Dogs are typically very social animals, so many pet owners are taken aback when their dog shows fear or severe aggression toward other dogs. Since many new pet owners have not had the chance to properly socialize their dogs, which we've seen an increase in thanks to COVID, the number of dogs fearful or aggressive to other pets is increasing.
Not only is having a dog who's afraid a nuisance, given that it makes simple tasks such as walking your pet difficult, but it can also lead to severe accidents, especially if your pet showcases their fear through aggressive behaviour or extreme leash reactivity.
Rather than accepting that your pet is "bad with other dogs" or trying to avoid all other pets while outside of your home, it is important that you work with your dog to improve their behaviour. Through specific training tips and techniques and proper socialization, you can help your pet overcome its fear, allowing them to live a happy, healthy, and more fulfilling life.
Why is My Dog Afraid of Other Dogs?
As we've mentioned, dogs are social animals, and they communicate with each other through body language, energy, vocalizations, and pheromones. They use their senses to detect subtle changes in the environment and use that to respond to other dogs' presence.
Unfortunately, many factors explain why a dog may develop a fear of other dogs. Below is a list of some of the most common causes:
- Lack of proper socialization: Dogs not exposed to other dogs during their critical socialization period (between 3 and 14 weeks) may fear unfamiliar dogs later in life. We've begun to see this in many dogs who were adopted during COVID. Pets' anxiety and fear have increased since they were not exposed to other dogs in proper environments, such as on their walks or in controlled settings.
- Traumatic experiences: Dogs who have had negative experiences with other dogs, such as being attacked or bullied, may develop a fear of other dogs. This is because the incident has caused them to believe that other dogs will cause harm to them or their loved ones. A common place where this occurs is dog parks.
- Genetics: Some dogs may be predisposed to fearfulness due to their genetic makeup. As we have mentioned in a few of our training pieces, if your dog has behavioural issues caused by poor genetics, it may result in a great deal of continuous work and training from your end to help them overcome and improve their behaviour.
- Health problems: Dogs in pain or discomfort may become fearful of other dogs, as they may perceive them as a threat to their safety as they will “protect” their injury.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Afraid of Other Dogs
If your dog is afraid of other dogs, you may think their behaviour towards them would be to shy away or retreat to the other direction whenever a dog comes close. That is not always the case. Different dogs will showcase their fear in different ways.
Here is a list of some of the most common symptoms that can help highlight if your dog is afraid of others:
- Aggression: Some dogs may become aggressive towards other dogs to protect themselves from perceived threats. You might see this come through as leash reactivity, or in extreme cases; your dog may try to bite or attack others.
- Avoidance: If your dog has a fear, it may try to avoid other dogs altogether by trying to hide or moving away when they see another dog. This may also come through in leash reactivity as your dog tries to pull away from others.
- Excessive barking: If you notice your dog barking excessively when they see other dogs, it may be a way of them communicating their fear or trying to scare the other dog away.
- Shaking or trembling: Some dogs may shake or tremble when they see other dogs as a way of expressing their anxiety.
- Panting: Lastly, it's common to see many dogs pant excessively when they see other dogs. This is how they regulate their body temperature or try to calm themselves down.
How Dog Training Can Help Dogs Who Have a Fear of Other Dogs
Whether your dog shows signs of fear by being aggressive or by avoiding other dogs, it's important that you work with and train them to improve their behaviour and work through their fear. This will not only provide your dog with a happier and healthier life, but it will also prevent any accidents or mistakes from occurring down the road.
Dog training is an effective way to educate you and help your dog overcome their fear of other dogs. However, it is essential to note that if you are unsure what you are doing or how to work with your dog, it is always best to consult a trained professional. This will help ensure your dog is trained correctly, correcting their behaviour.
Here are some ways in which dog training can help:
- Socialization: It is important that you properly socialize your dog. This does not mean bringing them to a leash-free park or a dog daycare where your pet and other dogs can roam free. Instead, bring your dog into environments where other pets are present, such as a park or a hiking trail. This will allow your dog to get used to and become comfortable around other dogs in different environments.
- Desensitization: Desensitization is a technique used to gradually expose a dog to what they fear (in this case, other dogs) in a controlled and positive way. This can be done by gradually decreasing the distance between the fearful dog and the other dog and rewarding the dog for calm behaviour. While this is an effective technique, it is necessary that you know what you are doing or complete these training techniques with a trained professional. If not, it could cause your pet or the other dog to become aggressive, resulting in an unforeseen accident.
- Counter-conditioning: Counter-conditioning is a technique used to change a dog's emotional response to a particular stimulus (in this case, other dogs) from negative to positive. This can be done by associating the presence of other dogs with positive experiences, such as treats, toys, or playtime.
The iTK9 Way: Helping Your Dog Overcome their Fear of Others
If your pet shows any signs of being afraid of other dogs, it is essential that you work with them to overcome this fear and improve their behavioural issues.
If you're struggling to work with your pet or unsure where to start, our trained professionals can help. They fully commit to working with them through behaviour, obedience training, and continued learning safely and effectively.
We do the hard work for you to attain a happy home and a healthy relationship with your pet.
Included in all of our programs are the following;
- In-Person Learning: Midway progress training video, two go-home lessons.
- Online Learning: Owner education course, instructional training videos, iTK9 member community, e-books & additional training resources.
- Owner Support: Photo updates of your dog training with our team and access to our team for questions & support.
Contact us today for more information on our programs, including Board & Train.