Not all dogs like other dogs. While the species is certainly social, individuals may appear remarkably antisocial. The root cause varies. Your dog might have had unpleasant encounters with other dogs in the past, he may have been insufficiently socialized as a puppy, he might have been badly trained or he might just not like other dogs for no apparent reason. If your dog is the canine equivalent of a human misanthrope, it should be possible to change this, at least to passable politeness.
Tip #1 - Determine when your dog shows dislike of other dogs, whether aggression or fear. Is it when he is on the leash and passes another dog, or under all circumstances? How close does the other dog need to be before your dog starts showing his dislike?
Tip #2 - Avoid situations that trigger his fear or aggression to begin with. This might involve walking him at different times or taking a different route when you see another dog-and-human pair approaching. Training involves gradually socializing him under controlled conditions. If such situations are completely unavoidable, remain calm yourself. Smile at the other human and try to pass with as wide a gap as possible.
Tip #3 - Get your dog used to wearing a head halter in an unthreatening, peaceful environment, such as your living room. Adjust it so it fits and put it on him for gradually increasing lengths of time, using small treats to encourage him into it and to reward him once it is on. Once he is as comfortable with the head halter as he is with his normal collar or harness, you can begin using it outside for increasingly long periods. Using a head halter simply means that you have more control over your dog and can move him quickly away from a passing canine, and stop him glaring menacingly. This is a humane method of restraint, provided you don't pull hard.
Tip #4 - Ask a friend, colleague or neighbor with an already-socialized dog to help you train yours, if his dislike of other dogs is not that strong. If you don't know anybody who can help, some of the following steps can be done simply through observing the location of strange dogs when you are out.
Tip #5 - Locate a wide-open space, preferably one that is not full of other dog walkers. Ask your friend to bring her dog along a little later, but to remain at a distance and leave the area after about 10 minutes.
Tip #6 - Give your dog a treat and affection once he sees the other dog but before he starts showing dislike. Stop once the other dog is out of sight. The ASPCA notes that this training helps him to associate the sight of another member of his species with a lovely experience.
Tip #7 - Repeat the training over a period of a few weeks, gradually reducing the distance between the dogs.
Tip #8 - Introduce the dogs without leashes in a neutral area, such as a third person's yard, only when they seem completely comfortable with each other and your dog is not showing any aggression at all. Provide lots of praise and affection during this session, but not, or at least not much, to the other dog.
A Couple of Warnings
Very occasionally a dog views other, especially much smaller, dogs as potential prey. In this case he will exhibit no or very little growling or hackle-raising. Instead he will chase, or try to chase, the other dog, as he would, say, a rabbit. This behavior needs a different approach. Keep him leashed outside until you have consulted a professional.
If a previously sociable dog suddenly develops a dislike of other dogs, this might be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition. In this case, make an appointment with your vet immediately.
By Judith Willson
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Introducing Your Dog to a Head Halter
Humane Society: How to Use a Head Halter
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Dogs Who Are Reactive on Leash
petMD: When Your Dog Is Overly Aggressive Towards Other Dogs
About the Author
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.