What should I do if my dog is afraid of other dogs?

Dog hide between owner's legs afraid

How does your dog react when they come across another dog? Do they bark, growl or hide behind you with their tail between their legs? This is probably because your dog is afraid of other dogs. But, why do they react like this? How do you help them overcome their fear? In this article, we’ll teach you how to react and help them overcome their fears.

The fear of other dogs, a feeling that is difficult to control

Your dog could be afraid of other dogs for a multitude of reasons. The signs of this fear are numerous.

How do I know if my dog is afraid of other dogs?

Dogs that are afraid of other dogs can show obvious signs of fear such as groaning or trembling. They may also try to hide, have a fleeting look, or walk with their tail between their legs.

Other times, they can adopt behaviors that are much more disconcerting, notably by being aggressive towards what is scaring them. Oftentimes, dogs are aggressive with other dogs because they are scared. Since they are attached by a leash and cannot run away, they only see one legitimate solution—fight. Therefore, if your dog pulls on the leash to approach other dogs and try to bite them, it could be because they’re scared.

In addition, if you see your dog yawning excessively in front of other dogs or licking their lips, this is typically a sign that they are stressed. In general, these are the first signs of fear.

Why is my dog afraid of other dogs?

There are two types of fears: ones related to something wrong with their socialization and ones related to bad experiences. A dog that has been attacked by another dog or has been mistreated by humans can afraid when around other people and dogs.

Similarly, a puppy that has been separated from their mother too early will have problems with their socialization. As they didn’t get enough experience socializing with their mother and siblings, they won’t know how to behave with other dogs. It’ll become difficult to fix this type of socialization problem when they become adults.

Reassure your dog to keep them calm

Many dog owners don’t know how to react when their dogs are afraid of other dogs. Do they need to avoid other dogs altogether? Should they let their dog confront their fears?

Should I reassure my dog or allow them to confront their fears?

Is your dog trembling in fear, hiding behind your legs, and searching for protection? There’s probably only one thing in the world you want to do—hold them your arms and comfort them. However, this is actually counterproductive. If you take your dog into your arms when they’re afraid, they’ll believe that you’re validating their behavior and that they were right to afraid.

With that being said, it’s important to avoid being too insistent with your dog and forcing them to interact with others. If you do this, you’ll not only reinforce your dog’s stress, but also push your dog to find a solution to get out of the situation themselves—biting!

How should I react then?

First and foremost, it’s important to work on managing your emotions. Dogs are like sponges. They can feel our emotions incredibly well. If you are stressed, your dog will most likely feel that way too. For this reason, make sure to show your dog that you’re feeling good and that you’re not afraid of going out and encountering other dogs.

You can help your dog overcome their fear of other dogs little by little. For example, start by keeping distance from others while playing with your dog. Give your dog treats to reward them for not showing signs of fear. As you go on more and more walks, slowly get closer and closer to other dogs while continuing to play with your dog and giving them treats. Your dog will progressively feel more at ease among other dogs and will eventually be able to approach them. It’s very important to not force your dog to do anything and to let them move at their own pace. Forcing your dog to approach other dogs too early will reduce your efforts to nothing. In addition to this, don’t let your friends bring their dogs to your home if you dog is not ready yet.

If despite all your efforts, your dog resists and refuses contact with other dogs, you can have a dog behaviorist intervene. A dog behaviorist will be able to find the root of the problem and allow your dog to overcome their fears. Keep in mind that dogs who’ve been weaned too early will often be difficult to treat.

Dog hide afraid other dogs
Being too insistent with your dog and forcing them to interact with other dogs when they are afraid is a bad solution.

I just adopted a puppy; how do I prevent them from being afraid of other dogs?

A dog that isn’t well socialized as a puppy will have more problems when it comes to being afraid of other dogs and this behavior will be difficult to fix. That’s why it’s very important to adopt good behavior and habits as soon as you adopt your dog.

The importance of delayed weaning

If you don’t want your dog to be afraid, it’s important to take advantage of good socialization. For this, weaning should not be done too early. Even if it’s common to adopt a dog at 8 weeks, waiting until they are 12 weeks old is preferable. Indeed, during this period, puppies learn the basics of life in groups with their mother and siblings.

If despite everything, you are welcoming a very young puppy, you need to be vigilant and work on their socialization to prevent your dog from becoming fearful and aggressive.

How do I socialize them?

The first thing you need to do for your young dog to not be afraid of other dogs is to allow them to meet other dogs. But, be careful, do not let them meet just any dog. Choose sociable and even-tempered dogs. Organizing a meeting with a brutal or fearful dog will be counterproductive since it’ll most likely traumatize your puppy and they will become fearful.

With that being said, it’s normal for your puppy to be reprimanded by the other dog if they are too playful. Originally, dogs were pack animals, so it’s important for the hierarchy to be respected. The other dog could remind your dog that they’re the adult and your puppy is the young dog. This is completely normal. However, if the other dog is too aggressive, it would be best to separate them.

Similar to with an adult dog, training your puppy requires you to be calm and serene. If you are tense, your puppy will feel your stress and feel in danger. This isn’t what you want. Avoid overprotecting your dog and don’t take them into your arms when another dog is near you. Instead, if another dog approaches, be patient and observe how they react. If your puppy shows signs of fear, you need to work on their socialization. If your puppy is at ease and approaches the other dog, keep an eye on the behavior of the other dog. If they are aggressive, distance your puppy from the other dog so that they don’t get hurt and have a traumatizing experience. If the other dog is receptive, let your puppy interact with them.


As you may have gathered, having a dog that is afraid of other dogs is not unsolvable. You can act ahead of time by making sure not to wean them to early and socializing them from a young age. And if your adult dog is fearful in the presence of other dogs, it’s not too late to react. It’s possible to socialize a dog at any age, even though it’s a bit more difficult with adult dogs. If you are struggling to help your dog overcome their fear on your own, don’t hesitate to have a dog behaviorist intervene. In any case, if your dog is afraid of others, patience is key. Take it slow and your dog will gain confidence and serenity.

You might also find this article useful: How to help your dog overcome their fear of children