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).

Tools needed to train your dog to ignore other dogs

Not much is required for training, but these are a few basic things to have on hand:

  • Leash: We recommend avoiding retractable leashes when starting out this training.
  • Plenty of treats: High-value (according to your dog) treats in a small size so you can feed a lot of them in a single session
  • Time: Practicing on walks is imperative, so you will need time to take several short walks each day
  • Patience and calm behavior: It's normal to become aggravated or impatient while working on ignoring other dogs with your pup! But a calm demeanor goes a long way in keeping your dog calm and having a positive learning environment

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How do you teach your dog to ignore other dogs?

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.

  • According to our proprietary research, the breeds with the highest success rates are:
    • Australian Cattle Dog
    • Labrador Retriever
    • Siberian Husky
  • And the breeds with the lowest success rate are:
    • Australian Shepherd
    • German Shepherd Dog
    • Pitbull / American Staffordshire Terrier

Choose your cue phrase

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:

  • “Leave it”
  • “Look at me.”
  • “Watch me."

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.

Sniffspot Dog running on field

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Begin your training away from other dogs

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. 

Teach your dog to pay attention to you

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. 

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Sniffspot Dog swimming in pool

Add in your cue phrase

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. 

Make sure your dog can walk on a leash politely

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. 

Leash training troubleshooting

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. 

Sniffspot Dog running on field

Get safe exercise for your dog by renting a private dog park near you

Practice in different environments and with distractions

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:

  • Walks where there are lots of dogs. This can be either places you know other people walk their dogs or areas where you know there are lots of dogs in yards that are distracting. 
  • Walks where there are other animals. Practicing in parks or trails with other animal distractions such as rabbits or squirrels is a great idea. 
  • Walks where there are a lot of people. Take your dog on walks in urban areas or spots with lots of people.

Trainer that reviewed this article

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

Get your dog the safe enrichment they need by renting a Sniffspot

Sniffspot Dog swimming in pool

Sniffspot's Proprietary Survey Statistics

Sniffspot Research 2023, n = 4,092

This infographic about training your dog to ignore other dogs has a green and white color scheme. It includes a few graphs showing that 66 percent of people with reactive dogs have tried to teach their dog to ignore other dogs, 51 percent are reactive to other dogs only, and what regions of the United States see the most reactive dogs.

David Adams photo

David Adams

February 01, 2024

Dog Training

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