If you have a dog who loses their mind when they see another dog, it can make walks around the park a pretty difficult task. Even if your dog is friendly, many dogs and their owners don’t appreciate this overly-enthusiastic kind of greeting. They’re not being boring, it’s just basic manners. Therefore, if you want to be well-liked around the neighbourhood it’s important for you to learn how to teach your dog to greet other dogs calmly.

In this article, we’ll talk you through why it’s so important to teach your dog to greet other dogs calmly, what classes to take and what training you can do that will teach your dog to be calm when they see other dogs.

Socialisation and habituation are a large part of teaching your puppy how to behave around other dogs. Learn how to do this with the Zigzag puppy training app and together with our team of professional dog trainers. They give excellent advice on this topic, as well as on the many other puppy training topics 7 days a week via our in-app chat.

dogs running
Photo by Ayelt van Veen on Unsplash

Why is it important that I teach my dog how to greet other dogs calmly?

Having a social dog that can calmly greet other dogs will make your outings much more enjoyable for you both. You probably want to take your dog everywhere with you, and we can only do this if they learn how to act and be relaxed around other dogs.

Are there classes that will teach my dog to interact with other dogs?

Yes! Your puppy can learn all about calmly approaching others by enrolling in puppy socialisation classes. They’ll teach them how to interact calmly with dogs from the beginning. But there are also classes for teenagers and adult dogs who may struggle with reactivity or overexcitement.

Note this though: Many dogs labelled as ‘reactive’ are not aggressive or want to hurt other dogs. They’re just frustrated because they really want to say hello, but it just comes across as rude behaviour! If you feel like this is your dog, working with a dog trainer or behaviourist one-to-one can be a good idea to build a foundation of calmness for attending classes.

dogs sniffing each other
Photo by Jeyakumaran Mayooresan on Unsplash

How to teach your dog to greet other dogs calmly?

Teaching your dog to greet others calmly, will be a step-by-step process. You’ll want to do it by rewarding their good behaviour choices. It will encourage them to make them again and get into the habit of making them naturally without the need for a treat.

1. Find out your dog’s threshold and triggers

Finding out how close your dog can be to other dogs before they turn into a hot mess will help you. Based on this, you can work out a plan for teaching your dog to greet other dogs while staying zen-sationally calm. 

A rough estimate is fine. Are they triggered by simply hearing a dog’s ID tags clinking, or just when they’re up close and personal? Some dogs can spot (or smell) a dog from really far away, so their threshold will be much larger.

You might also find that certain breeds or the sex of a dog will make your dog more excited than others. For example, some dogs may be triggered by females, and others by Border Collies. Make a mental note of this, it’s important information!

2. Create a training plan

Having a plan helps us feel in control when we’re dealing with a problem like this. It takes the guesswork out of what to train next!

3. Start off with some foundation exercises

There’s no sugar-coating this. Your dog will need to learn some basic obedience cues and learn to listen to you for effective training. We recommend you teach them a disengagement cue like ‘leave it’ so they can take their focus away from other dogs if they get a bit too close and so that you can easily redirect your dog away. 

Let’s be honest. Loose lead walking is always a bit of a challenge, but when you have an overly friendly dog, the struggle might be even more real. No worries though. Our loose lead training guide is brilliant and will help you stop your dog from pulling on the lead so your walks actually start feeling like walks in the park

4. Work under threshold

We want our dog to receive a high rate of rewards (aka rewards) for being calm. Positive reinforcement is simply the best way for them to learn what’s good for them (and us), so you can trust treats to be a wonderful asset. Keep in mind that it’s important that they can focus and are far enough away from dogs to stay calm! We can only do that if we work under their threshold.

5. Teach your dog to ‘Look at That’

The Look at That (LAT) game by Leslie McDevitt is an excellent way of lowering your dog’s arousal and excitement. The way it works is simple: you teach your dog to look at another dog from a distance, and then look back at you. That’s it! It’s all about learning to keep cool, calm and collected.

dogs smiling in grass
Photo by Mathew Smith on Unsplash

6. Decrease the distance from other dogs

Once your dog has learnt some basic obedience cues, you can start playing Look at That around dogs. As they learn to look at dogs and then back at you from a distance calmly, you can start to reduce the distance you’re at from other dogs.

7. Keep practising and follow your plan

In the dog world, regular practise is key. Practise as much as possible until your dog starts to be able to be reasonably close to other dogs, and can stay calm while listening to you. Rewarding them with treats for all of the beautiful self-control and calmness your dog is showing will massively help you.

8. Introducing other dogs

If your dog can be calm around other dogs when on the lead, this is your sign to start introducing them to other dogs. You should have a reliable recall so your dog can be called away from other dogs, and leave it when asked by this point. It will be your saviour. Call them away if you notice your dog becoming overly excited and reward their calmness. 

Now that I think about it, imagine if we rewarded calmness in humans too. What a different world it would be.

9. Interrupt and reward if your dog starts acting silly

If you notice your dog getting too excited when they go to say hello to another dog, here’s what you do:  Interrupt their meeting and call them back. Give them a few treats for being calm, and then let them go back and play if it is safe. Simple but effective, isn’t it?

When thinking about how to teach your dog to greet other dogs calmly, distance and positive reinforcement will be your friends. Teach your dog basic obedience cues so that they have plenty of good choices to go to – this will be a lot of help. 

As for some humans, emotional regulation can be hard for many dogs. They’re overly friendly and aren’t sure how else to behave when they see a potential playmate, which can lead to difficult encounters for all parties involved. This is particularly true when they’re becoming more confident as puppies and during adolescence, so it’s our job to teach them what’s going to be best for them in the long run. 

If you are having trouble with this type of training, we recommend that you seek the assistance of a qualified trainer or behaviourist who can guide you through the process. Make sure they advocate for positive reinforcement methods! Our team of professional trainers in the Zigzag app are also wonderful and can give you tips on how to manage an overly social dog best. Soon enough, they’ll not be seen as having rude manners. 

You’ll see. If you put the work in, you’ll teach your dog to greet other dogs calmly in no time. Now that you’re here, why not read our articles on how to calm a puppy down and how to teach your dog to ignore other dogs to learn more? We’ve also got plenty more material on introductions in our articles on how to introduce your puppy to a dog or how to introduce your puppy to a cat. We don’t have anything on how to introduce your dog to a dolphin yet. Working on it. 

For the cherry on top of training, download the Zigzag app and learn from the best. We use the latest methods based on positive reinforcement training, and together with our team of professional dog trainers, we’ll help you every step of the way.