How to Train Your Dog to Get Along with Other Dogs
Animal behaviorists explain how to read your pet's body language.
Dogs are very sociable animals, but that doesn't mean that they are going to get along with other dogs. When your pup reacts badly around other dogs, it can be frustrating for both you and your canine companion. Can you teach your dog to get along with others? The short answer is yes, you can. You'll want to have already begun training your pup so that he has learned how to listen to you and so that you can keep control of the situation at all times. For more, we got the scoop from Sydney Bartson Queen and Katy Mahaley, two animal behavior counselors on the ASPCA's behavioral sciences team.
Introduce and familiarize your dog with other dogs.
"It is best to introduce dogs on neutral territory away from the home in a relaxed environment," explains Queen. "Whether your dog is new to you or not, a good way to set up a dog meet and greet is to go for a walk where they can stroll near each other." The dogs should be kept at a safe distance, walking parallel to each other. You should keep the leashes loose and also throw in some rewards every time the dogs exhibit calm behavior around the other dog. "As the dogs become more comfortable, you can progressively walk them closer and closer together," Queen says. "Keep a close eye on both dogs to ensure neither dog appears fearful (low body, mouth closed, ears pinned back, looking or moving away from the other dog) or threatening (stiff body, tail high, stiff or fast tail wag, closed mouth, tense face or eyes)."
You can let the dogs sniff each other at this point, too, but keep the interaction short. They should stay on leashes, as Queen suggests, so that you can separate the animals if it takes an unexpected turn.
Help them get along, even if they get off to the wrong start at first.
Dogs are like people in that they may not like a new friend right away. "It can take weeks or months for dogs to get used to new animals, and it'll be important to give the dogs breaks from each other," explains Mahaley. "Not all animals will become best friends, and that's okay!" You will have to be patient and pay attention to how your dog is responding to the new dog. Look for reasons as to why your dog or the other dog becomes agitated around each other. You might need to call in an expert, like a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a certified trainer (CPDT) for help in finding the cause behind your dog's behavior.
Mahaley suggests watching their body language closely. If your dog is expressing fear, stress, or discomfort, you will want to remove your him from the situation. We may not understand why our dogs act a certain way at first. But you don't want to make the situation worse by ignoring how your dog feels about it.
Watch for problematic behavior to avoid conflict.
Despite your best intentions, forcing the situation is a bad idea. "Avoid putting your dog in a situation they aren't ready for. Evaluate your dog's comfort level in new situations before heading out to a playdate, park, or another area with lots of dogs," Queen says. Ensure that Fido has plenty of mental stimulation and stress relief in his daily life from exercise and playtime.
You'll also want to make sure that your dog takes breaks from playtime. "When dogs are playing, look out for well-mannered play that includes bouncy movements, play bows, and taking turns while wrestling," explains Queen. "Dogs often insert their own breaks in play to keep the intensity level low. You'll see playing dogs do things like pause, turn away, shake off as if they're wet, or walk away." If you notice that your dog isn't taking these little breaks, you can help him by pausing the play for a few minutes. If all else fails, consult a pet behaviorist with your questions. Dogs can definitely get along with each other, though. It's simply a combination of training, environment, and patience.