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My Pet World: Teaching a dog-reactive dog not to react to other dogs

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

My daughter recently bought a 3-year-old French Bulldog from a breeder who did not provide all the information about the dog. Our main concern is the dog is not friendly to other dogs and starts to bark and appears to want to attack the other dogs. Is there any way of training our dog out of this habit?

Another concern is the dog doesn't appear to know its name (Millie) and doesn't appear to react to noise. We think the dog may be deaf. My daughter's vet said it is hard to test a dog for hearing. Just wondering if you had any thoughts on this problem.

Lastly, the dog is stubborn and just wondering if this is a natural trait of French Bulldogs or just Millie? -- Stephen, Valley Stream, NY

Dear Stephen,

I view dogs as individuals and not by their breeds, so let's go with it is "just Millie," when it comes to personality traits. Just in case her "stubbornness," however, is related to hearing loss, begin training her with hand signals. You can make up your own hand signals for each command, and then pair them with verbal commands, in case she can still hear. If she can't hear, hand signals will make learning go quicker.


If Millie is not friendly to other dogs, it's likely she was not well socialized as a puppy with other good-natured dogs who could have helped her learn appropriate social cues. Because there are many dogs like this now, some communities have "Growl" classes for dog-aggressive dogs. These classes retrain your dog by exposing them to other dogs and rewarding them for good behavior.

If you can't find any classes like this in your area, basic obedience classes can help too. The more a dog learns to respond to a "sit-stay" command, for example, the more likely she will "sit-stay" on command when a dog is walking by you on the street.

Street passes are an important place for Millie to learn nonreactive behavior. During dog walks, give her high value treats whenever another dog passes, keeping her on the opposite side of the street as the passing dog. These treats teach her that when other dogs are present good things happen. Repeating this practice every day will help Millie learn that dogs passing by are not to be feared but welcomed.

Dear Cathy,


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