How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Other Dogs

By Britt Kascjak

Does your dog go crazy every time that he sees another dog while you’re on a walk? A reactive dog can make an otherwise fun walk a complete nightmare!

If you have ever wondered how to train your dog to ignore other dogs, you’re not alone.

Teaching your dog proper leash manners doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 5 ways you can address the problem and start enjoying your walks again.

5 Ways to Train Your Dog to Ignore Other Dogs

Method 1: Clicker Training

You Will Need:

  • A Dog Training Clicker
  • High-Value Dog Treats
  • Leash for Walking

Step One: To start, you need to condition your dog to the clicker. Click it and give your dog a treat. Repeat this, creating the connection that the click sound means a treat is coming.

Step Two: Now, you need to connect the click reward with the desired behavior. Say your dog’s name. When he looks at you, click and treat.

Instead of your dog’s name, you could also choose a one-word quick command. For example, you could say “Watch” or “Look” then click and treat.

Continue practising this at home until you are confident that your dog will respond.

Step Three: It’s time to move your training outdoors. This can start in your driveway to introduce new sounds and smells as distractions.

As your dog shows that he has the training down, start to extend the space. Try walking down the road and back, or through a quiet park.

Avoid busy areas and keep your distance from other dogs at this point.

Step Four: Slowly increase the number of distractions during your dog’s training. This could involve walking through a park with dogs at a distance or a busier street.

If you notice that your dog is struggling to stay focused, you may need to slow down or move back to a previous step.

Step Five: Try walking your dog past a bigger distraction. If you have a dog park nearby, pass the park at a distance.

This will allow you to test your dog’s ability to stay focused. But, by staying distant, it also avoids creating an unsafe situation if your dog does react.

Over time, pass closer and closer to the distractions. Each time your dog listens to the command, click and treat.

Step Six: Start phasing the treats out by offering a treat every other click. Continue to give your dog verbal praise with each click.

In time, you may even notice your dog anticipating your command anytime a dog is near.

Method 2: The ‘Look’ Command without A Clicker

You Will Need:

  • High-Value Dog Treats
  • Leash for Walking

Step One: To begin, hold a dog treat up in front of your face. When your dog looks to the treat, say “look” and reward. Repeat this process, enforcing the fact that the command means you want your dog to look at your face.

Step Two: Say the “look” command without lifting the treat, and reward your dog when they look. This eliminates the visual of the treat from the equation.

Start doing this sitting close together in a quiet room with no distractions. As your dog shows that he is comfortable with the command, move apart a little bit.

Step Three: Start to add distractions. Try the command with your dog’s favorite toys or food nearby. If your dog ignores these temptations and looks at you, reward him.

Step Four: Take your training outdoors with new sounds and smells. Try moving your training session to a park where others may be in the vicinity.

Be slow in adding distractions, but keep pushing your dog’s comfort level. Try busier spaces or bigger distractions.

Step Five: Move your training to a high distraction area like the close vicinity of a dog park.

Keep your distance and keep your dog on a leash, but push his comfort line. The more distractions you introduce the better you will do in a real-life setting.

Step Six: Start phasing out the treat. Offer a treat every other time. Then, every third time. Keep praising your dog each time to communicate that you are happy with his actions.

Method 3: The Nudge Approach

You Will Need:

  • High-Value Dog Treats
  • Leash for Walking

Step One: Take your dog for a short walk in a calm neighborhood or park. Make sure that you are calm, as your dog will pick up on your heightened energy.

Step Two: Keep your eyes open to spot any dogs before they are too close.

Step Three: Rather than waiting for the dog to get close and trigger your dog to react, distract him.

Gently nudge your dog in the side so that he turns to look at you, looking away from the dog. If he gives you his attention and remains calm, reward him.

Step Four: If your dog reacts to the dog as it gets closer, nudge him again or call his name to get his attention. Once again, reward him if he gives you his attention.

Step Five: Repeat this process each time that you go for a walk until your dog looks to you as soon as he spots a dog.

In time, you can start to phase out the treats. But, never fail to praise your dog for behaving. Your approval will go a long way in creating a solid habit.

Method 4: The “Heel” Command

You Will Need:

  • High-Value Dog Treats
  • Leash for Walking

Step One: As with the other methods, you will start this training at home. The heel command will teach your dog to walk beside you, with his attention on you.

To start, point to the side you want your dog to walk on and call his name. The most common side for heel training is the left. As soon as your dog comes to your side, praise and reward him.

Step Two: Start moving forward with your dog by your side. Reward him every few steps, encouraging him to stay at your side as you walk.

Step Three: Start to introduce changes in your walk. This could include increasing your pace or changing directions.

Each time that your dog follows your commands, add another change. As you see his confidence grow, make it more challenging.

If you want to add an extra level of difficulty, introduce the “Look” or “Watch” command.

Step Four: Take your training outside. Try walking down your street or visiting a local park.

Keep a distance from other dogs in the beginning. Over time, you can move closer while continuing to praise your dog for remaining by your side.

Any time that your dog starts to look at another dog, give the “Heel” command or the “Look or “Watch” commands. When your dog looks away from the distraction and focuses on your, reward him.

Step Five: Continue walking your dog in busier areas, but start to phase out the treats. Praise him every time, but give a food treat every other time.

Not only will this help to prevent your dog from reacting to other dogs, but it will also improve his loose leash manners.

Method 5: A Little Help from Your Friends

You Will Need:

  • High-Value Dog Treats
  • Leash for Walking
  • Close Friends with Calm Dogs

Step One: Unlike the other methods on this list, this one doesn’t involve walking or moving at first. Instead, you are going to work on desensitizing your dog while seated.

To begin, follow the directions above for teaching the “Look” or “Watch” command. You can train with or without the clicker trainer.

Step Two: When your dog is confident in the command, it’s time to call your friends.

Have a group of friends with calm dogs meet you in a large, neutral space like a park. Line your friends up with their dogs on leashes approximately 15-20 feet apart.

Step Three: Have your dog sit and direct his attention to you. Have your friends walk past with their dogs one at a time. As they walk past your dog, give the command for your dog to focus on you.

If your dog does react to the dog, give a firm “No”. Have him sit before giving him the “Look” command and giving him a reward.

Continue this process several times each week until your dog is able to stay focused on you, ignoring the dogs.

Step Four: After your dog has mastered this process while sitting, it’s time for the next step. Rather than sitting, have your dog stand as your friends pass with their dogs.

If your dog reacts, correct him like you did while sitting. Give the “Look” or “Watch” command and reward him if he turns his focus to you.

Step Five: When your dog is confident with the training process while standing, it’s time to go for a walk. Try walking through a local park or past a dog park at a distance.

Continue the process of correcting, giving the “Look” command, and rewarding your dog. The more that you do this, the more confident he will become.

What Not to Do

Don’t Avoid Other Dogs

It can be tempting to go out of your way to avoid other dogs completely.

While this may seem like a good idea, every time you change paths to avoid a dog, you create a sense of urgency and panic. Your dog will pick up on this.

Knowing that you are feeling panicked, your dog may now feel the need to protect you. They connect other dogs with danger.

Don’t Yell or Become Agitated

There is no arguing the fact it’s frustrating when your dog reacts to another dog.

But, when you yell or become worked up, you are adding energy to the situation. This only charges your dog up, encouraging them to react more.

Keep all commands calm and firm.

Don’t Rush the Training Process

One mistake that is often made during training is trying to move too fast. We all want results!

Moving too fast means setting your dog up for failure.

Your best chance for success will come from taking your time and being patient. Make sure that you master each step before moving to the next.

Don’t Take Your Dog Off-Leash

There is nothing wrong with training a dog to walk or hike off-leash, but that’s not your focus at this point. Instead, you need to make sure that you have control.

As you work through the training stages, keeping your dog on a leash will prevent problems.

You can introduce off-leash recall later. That is another training focus, with its own process.

Don’t Pull Back on the Leash

If your dog tries to run at another dog, your first instinct may be to pull back on the leash. But, this sudden tension on the leash only encourages them to pull more.

Instead, rely on the nudge approach, calling your dog’s name, or giving a command to take back control.


The Method I’ve Chosen Isn’t Working

If you have chosen one of the above methods and feel like it’s not working for you, don’t be afraid to make a change. Different methods work for different dogs.

For example, if your dog is so fixated that he ignores your verbal command, try something that can “snap him out of it”. The nudge approach is a great way to grab the attention of a dog with tunnel vision.

Dogs that are highly food-motivated may pay attention better if the focus is on a high-value treat.

There is a bit of trial and error involved in the early stages of training. Finding a method that doesn’t work isn’t a failure. It’s a step forward to finding the method that does work for you and your dog.

My Dog Isn’t Interested in Treats

It may sound crazy, but there are some dogs that aren’t motivated by food. This doesn’t mean that your dog can’t be trained!

You will need to find something that motivates your dog, a reward to get excited over. This could be a favorite toy, a game of tug, or something as simple as your praise.

The best way to find your dog’s motivation is through trial and error. Pay attention to what they enjoy most and bring it into your training sessions.

I Can’t Keep My Dog’s Attention Outside

There is a good chance that your dog isn’t paying attention because he has too much excess energy. This is even more difficult for him outside with distractions.

This is especially common in younger puppies or breeds known for high energy levels.

Before starting your training session, take some time to exercise your dog. This could involve a game of fetch, tug-of-war, or a long walk somewhere with no dogs to trigger a reaction.

The more tired your dog is when starting the training process, the better it will go!

I Don’t Know Other Dog Owners That Can Bring Their Dogs

Are you interested in trying the “A Little Help From Your Friends” method but don’t have dog owner friends to help? There are other options.

Try contacting a local dog trainer to explain what you are looking for. There may be a small cost associated with it, but a dog trainer can help you through the process in many ways!

Not only do they have connections, other clients, that could help. They can also offer guidance and help with any struggles that you face along the way.

Walk Your Dog Stress-Free by Training Your Dog to Ignore Other Dogs Today!

Teaching your dog good leash manners doesn’t have to be difficult. It will take time, patience, and effort on your part.

A little extra effort now will set your dog up for long-term success.

Any of the methods shared above can help train your dog to ignore other dogs. This will make your next walk an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Photo of author
Britt Kascjak
Britt Kascjak has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering, and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. Her ‘pack’ includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx.