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My dog is afraid of other dogs! What should I do?

Golden labrador scared advice

My dog is afraid of other dogs, what can I do?

© Pexels

Your dog might be timid around other dogs, and there could be some perfectly logical reasons why this happens.

By Emilie Heyl

We want to help you understand why your dog may be acting in a shy or fearful way when other dogs are around and then show you what you can do to fix the problem to make your dog more sociable.

What causes your dog to react this way?

Before you can fix the problem, you first have to understand what might be causing it. There are a number of factors that could be at work:

  • Your dog might not be used to having other dogs around. Unfamiliarity with other dogs may simply be what is causing your dog to be afraid of them.
  • Your dog may be wary of unfamiliar animals. Your dog may also simply not want to behave normally if he or she does not know the animal that is nearby or that is trying to interact with your dog. It’s possible that your dog is simply intimidated.
  • Your dog may have experienced past trauma. If you have a rescue dog or some other type of dog that could have come from a bad environment, there is potential for built-in trauma to manifest as shyness or fear around other dogs. PTSD can even affect dogs, according to Pet WebMD.
  • Your dog may be fearful by nature. It’s not uncommon for some dogs, particularly smaller breeds of dogs, to be shy and submissive as part of their regular behaviour. This doesn’t have to be informed by any past trauma.

How you can help your dog cope and get over their fear

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help your dog deal with this kind of behaviour.

Stay calm

When you are in a situation where your dog is reacting badly to another dog, one of the most important things that you can do is to stay calm. This helps to reassure your dog, whereas getting excited and yelling at your dog will only make the situation worse. Your dog will respond to your emotional state, so keeping your cool really helps your dog maintain her composure.

Bichon frise dog looking scared
What to do if your dog is scared of other dogs ©Pexels

Keep your dog at a distance from other dogs

We’ve said it once we’ll say it again: Don’t let your dog get too close to other dogs. If another dog owner wants to introduce their dog to yours, then you need to tell them politely but firmly that they cannot. You need to let your dog have her space so that she knows you are there to take care of her and protect her from what makes her uncomfortable.

Keep your dog on a harness and leash

The dog experts at PawMaw told us that it can help to keep your dog on a harness and leash, as you can keep your dog under better control that way. Some dogs run because they're scared, and you wouldn’t want to lose your dog. PupJunkies state to be sure you have a decent set of gear for your specific dog breed, as you don’t want the harness or collar to be too tight or restrictive.

Desensitize your dog through training

What really helps, though, is if you desensitize your dog to interactions with other dogs. You can help your dog get over his stress by introducing him to a friendly dog in short intervals. Find a friend who has a very calm and friendly dog who can help you with introductions and de-sensitivity training. You’ll want to take things slowly, but this can help a lot in getting your dog to stay calm when around other dogs. It gives your dog a positive context in which to interact with other canines.

You can also work on your dog’s comfort threshold. You may have a good idea as to how close your dog can be to another dog before he becomes irritable or fearful. Try to close that gap little by little and show him other dogs from a safe distance until he gets used to being around them.

Use treats!

You can also use distractions or treats when your dog becomes agitated. You can help your dog get his or her mind off what is bothering them by pulling out a treat or by walking in a different direction. This is a great way to make the fear seem less important and to help normalize your dog’s reactions.

Final thoughts

Most dog behaviours are trainable and changeable. You just need to know which methods to use. If you need further help, be sure to talk to your veterinarian for some suggestions.

Written by Lauretta Williams co-founders of PawMaw.com