A common question I get asked is how to stop my dog from barking and lunging at other dogs while on the walk. I thought it would be more thorough if I put my thoughts down in a single page. There are many reasons while your dog will lunge and bark at other dogs on the walk, and each one requires a different response. I have listed the top 3 reasons below.
1. You are holding the lead tighter when you see another dog approaching.
If you see another dog coming and then start reeling the lead in, holding it tight and having your heart beat faster this could be seen as a trigger to the dog to let them know that they need to be alert because you are alert. Basically feeding off your anticipation of barking and lunging actually causes the reaction to occur. Relax, stay relaxed and don’t tense up. You want to be ‘ready’ for something to happen, you just don’t want to cause it.
2. Puppy socialisation
Puppies that don’t get properly socialised when they are in their critical growth stage can also develop dog aggression. It is important with a new puppy to take them to the dog park, puppy school, any where that there is a large number of (safe) dogs for your puppy to play with. Keep the mix varied, that way your puppy will develop the social skills required to interact with other dogs, especially unknown ones.
3. Lack of communication between owner and dog
A well trained dog will focus almost 100% of its attention on you when you command it. A dog who has never had structured training experiences through its life will be easily distracted and often choose to ignore you when something more interesting takes their fancy. Any training, obedience, agility, or just fun tricks will strengthen the link of communication between yourself and your dog. Fun and interesting training keeps your dogs mind working in a structured environment where you are the centre and the cause of the fun activities. Which means the dog will continue to look to you for direction, either in training or in situations on the walk. Dogs will seek direction from you so it is up to you to recognise the signs from your dog when they become alert, fearful or anxious.
Some common solutions include, take your dog off the path and make them sit, give them praise or a treat if they can keep their focus on you and not the other dog, or; redirect them when you see the ears or head rise, that means that they are becoming highly alert to the approaching dog. You have less than 1 second to react and redirect your dog with a treat, ball or anything that usually gets their attention.
Things you should not do:
1. Reassure them that “It’s okay”
2. Give approval after they have reacted incorrectly. ie. no pats, treats or praise, just continue on your walk (remember to praise profusely if they get it right!)
3. Pull on the lead, this will most likely trigger the very thing you are trying to prevent
4. Walk with a tense lead. Always try to keep it relaxed and your dog by your side.
I am a firm believer that if you perform structured fun and energetic training with your dog consistantly you will solve most issues like these cases. There are extreme cases where extreme dog aggression is prevalent, if you believe you have a high risk case of dog agression you need to seek help from a professional dog trainer or dog behaviourist.
Remember to be calm, and patient with your dog when training. Never get frustrated or lose your temper when your dog doesn’t get it. Dogs respect calm humans, not frustrated humans! If you start to feel frustrated, STOP and try again later. Sometimes your dog may not be in the mood to learn, don’t rush them. And feel free to change these notes to suit your circumstances. Just keep in mind “Is it fun?”, “Is it friendly?”, “Are we both happy?” if the answer is yes you are doing it all right!
And most of all have fun, like all dog training it is a great bonding experience and it brings you and your pooch closer together.
If anyone else has any other tips to add, put your comments below. I would welcome some additional ideas!