How to Stop Your Dog from Barking & Lunging at Other Dogs!
By Bev Gun-Munro
June 15, 2021
Walking our dog[s] is proven to help us live longer…. However, if your dog is always barking and lunging at other dogs nearby when you are out together then you’ve got a behavioral problem on your hands that needs fixing to ensure safety to both you, your dog and other dogs and dog owners.
When your dog barks and lunges, it is called re-activity or ‘leash re-activity’, and its crucial you understand why your dog is barking and lunging at other dogs in the first place, after all…understanding the problem is the first step towards fixing the problem.
Understanding why they bark and lunge at other dogs
This behavior is due to your dog getting overly excited, over stimulated when on leash and out for a walk. A good example is when your dog sees another dog it seeds a ‘scared or stressed emotion’ which leads their natural reaction to fight starting with a verbal defense by barking. Your dog’s 1st defense is barking with the hope the other dog will go away.
There is an exception to this. Sometimes your dog may want to go say hi to the new dog but holding him on leash causes frustration. As a result, your dog may then resort to barking and lunging at the new dog even while he/she really has good intentions.
To solve your dog’s barking and lunging, it is also important to identify whether the behavior is friendly or aggressive.
In many cases, dogs that are notorious with barking and lunging are surprisingly friendly when they get close to the new dogs. However, when the dog picks a fight with a new dog then this is not leash reactivity anymore but aggression.
Moreover, if the dog approaches another dog when off-leash dominantly and aggressively ~ then it is safe to assume that your dog’s barking and lunging is an aggressive stimulus ~ even when on the leash.
• Under Socialization An under-socialized pup will simply not know how to react in the presence of other dogs and this can seed a ‘nervousness’ emotion that starts them being worried and feeling a need to protect themselves.
When they figure out that they can get away with barking and lunging when they are on a leash, this enforces the negative behavior and creates repetition.
• Poor Training- There are many ill-advised training methods suggested and used to stop their dogs from barking and lunging.
Whenever the dog encounters an unfamiliar dog and gets excited, some owners use unpleasant methods to try and get their dog to calm down ~ such as chocking, spanking or scolding the dog. Consequently, the dog resorts to barking and lunging even more ~ to get the new dog to go away to reduce the unpleasant experience which is opposite of what you think your corrections will result in better behavior in future encounters with other dogs. Wrong!
• Frustrations- it may be that your pup is well socialized and spends a lot of time playing with other pooches at the dog park.
Unintentional teaching your Dog to Lunge: If you have had your pup/dog on a leash before and allowed them to pull towards another dog whenever they want to say ‘hi’ then this could encourage lunging.
• The Fight or Flight Response – dog owners sometimes lock under socialized pups in a crate, behind an indoor pet barrier or fence. Other times they may be on a leash most of the day. When they encounter a new dog, they will feel stressed and may want the other dog to go away. Consequently, since flight is no longer an option the dog learns that barking and lunging works.
Tips & Solutions
Tip #1: Avoid the Problem
Constant repetitions of being startled and alarmed will not help your dog to learn to cope. So, to the extent you can, steer clear of problems.
If you are strolling along the sidewalk and spot someone else walking her dog directly toward you, turn around or cross the street before your dog has a chance to tense up or explode. .
Tip #2: Use Tricks and Play to Keep Your Dog Out of Trouble
When your dog actively launches a barking/lunging attitude…. many dog owners respond by yanking their dog away. Instead, try these:
Plan A. Teach your dog to bump your fist with their nose – a useful behavior that trainers call targeting.
Treat targeting as a game and play it in your house, in your yard, on the sidewalk, etc. …when there’s nobody around. Repeat ‘bump and reward’ as a new trick between the 2 of you. Work on this ‘trick’ 5 to 10 reps a day in the beginning and reward them lavishly so they come to know this, focus and look for a reward from you. Then practice it out on your walk ~ initially when no other dogs are in the area, and then slowly when you see another dog and owner approaching your space.
Once you’ve got this ‘targeting trick’ down, you’re ready to add to the trick by, at home or in your fenced outdoor area, you have them on a leash and you take two steps backward, and teach your dog to respond to your ‘verbal command [i.e. say “Bump”!].. and teach them to do a U-turn back towards you for the bump and reward trick…..which later will be a ‘trick’ you ask of them when out on a walk and see another dog/owner coming towards you two.
Plan B (which might be just as good as Plan A). Hansel and Gretel is a variation on the easiest dog game of all called….. “Find It”.
Find It consists of tossing a treat on the ground for your dog to chase and catch, or hiding the treat so he has to sniff it out. When you play Hansel and Gretel, you drop treats right in front of your dog, leading in the direction you want him to go. As soon as he/she has found one treat, drop another. Use fingernail-size pieces of a soft, smelly food your dog adores, and keep the game going as fast as you can.
Important! If you only play fist-bump and Hansel and Gretel when one of your dog’s explosion triggers shows up ~ they will soon learn that these games predict trouble on the horizon. So play each game on every walk, several times on longer walks, and be sure to do it when there are no bikes, skateboards or other dogs around.
Tip #3: Use the Landscape
Trainers who offer special classes for reactive dogs use portable barriers to block the dogs’ view of one another. ….By cutting out the visuals the dogs can cope with their classmates’ sounds and smells.
The same applies when you are on a walk with your dog. A 10-foot gap between that skateboard and your dog is probably not enough distance to keep your dog’s head from exploding. A 10-foot gap with a parked car or a hedge in between might be a completely different matter. Even the slats of a park bench may block his view enough to prevent an outburst.
In this way stepping behind any obstacle that will block their direct vision of another animal approaching will help the situation. Over time, the less negative reactions your dog no longer exhibits will seed and erase future reactions of this kind of unwanted behavior.
Good luck and let us know your results. SaveARescue is here to support your needs.
Happy walking and exercising your dog in an enjoyable manner ~ every time.