What Can I do If My Dog Does Not Like Other Dogs?

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Question submitted by Bonnie F.
I have a 2-year-old lab/pit mix that was a rescue. She has had two instances where she has gone after other dogs and caused injury. When I walk her, I have to do it late at night when there is the least chance of other dogs being out. She barks, jumps and pulls like crazy whenever she sees another dog. She is very strong and I have two leashes and two collars on her at all times when walking, along with the gentle leader. She will still do her best to go after another dog when she sees one. As she is jumping up trying to get away, I have to grab her and hold her close and try to keep her calm, which really doesn’t work much, but at least she isn’t getting away. She absolutely loves people and kids. I have no issues with her about that. I have tried the Thundershirt too, to no avail. Is this just something about her that I must deal with? I don’t want to give her up to a shelter. I adopted her and consider her a ”special needs” dog, so I have to use extra precaution so we don’t have any more injuries to other dogs. But I can’t get her out to walk as much as I’d like due to her reaction to other dogs. Any pointers outside of doggy obedience or training? I just can’t afford that.
Terry’s answer
Bonnie,
You don’t really say if this is a new behavior for your dog, but pits especially will begin to show more dog reaction at maturity if they are predisposed to it (genetics) – even if they have not shown it before. You are right to consider her a “special needs” dog at this point.  She may not ever be able to be around other dogs comfortably, but there are some things that you can do to help manage her behavior.  Start in your home where you are both comfortable. Work on exercises that encourage her to focus on you. Tell her to “watch me.” Use a treat if you need to. Show her the treat and pull treat up to your eye. Reward when her focus goes to you. Repeat this a lot. Then have her retain focus for longer periods of time before she gets rewarded. After you both have mastered that, take it to the back yard, then on leash in front yard. You are increasing the distractions that she has to stop focusing on so she can look at you. Hopefully, when you run into another dog unexpectedly on walks, you see them first and begin to get her focus, so you can walk her away before she gets so wound up.
A couple of other things you can do is take an umbrella with you and open it up when you see another dog to block her view of the dog. For your own peace of mind, you may want to get her a soft muzzle for walking. She can still eat, drink, pant, breath with it on and you may feel more relaxed, and she may relax more if you are relaxed.
Finally, don’t count out training because of cost. Check around in your community for opportunities that may not be advertised, but are available. Local shelters often offer low-cost classes (I don’t think your dog is ready for a class yet), or private sessions with their behaviorist. Check with your local Pit Bull rescues. Those folks usually have a wealth of knowledge to share about training. Go first to a meet up or fund raiser and ask questions. You may be surprised to find that people will be very willing to help. Good luck to you and your dog.
Terry Meeks is a dog trainer, APDT Member an CGC Evaluator in Pinellas County, Florida.  Find Four on the Floor Dog Training at FourontheFloor-Dogtraining.com and on Facebook.
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