man in white t-shirt and blue shorts holding black short coat dog

If your dog is reactive to other dogs, it can be stressful to think about bringing a companion animal into the home. Even if your pooch is the friendliest canine on the block, introducing a new dog to your family can be tense when you’re not sure how Fido the First is likely to react. 

Parenting an overly-reactive dog can take a toll on your social life and your home life if it’s bad enough. Helping your dog adjust to social interactions can take a weight off your chest and enable you to spend more time with friends who have dogs or even take home a new canine yourself. 

Whether you’re looking to bring a new puppy into your home or simply find a playmate your dog can burn off steam with, there are a few tips you can try to help your dogs get along better. 

Consider that opposites attract 

If you struggle to find another dog with the right temperament, consider what other attributes might help your pup. 

Male dogs, for instance, are often more aggressive around other males because they view them as threatening. If that’s the case, consider introducing your pup to a female dog.

Some dogs may respond better to calmer energy. For example, high-energy Golden Retriever puppies like these might struggle to reach equilibrium with other hyperactive dogs but pair nicely with older or more relaxed dogs. If energetic puppies jumping all over your dog sets them off, consider finding them a more laid-back companion.

There is a lot to consider if you plan to bring a new dog into your home. Finding a dog with different characteristics than the dog you already have can be crucial in ensuring that all introductions go smoothly. When you’re bringing a new pup into the house, it’s always best to remember the law of the opposite. A high-energy, young female dog will pair best with an older, calmer male dog and vice versa. Where possible, you should try to pair your dog with the opposite sex, age, and temperament partner. 

Find neutral territory for the first meeting

The setting plays a significant role in dog interactions. An important factor in helping your dog adjust to another dog is letting them meet on neutral turf rather than at someone’s home.

Dogs are particularly defensive on their home turfs, such as their own home or yard, leading to more aggressive behavior.

Before introducing dogs to each other, you should have them meet a few times at a neutral site such as a dog park. This middle ground will allow the dogs to familiarize themselves with one another, get some sniffs in, and realize they are not a direct threat to one another. Dogs should meet in neutral territory at least a few times before meeting at each other’s homes, with the precise number of times varying based on how reactive your animal is. If possible, avoid dog parks or other densely populated areas–a quiet park with few people will allow the least stressful situation for your dog to acclimate itself to meeting another animal. 

Once the dogs become more familiar with one another, they will have less aggression when entering one another’s territory. If your fur baby knows that the other dog is not a threat, then he won’t have any reason to be reactive when the new dog visits your home. 

Keep interactions simple

Suppose you have a particularly nervous dog that wouldn’t even be able to handle a lengthy one-on-one interaction. In that case, you will want to keep initial interactions very short, limiting them to just a few seconds. The key is to ensure brief positive meetings, intervening before things go south. 

Dogs should be rewarded with treats after each positive interaction, and after a period of five to ten meetings with the same dog, you can begin to increase the length of their engagement. If at any point your dogs backslide and return to aggressive behavior, shorten the length of their meetings again and keep a watchful eye on them so that you can intervene if anything goes wrong. 

Seek the help of a professional

Consider listing the help of a professional if you have tried the above steps to no avail. If aggressive behavior is a new trait in your usually calm dog, you will want to rule out any underlying health issues as this can often lead to more aggressive tendencies. For example, if your dog suddenly displays aggression, it could be a symptom of a larger disorder. A dog in pain may react out of stress to situations that would normally be calm. Taking your dog to the vet to rule out any disorders, stress, or pain can be a valuable step in deducing the reason for your dog’s reactivity. 

A dog trainer may also be able to help your dog through a more extensive program that helps acclimate them to social situations and rewards positive behavior. Professional dog trainers understand the evolutionary behaviors that make our four-legged friends tick, and they can help you counteract these instincts with consistent training and learned commands. When in doubt, there’s no shame in reaching out to a professional for help with your dog’s attitude. 

Final word

Your dog is probably the center of your world, and they might feel the same way about you. Unfortunately, this protective instinct can translate into aggressive behavior in some dogs. When your dog snaps and barks at everything that moves, it can be hard to take him out of the house, meet friends, or bring home additional animals. You may be at your wit’s end with your reactive dog, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. 

By taking note of your dog’s breed, using behavioral strategies, and consulting professionals, you can help your dog become more social with other animals. Just remember to take things slowly and reward your dog frequently for showing desirable behavior. Slow and steady wins the dog race.

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