Barking and lunging at other dogs on walks…
You scan left to right as you slowly exit your doorway… The coast is clear, you go for it. But it may not be safe for long and you find yourself on edge, scanning your surroundings constantly, waiting, hoping it doesn’t happen. Things are progressing nicely so far and it’s nearly time to head back home. You come round a corner and suddenly you see it. It couldn’t be avoided. You tense up knowing an explosion is now inevitable…
It sounds like Mission Impossible but this is a normal walk for you and your dog. While you’re stress levels rise, your dog explodes in a frightening display, all because you’re passing another dog on your walk.
You finally make it home, feeling defeated, embarrassed and frustrated. Your dog is back to his loveable, goofy self and you’d never know that minutes ago he was barking and lunging like a guard dog. You know he is really a sweet dog, why does this happen?
Walking your dog should be an enjoyable experience for BOTH of you. But like many, you may instead be feeling anxious, worried, frustrated and embarrassed to walk your dog because your dog is reactive. This is the term we use when describing a dog that has an undesirable reaction towards their trigger, often another dog.
Why can some people walk their dogs on a loose lead past other dogs, even if the other dog is barking, while others who have a sweet dog at home, face a menacing, barking and lunging terror out on walks whenever another dog is within view?
It’s unfair, but you’re not alone.
Dog to dog reactivity and aggression is on the rise as one of the most common behaviour complaints that dog trainers are called for, including me.
In this post I will discuss the exercises I include in my training programs for reactive dogs and have great success with.
The results I aim for is a dog that can be walked peacefully on a loose lead past other dogs without reacting towards them and as always, that the dog involved is relaxed, happy and clearly understands what we expect of them.
Michaela adopted gorgeous little Hazel from a shelter. She was cute, affectionate and a joy to have around… in the house. As soon as they were outdoors, even in their own yard, Michaela felt invisible. Hazel just did not care one bit about her owner or anything she had to say or offer. Hazel would not work for food ( even steak) and chased at anything that moved – bicycles, skate boards, lizards and most of all, other dogs. She barked and lunged at them and made a horrible screaming noise that could make passer’s by think she was being beaten.
With some regular but short training sessions, we have had success with Hazel. Here’s her transformation:
Here’s some footage of another dog named Marli that has been following my program and was previously very difficult to handle and would bark, lunge and pull with a lot of strength towards other dogs. This footage is from the first lesson that we introduced another dog into the picture, and the third lesson total:
I show you these videos to show you that there is hope and reactive dogs can be trained to be focused dogs that are enjoyable to take on a walk.
Before commencing training with a reactive dog it’s important to have a training plan. The program I use to treat reactive dogs involves some crucial foundation work before training with another dog begins.
As barking and lunging at other dogs, or dog to dog reactivity, is the most common issue I see, I will be referring to other dogs as the trigger for your dog’s reactivity but please know that this training program also applies to dogs that are reactive to other triggers such as strangers, cars, skateboards etc. Their reactions can also vary. Some dogs are just over distracted, some stare and pull, some all out explode.
By teaching these foundation skills to a reliable level before adding in training around another dog, you are setting your dog up to be successful a lot more easily that if you just jump right into an environment with other dogs around. It’s important to always work with your dog at a level that he can succeed and be rewarded for.
I’ve put together a PDF guide with all the skills I recommend you teach to your dog to stop them from barking and lunging at other dogs, and why it’s important. It’s always important to know WHY you are teaching your dog something – how it relates to your end goal. You can grab your free training guide below this post.
Teach your dog all of the foundation skills so that they are thoroughly understood by your dog. Once you know that your dog understands the command or skill you can add in corrections fairly but firmly to also communicate clearly to the dog what is NOT acceptable. This is often the missing link when people are struggling to stop their dog from barking and lunging at other dogs.
If this article has been helpful, make sure you also grab the free PDF guide containing a list of all the skills mentioned in this article plus a step by step how to guide on the first skill you need to teach your reactive dog to get a polite walk, that people often miss! Just complete the form below and it will be sent to your email.
Please share this post to help others and feel free to leave a comment below letting me know what it would mean to you to be able to walk your dog pleasantly and without reactivity.