Dogs are inherently sociable animals, but some of our canine friends forget their manners when they come into contact with other dogs. Poor socialization, territorialism and fear are likely causes that can lead your pup to bark, growl or lunge at another dog. These types of reactions make it awkward for you to take your dog out and about and it causes stress for your pet too. You can recondition your dog’s behavior patterns so he doesn’t react to other dogs, using kind and gentle training methods.
Identify the CausesStep 1
Expose Lucky to another dog in a variety of contexts, such as at home, on neutral territory and with and without treats. If possible, use a well-mannered, docile dog who is unlikely to react badly in response to Lucky’s lack of manners. Use a leash to control Lucky’s movement, so he doesn’t charge at the dog.
Identify the CausesStep 2
Make a mental list of the factors at play that cause Lucky to react. For example, if he only reacts when the other dog comes into his home, he is being territorial. If it only happens when the other dog approaches you, Lucky’s reaction is most likely caused by his protective nature. If it only happens when Lucky has a toy or is eating, he’s exhibiting resource guarding behavior.
Identify the CausesStep 3
Identify the signs of an impending bad reaction. Common signs of impending aggression include whining, fixed gaze, a stiff, outward pointing tail and a low, constant growl.
Identify the CausesStep 4
Identify the trigger that causes Lucky to react. For example, Lucky may only react when the other dog gets too close, when the other dog makes eye contact or Lucky may be so grouchy that the mere sight of another dog makes him react.
Leash Lucky and expose him to the scenario that caused his worst reaction. For example, put his food in a bowl and then have the other dog enter the house.
Limit the exposure period to no more than two minutes. Repeat the exposure three times in a session, with five minute time-outs for the dogs.
Ignore Lucky completely if he reacts badly. But if for some reason he manages to remain passive, verbally praise him. The point of desensitization is to get Lucky used to having another dog around, but you should never miss the chance to reward positive behavior.
Put Lucky on his leash and give him lots of verbal praise. By introducing a positive stimulus to start with, you can discourage Lucky from reacting by simply removing the stimulus if he acts out. This is called negative punishment.
Have a friend or family member bring in the other dog. Use what you learned about Lucky’s reactions when you observed him to anticipate when and how he is likely to react.
Walk Lucky away from the other dog using the leash and cease praise as soon as he reacts. Timing is essential. The verbal praise must stop as soon as Lucky switches from passive to reactive. This way, he’ll learn that being passive has a positive outcome, while being reactive sees that praise taken away.
Items You Will Need
- Food treats
- Once you've taught him not to react to other dogs, let him socialize regularly. The only way he'll learn boundaries and manners is if he gets the chance to practice.
- Fox Photos/Valueline/Getty Images