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Why is My Dog Scared of Other Dogs? Common Reasons & Tips | Pupford

December 26th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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While no dog – or person for that matter – is completely immune from fear, there are some who are more susceptible than others.

That can be really challenging for dogs whose fear triggers are extremely common, like other dogs.

It’s difficult to watch our dogs struggle with fear of other dogs. Especially when they can be completely fine with people, sounds, unfamiliar environments, and other things that typically cause reactions.

For most parents of pups who are scared of other dogs, two big questions come up:

  • Why is my dog afraid of other dogs?
  • How can I help them?

We have the answer to both! Read on for the details, including tips and resources that will help both you and your pup live a happier, less fearful life around other dogs.


watch dogs body language when greeting other dogs

While it would be super helpful if our dogs could look at us and say “I’m scared!” in audible words, they do tell us in their own way.

Dogs show fear – and a number of other emotions – through their body language.

If your dog does any of the following in the presence of other dogs, it may mean they are scared:

  • Shaking or shivering
  • Whining
  • Licking their lips or yawning in an exaggerated manner
  • Refusing to walk/play/engage with you when other dogs are around
  • Growling, barking, snapping, or lunging toward other dogs
  • Trying to hide behind you or otherwise avoid another dog

As you can see, there’s a wide range of what could be considered signs of fear. Because of that, we recommend taking the time to learn your dog’s individual body language cues in a variety of situations so you can better pick up on their unique signs of stress.

Want to get better at reading your dog’s body language so you can pick up on signs of fear and stress? Our Dog Body Language Course is perfect for just that!


dog that is scared of other dogs

One of the most common questions we hear from parents of fearful pups is “How did this happen?!”

There are a few explanations for why dogs develop a fear of other dogs. Here are the most common:

  1. Lack of socialization
  2. Past trauma
  3. Personality

Let's look at each one below. 👇


Puppy socialization is one of the most overlooked, yet important, parts of raising a dog. It helps them become comfortable around new people, places, things, etc. so they can explore the world around them without fear.

Socializing your dog with other dogs usually involves puppy play dates and visits to environments with a lot of other dogs, like walking paths or parks.

When a dog misses crucial socialization windows (mainly within the first three months of life), it leaves them susceptible to developing fears.

However, this isn’t to say that if your dog is older than three months and hasn’t been socialized with other dogs, all hope is lost. Late socialization is always better than none at all and, with the right guidance, you can help them overcome their fear and establish healthy social interactions.

Related Reading: Puppy Fear Periods


Unfortunately, past negative experiences can have a lasting impact on dogs. Bad experiences with other dogs, like a dog fight or a dangerous living situation, can negatively affect your dog.

Related Reading: How to Break Up a Dog Fight

Past trauma can leave your dog afraid of similar situations – in this case, other dogs – as a way to keep them protected from being harmed again.

Sometimes it’s hard to know if trauma is the reason, especially if you adopted a dog from a shelter and don’t know much about their previous life. But if you know for a fact an incident has occurred in your dog’s life, pay extra close attention to their body language for stress signals around other dogs.


Some dogs are shy or submissive by nature. This can certainly be exasperated by unfavorable life events, but on its own, it’s sometimes enough to make dogs fearful.

If your dog was socialized well and has no history of trauma, yet is still afraid of other dogs, it just might be part of who they are.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t eventually have enjoyable interactions with other dogs – it just might take some time and work!

🐶 Looking for more training resources? Sign up for Pupford Academy to access dozens of courses. Get started here!


scared dog with nervous body language

So is there anything you can do to help your dog overcome their fear? Luckily, there are a few things!

Related Reading: How to Socialize an Adult Dog

  1. Choose low-stress situations for your dog. Choose activities and environments that are least likely to trigger your dog’s fear whenever possible. For example, if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, choose a quiet hiking trail (where dogs are required to be on leash) as opposed to a crowded park. When there are other dogs involved, you can control the interaction to keep your dog as calm as possible.
  2. Understand your dog’s threshold. If you aren’t able to completely avoid other dogs (going to the vet, for example), make sure you are aware of their threshold. That means understanding the parameters for when they start to feel stressed or afraid – how many dogs, how close the dog gets, etc. and being sure to advocate for your dog and remove them from the situation if necessary.
  3. Utilize desensitization and counterconditioning training. To help change your dog’s association with other dogs, you can utilize positive reinforcement methods that work to gradually teach your dog that other dogs are not something to fear. You can read more about these training methods, including step-by-step guidance here.
  4. Practice and reward, a lot. To overcome negative associations, your dog is going to need a lot of positive input. Like, a LOT a lot. That’s where high-value rewards like training treats come into play. Having delicious yet healthy treats on hand lets you reward frequently whenever your dog is calm and happy in the presence of other dogs.

Related Reading: FAS Score in Dogs


It's really important to let your dog take the lead when it comes to helping your dog move past fear. Take things slow and never push them past the point of discomfort.

And what may seem like a small glimmer of progress to you, is actually a huge win for your dog – so celebrate it accordingly!

Has your dog had an experience with fearing other dogs? Were you able to overcome it? Share your story with us – and other pup parents – in our comments!

🐶 Looking for more training resources? Sign up for Pupford Academy to access dozens of courses. Get started here!


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