How to train your dog to ignore other dogs (and focus on you!)

how to teach your dog to ignore other dogs

When you first got your dog, you may have hoped that they’d be sociable and enjoy the company of other dogs. 

But now, you may find your dog:

  • Ignores you when other dogs are around
  • Barks and lunges at other dogs
  • Rushes up to every dog they see excitedly

It’s important that your dog learns how to ignore other dogs so you can keep them safe, keep others safe, and enjoy your walks together without worry. 

In this blog, I’m going to share my tips to help you get your dog’s attention focused on you, even around distractions such as other dogs.  

How to train your dog to ignore other dogs

If your dog has been practising ignoring you in favour of playing with other dogs for a while, it will take patience and consistency to change the behaviour. 

The longer a dog practises a behaviour, the more ingrained it becomes. 

We’re going to use this in our favour, and begin practising a new response to other dogs so that we can form a new habit! Regular training walks will help you see faster results, so try to schedule a short walk each day to dedicate to this. 

Step 1: Plan walks where you can keep a solid distance from other dogs

To begin teaching your dog to ignore other dogs, you’ll need to have a decent amount of space between your dog and the other dog to start with. 

dog focusing on owner teaching dog to ignore other dogs

This might mean driving to your walking spot, or walking at times of day that are likely to be less busy. 

If your dog is struggling not to react to the presence of another dog, you need MORE space.

Step 2: Take super yummy treats that your dog loves 

Whether your dog gets very excited when they see other dogs, or they bark in fear to keep other dogs away, the process of teaching them to ignore other dogs is the same. 

Keep your dog on the lead during early training, so you can prevent them from charging up to other dogs and continuing to practise the habit. 

When your dog looks at a dog but doesn’t react, give them a treat! As your dog gets better at this, you’ll be able to slowly decrease the distance between you and the other dog. 

Step 3: Reward your dog for checking in with you

It’s not just about rewarding ignoring other dogs, the real game changer is increasing your dog’s focus on you. 

When your dog naturally looks at you on walks, reward them. This will encourage check ins to become a habit, which will increase your dog’s focus on you. 

Ideally, your dog will progress to the point that they check in with you BEFORE rushing off to greet other dogs. 

Step 4: Pay attention and reward your dog every time they ignore other dogs

We often notice when our dog does things we don’t like, but when they naturally do the things we’d like them to, we don’t pay any attention! 

Start paying closer attention to your dog checking in with you, or ignoring distractions such as other dogs and reward them heavily. 

You need to make ignoring the distraction and focusing on you MORE REWARDING than the alternative. 

If your dog isn’t interested in treats, use a game to reward them such as tug or fetch. Or you can try rolling the treats so your dog gets the movement they crave and can release a little energy. 

How to teach dog to greet other dogs calmly

Teaching your dog to ask permission before approaching other dogs is really helpful. This allows you to check with the other dog’s owner prior to your dog going over to say hello. 

If your dog is on lead when meeting another dog, keep the interaction short. Think of it like a handshake, a long handshake is just weird and uncomfortable!

Stick to a 3 second rule and encourage both dogs to give each other space and your dog will begin to learn good greeting manners! 

My dog ignores me when other dogs are around

Remember, it’s really important to practise new behaviours with plenty of distance away from the distractions that make doing as you ask hard for your dog. If your dog is struggling, get further away from the other dogs and give your dog a chance to succeed! 

If your dog goes crazy when other dogs are around, then working on your recall alongside their focus on you is a good idea. 

Even when your dog asks for permission before playing or greeting other dogs, you need to be able to call them away when playtime is up. 

My recall games for dogs are a fun and easy way to teach this, and they’ll increase your dog’s focus on you to boot! 

Here’s a bonus game for you to try 👇

Why does my dog run up to other dogs and bark?

If your dog barks at other dogs, it could be for a few reasons. Your dog could be trying to instigate play, your dog may be a ‘frustrated greeter,’ or your dog may be fearful of other dogs and be warding them off. 

A frustrated greeter is a dog who barks when on the lead or unable to get to other dogs, but who when allowed to play and say hello to the other dog is happy and friendly.

A dog who is fearful or nervous of other dogs, may respond similarly on lead to a frustrated greeter. They might bark, lunge and even growl at other dogs. But when off lead, with enough distance and choice, they move away from other dogs rather than towards them. 

My dog is scared of other dogs

If your dog is scared of other dogs, it’s ok for them not to want to hang out or play with them. This can often be far harder for you as an owner than it is for your dog. 

You may want to walk with others or stop for a chat while a group of dogs play together, but if your dog doesn’t enjoy the experience then that isn’t necessarily something to be ‘fixed.’

Think of it like a person who is introverted. Trying to force them to be the life and soul of the party isn’t likely to be very successful, or very enjoyable for them. They might enjoy hanging out with one or two well matched people, but they don’t want to be in the thick of it. 

Using distance and reinforcing ignoring other dogs through rewards, is a good way to help your scared dog to feel more comfortable around other dogs. 

If your dog isn’t forced to interact with other dogs or get too close, your dog will likely feel happier and less stressed. 


and lose the fear of what happens if you drop the lead!

Free Recall training page

How to stop your dog pulling when they see another dog

Pulling on the lead is a common problem that people come to me for help with. If your dog pulls like a train the second they see another dog, then it’s time for some loose lead training!

This blog is already long enough, so hop on over to my loose lead training blog to learn more. 


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Becky Milne East Coast Dog Training with Border Terrier

Hi, I’m Becky

I’m an ethical and positive dog trainer who wants to help you create a fantastic relationship with your dog.

I offer fun and effective dog training that makes you WANT to train.