Having a dog who’s a social butterfly can be challenging. After all, no one enjoys going for a walk, and their dog is interested in everything but them, do they? Training your dog to ignore other dogs is a skill worth developing and essential for happy days ahead. 

Ignoring other dogs is a skill that needs to be taught using positive reinforcement training. Your dog needs to see you as someone worth listening to and paying attention to, which we can achieve through training. It’s not as difficult as you might think; we just need to start training!

Zigzag will help you teach your puppy to be friendly with other dogs and ignore dogs when you need them to. Download the Zigzag app today and start your puppy training journey. We’ve personalised it to your pup’s stage of development so you learn the right things to teach your dog at the right time. We also have a team of professional dog trainers on hand to help you with your puppy questions 101. They’re available 7 days a week when you need them the most.

golden retriever on walk
Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

Why do I need to teach my dog to ignore other dogs?

Teaching your dog to ignore other dogs when you’re out and about will make walks easier. Other dogs are a huge distraction! Dogs are naturally curious about their surroundings, and when your dog sees another dog, they will probably want to drag you over to say hi. This can cause lead walking problems, and back problems for you too!  

A dog who pulls on the lead can cause injury to their owners. If you have an extremely social dog they can get very frustrated at not being able to say hello to every dog they see. This type of frustration can lead to reactivity, and even aggression as your dog gets so cross they can’t get to the other dog, they seem to lose their mind and struggle to calm down

A dog who can’t ignore other dogs can also be a safety risk when they run off to go and see the dog. Dogs who are particularly obsessed with other dogs have been known to run across roads, and we really don’t want that! Your dog should have at least a basic level of obedience, including ignoring other dogs!

Teach your dog to ignore other dogs: In 8 Easy Steps

It will take some preparation and training to teach your dog to ignore dogs while on a walk. We’ll teach them via positive reinforcement training that focusing on you and ignoring other dogs is the best thing ever!

1. Choose great rewards

Other dogs are what we call in the dog training world competing motivators. So when you’re asking your dog to ignore other dogs, you’ll need something more valuable to them i.e a better motivator than playing with other dogs.

We’ll use rewards and treats to teach your dog to ignore other dogs, cooked sausages and low-salt meats work well! 

Dogs are food motivated, if they weren’t motivated to eat well, they’d starve, right? But when you want to teach your dog to ignore other dogs, you need to pay high wages, as we’re asking a lot of them! If they’re not into food when other dogs are around, then their stress levels are probably too high and they need more distance away from other dogs to be able to focus.

2. Teach your dog to focus on you and ignore other dogs using the watch me cue

The watch me cue is an exercise where your dog gives you eye contact in order to get a reward. It can be used in many situations, including teaching your dog to ignore other dogs and focus on you instead. 

Teach your dog this cue indoors at first so they understand it, before taking it out on the road and around distractions like other dogs.

dog walking on forest path
Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

3. Teach your dog some lead walking skills

Teaching a dog to ignore other dogs and walk past them on a loose lead is definitely something worth working on.

When a dog sees another dog, they typically want to go over to say hi, which can cause pulling on the lead and give us a sore shoulder from all that dragging. 

Practise first in areas where there are no other dogs, such as your home and garden, and then try it up and down your street so they get the hang of it before you increase the level of distraction.

4. Teach proximity games

Teaching your dog that being with you and next to you is the best thing ever, will help them learn that you’re worth paying attention to. You can teach them tricks, recalls and other training games to help them learn to stay close.

5. Play with your dog

Play is one of the best ways to bond with your dog and teach them to focus on you while ignoring other dogs. If we take our dogs to the park and then ignore them while scrolling on our phones, they will most likely seek fun with their friends.

Playing fetch, tug, natural agility, or simply being silly and playing chase will quickly have your dog glued to your side and ignoring other dogs, in no time.

6. Teach them to leave it

The leave it cue is a good basic obedience cue to teach a dog. It teaches them to leave that thing – the thing being food, a person or another dog and look at you instead.

7. Teach them the look at that game

If you have a dog who gets excited when they see other dogs and finds it difficult to calm down, playing the Look at That game allows them to look at the thing and then look back at you for a reward. We can train them to be calm around other dogs while focusing on us by doing so. It also helps to lower their arousal, so that long term, they won’t get so excited when they see dogs.

8. Train your dog at a distance they can cope with

When we first start teaching our dog to ignore other dogs, it’s important we do it well away from other dogs. Training at a distance lets your dog get lots of wins as they can focus on you and train rather than be distracted by other dogs.

two dogs playing outside
Photo by Mia Anderson on Unsplash

How do I teach my dog to socialise with other dogs?

We socialise our puppies with other dogs by attending puppy socialisation classes or by meeting other dogs, so that they will not be afraid of them when they are older. We want our adult dogs to be social. It’s important that they get to be dogs, isn’t it? But we do need to maintain some control so that they don’t run up to every dog they see! 

There’s a time and a place for everything, and if you want your dog to ignore other dogs, you must be able to teach them when it is and when it is not ok, to ‘go say hi’.

When allowing your dog to socialise with other dogs, teach them a release cue such as ‘go play.’ Ask them to sit first, then take off the lead and say ‘go play’ to let them know they can go play with their friends.

If they’re already off the lead, then recalling them to come back to you and giving them the release cue as a reward will work well for this too.

One key thing to remember is not to let your dog run up to other dogs if they’re on the lead. They might not like other dogs coming up to them, they could be injured or not feeling well, and they may react aggressively.

Many dogs are dog selective about who they want to play with, so while you think your dog might want to play with lots of different dogs and be sociable, they could be the kind of dog who likes the dog friends they already have and don’t want any new friends. Don’t force them to be sociable if they’d rather not play with a new gang of dogs. It can be quite overwhelming for them.

We hope that’s helped you figure out how to train your dog to ignore other dogs. Start by teaching them that you’re worth focussing on and giving attention to, but also provide them with the opportunity to interact with their doggy friends and just be a dog too. It’s important!

If you enjoyed reading this, why not read some of our other content like what to expect in your puppy’s first week, or how about learning about doggy bootcamps?
Download the Zigzag app today and learn from the best. We only use positive reinforcement training in our programmes, and we have a team of professional dog trainers on hand to help you every step of the way.