You’ve seen those other dogs at the dog park. They politely walk up to another dog, give a polite sniff, and ask to play. They never bother other dogs, and come quickly when called. Then there’s your dog. You don’t take them to the dog park after “the incident”, but you dream of having a well behaved pooch that knows how to interact with other dogs.
Why won’t my dog leave other dogs alone?
There are two types of dogs who won’t leave other dogs alone. The over-excited dogs who truly just want to play, but are just too excited. Then there are the dogs that are aggressive, attempting to fight any dog that comes near them.
It’s important to remember that dogs are very social creatures. This is why they make such wonderful pets. We become the leader of their pack. However, they also need to socialize with other dogs.
In the wild, relationships with other dogs are crucial for survival. Nearly all wild dogs, including wolves, hunt in groups or packs. Their status within the pack determines who eats first. They defend each other, with one or two dogs standing guard while the others sleep.
They communicate through body language, scent, and vocalizations. They form close bonds with other pack members. They have an innate need for relationships with others. Young pups are taught how to act properly not only by their mother, but other members of the pack.
An overexcited dog is similar to a young child. They have little self control and a single-minded focus. Once they reach an overexcitement level, it’s nearly impossible to reach them.
An overexcited dog will run up to other dogs barking, bouncing, and attempting to play. They are frenzied, which can be off putting to other pooches. Worst of all, you have no control over them, because they are too excited to focus on you.
The biggest concern is not that your dog won’t make doggie friends, although that can be an issue. The bigger worry is that another dog may become aggressive, either misreading your dog’s behavior or out of simple annoyance. Overexcitement can quickly turn to aggression when the other dog is not receptive.
Age has a lot to do with how your dog reacts to other dogs. Young dogs are more likely to be overexcited. They are full of youthful exuberance, and haven’t mastered self-control. They may still be learning basic commands as well, making things more complicated.
A young dog can also be aggressive, jumping at every dog they see. This is because they are trying to establish their place in the pack hierarchy. They are full of testosterone and bravado, and eager to secure their social standing, much like human males entering adulthood.
Old age can bring its own issues with other dogs. An older dog is accustomed to a certain spot in the dog hierarchy. As they reach old age, they become physically weaker. This can diminish their standing with other canines, causing them anxiety and frustration. This frustration can lead to aggression, as they try to prove themselves the same way a young dog would.
They may also simply be grumpy. They may want to be left alone, and preemptively go after other dogs to warn them away. This is the canine equivalent of the older neighbor shouting “get off my lawn”.
The most common reason for dog aggression is fear. When a dog feels threatened, it triggers their fight or flight response. In most cases, a dog will attempt to fight rather than flee.
Another reason for dog aggression is dominance, but this isn’t as common as you may think. The only time dominance based aggression is really necessary is when two dogs are similar in status. Two alpha dogs, for example, may fight for status. An alpha and a beta dog, however, have no need to fight. They both know their status.
Lack of Socialization
Lack of socialization can seem like an ongoing cycle. A dog who hasn’t been properly socialized is more likely to become over excited.
It often plays a role in aggression as well. If a dog is not used to being around other dogs, they are more likely to be fearful. Fearful dogs are more likely to be aggressive.
In both these situations, socializing your pooch can seem impossible. It’s very difficult for them to interact with others if they can’t leave other dogs alone.
Why does my dog not like certain dogs?
Your dog is very well behaved. They interact well with other dogs. Then, one day, they show a very strong dislike for another dog. You may be surprised, expecting them to get along with the other pooch. Why do dogs like some dogs, but dislike others?
One reason your dog won’t like certain dogs is their energy level. If your dog is not very active or playful, a dog who is can quickly become too much. They will take an immediate dislike to the dog, essentially finding their high energy annoying.
At the same time, a high energy dog may dislike dogs who aren’t. They may not appreciate their attempts at play not being accepted.
If your pooch had an altercation with a dog, it may dislike dogs who are similar. Dogs have a strong associative memory. This is why treats and praise are useful in training. Your dog quickly learns that when they follow your command, a reward follows. They associate the command with the reward.
This is also true for negative experiences. A dog who got shots at the vet may be fearful the next time they enter the office, for example. They may not remember what happened, but they will remember it being good or bad.
When it comes to other dogs, a similar scent, body type, or personality can be enough to trigger an association. If it’s similar to a beloved friend, your dog will take an instant liking to the stranger. If it’s similar to that of a dog they dislike, they will view the other dog negatively.
Your dog may have a dislike of a certain type or breed of dog. Each pooch is an individual, but members of the same breed tend to have the same basic characteristics, with the occasional exception.
For example, terriers tend to be high energy, which not all dogs will appreciate. A bulldog’s snort can sound like a growl to dogs unfamiliar with the breed. Retrievers and Greyhounds love a good run, and often include that in their play sessions. A dog that prefers tug of war won’t make a great playmate for these breeds.
Some large dogs seem utterly confused by small dogs, and arent’ sure what to do with them. And some small dogs are intimidated by large dogs.
There is some evidence that dogs typically prefer dogs of their same breed as well. These dogs are likely easier to communicate with and likely to have a similar play style.
There are some people you like. There are other people you dislike. Then, there are those people that you are indifferent to. You don’t particularly care for them, but you don’t dislike them either. Dogs can also feel this way. If your dog ignores another dog, they may simply be indifferent towards them.
Do dogs lose interest in other dogs as they get older?
Some dogs do lose interest in other dogs as they get older. Between 12 and 36 months, the dog begins to mature. The way they behave will change in many ways, including how they interact with other dogs.
Some dogs maintain a strong interest in other dogs, while others become less social. It’s also possible for the hierarchy to change during this period. At this age, the dog wants to be treated as an adult. They are no longer a puppy, and they may demand more respect.
Most dogs do maintain some interest in other dogs, but the intense excitement they have as a puppy often declines as they get older.
As they enter their senior years, they may change again. Even if they maintain their puppy play style as an adult, they may settle and become less active as a senior. This can cause them to be less interested in other canines.
How do I stop my dog from being obsessed with other dogs?
It can seem impossible to get your dog to act reasonably around other dogs, but it can be done. It simply takes training, patience, and the right teacher.
A leash can help you physically control your dog, but it won’t teach them to control themselves. It can also create more frustration and frenzy because it’s restrictive.
Instead of a leash, use a drag line when you want to introduce your dog to other dogs. If you are walking them on a leash, ignore other dogs instead of attempting to greet them.
If your dog becomes frenzied at the sight of other dogs, try holding a treat in your hand to lead them past other dogs. Once they get past the other dog, give them a treat.
Keep Some Distance
Dogs have a threshold zone. Once an object of attention crosses this threshold, they are completely focused on it, and often unable to control their behavior. Learn your dog’s threshold. How close to other dogs can you get before they lose their mind?
Now stay just beyond that point and work on training or just interacting with your dog. Keep their attention on you. Play with them and pet them. Over time, begin to move closer to other dogs. Their threshold should get closer, allowing them to pay attention to you near other dogs.
Find a Good Teacher (And Avoid the Bad Ones)
The dog park may seem like a way to just toss your dog in and see if they swim. However, it’s usually full of bad influences. If you want your dog to learn social etiquette, they will have to learn it from a dog who has it. The teacher dog must also be firm and patient enough to teach them.
Perhaps a friend or family member has a dog who can be a teacher dog. If not, contact a dog behavioralist. They should be able to make the needed introductions and guide the teaching sessions.
Just bringing your dog to the dog park or any other uncontrolled social setting will likely only reinforce their already bad behavior.
Keep It Moving
Dogs who are overexcited are usually high energy. Giving them plenty of exercise before they interact with other dogs can help. Go for a walk or a jog before a doggie play session, so they can get rid of some excess energy.
When you encounter other dogs while you are out, keep it moving then as well. If your dog keeps moving in the same direction without stopping, they are less likely to be side tracked by another dog.
Socializing an Aggressive Dog
If you are afraid your dog will hurt other dogs, do not attempt to train them without professional help. However, if they seem to be fear aggressive or just overly assertive, you can attempt to socialize them.
Again, the dog park is a bad idea. You don’t have enough control over the situation. Instead, arrange for some one-on-one play dates. Just like with an overexcited dog, you’ll want a teacher who is firm, calm, and patient.
Start slowly and keep the dog on a leash until you are sure they won’t fight each other. Once they are calmly interacting, watch for any signs of aggression. If they begin to growl, lay their ears back, or bark aggressively, it’s time to end the play session. Ideally, the session ends at the first sign that one of the dogs is no longer enjoying it, so it ends in a positive way.