There are three main reasons why your dog is scared of other dogs, thankfully there is also treatment available to help your dog learn how to cope with other dogs and therefore lead a happier life.
Signs That Your Dog Is Scared
- Growls at other dogs when he meets them to try and intimidate them.
- Cowers when he sees other dogs and tries to run away.
- Your dog’s ears go down and stay down when he encounters other dogs.
- Your dogs tail drops between his legs when he meets other dogs.
Reasons Your Dog Is Scared Of Other Dogs
There are three main reasons why dogs are scared of other dogs. You may know what has caused this fear in your dog, but if you have adopted a rescue dog and have little information about his previous life, you may have no real idea why your dog is scared.
- Lack of socialisation – Your dog simply isn’t used to spending time with or seeing other dogs, this could have been the case since he was a puppy, or may have happened in later life.
- Traumatic experience – Your dog has had a bad experience at the paws of another dog and associates all dogs with that experiences.
- Fear reinforced by owner – Your dog is afraid of dogs and your reactions to his fear reactions are convincing him that other dogs are something to be scared of. You may be getting stressed, or making a fuss of your dog or about the situation and you’re telling him that his reactions are reasonable, so he keeps reacting that way.
Clearly, if your dog is going to get upset or react inappropriately every time he sees another dog this is going to cause stress and problems for both you and him, it may mean you’re not able to go to parks where there are lots of dogs, or on social occasions, or have people with dogs to your house. Thankfully, there are ways to help your dog get over his fear.
Although there are treatments strategies available to help your dog cope with other dogs and even learn to enjoy being with other dogs, you need to be aware that they will take time to work and that you will need to change your behaviour too to enable your dog to change his mindset.
You will need to really know your dog and respect his learning time. If you feel that you can’t do what needs to be done, then seek support from a dog behaviourist. At the end of the day, dogs are social animals and so they need, and will hugely benefit from engagement and interaction with other dogs.
Don’t force your dog, or knowingly take him into stressful situations. And no matter how hard you find it, be calm and act naturally when you come across other dogs, don’t even try and calm or comfort your dog because you will be continuing to reinforce the idea that he should be scared whenever he sees another dog.
- Counter-conditioning – Play with your dog whilst other dogs are in the area. This will enable your dog to relax and associate other dogs being around with fun with you rather than scary other dogs.
- Desensitisation – This requires gradual exposure to other dogs, keep them at a distance to start with and aim for calm dogs, moving closer to them and gradually associating with more excitable/ active dogs as your dog becomes more confident.
- Habituation – Teach your dog not to be stressed by taking it for walks and play times in areas where you know there are going to be other dogs. This will help your dog to realise that other dogs do not normally pose a threat.
With all these strategies you may need to start with very short sessions, gradually prolonging the time you spend in doggy areas. Keep a close eye on your dog to make sure that he’s not becoming overly and unnecessarily stressed by the experience.
Hopefully with time, and support from you, your pet will be able to cope happily with the meeting, socialising and playing with other dogs and you will both be able to enjoy a more varied lifestyle without worrying about what to do if you meet another dog.
You may also like our article on Calming Dog Treats.