It’s really awkward to have a dog that barks at and pulls towards other dogs when out on walks. People may not like it, you’re left feeling very uncomfortable, even humiliated, and you might wonder why your dog is behaving like that in the first place.
You may have heard the phrase “leash aggression” or “reactivity” used to describe this behaviour. In any case, it’s a frequent issue, but it doesn’t have to spoil your dog walks.
This article will firstly give an overview about the reasons why your dog may bark and lunge at other dogs. It will then go on to explain in detail four methods you can use to train your dog to ignore other dogs when out on walks.
Why Does My Dog Bark And Lunge At Other Dogs?
Your dog is displaying ‘reactivity’ when it barks and lunges at other dogs. Reactivity is a phrase used to describe when your dog overreacts to regular events. Your dog is ‘reactive’ if they respond especially strongly to a commonplace scenario, whether it’s another dog, or a runner, or even a cat. Barking, snarling, lunging or pushing at them, and even snapping or biting are common responses.
If your dog displays these behaviours, you may assume they’re either aggressive or protective, but there is more to the story.
If your dog is behaving in this way, it means that they’re dealing with overwhelming feelings and are looking for ways to alleviate their discomfort by engaging in activities they like doing the most. They quickly realise that yelping and snarling works in their favour! It provides them with what they’re looking for. But, what are they looking for?
It all comes down to why your dog is reactive in the first place.
Why Is My Dog Reactive?
The onset of adolescence, or your dog’s teen years, is when reactivity is most likely to occur. This is the stage at which your dog has developed their basic concepts about the world and they’re now undergoing a series of physiological changes. They’re growing in size and strength, undergoing hormonal changes, and coping with a variety of emotions.
To put it simply, adolescent dogs have strong emotions. They’re particularly prone to extreme anxiety or excitement, which might result in some larger-than-life reactions.
One of two factors usually cause dogs to become reactive:
- They’re afraid of other dogs because they had minimal exposure to them as puppies or had a particularly distressing encounter. To get other dogs to back away or leave, they growl, bark and lunge at them.
- They’re frustrated by other dogs since they’re used to being able to meet any dog they see, but now they can’t. They are so excited that they can’t handle not being able to meet the other dog or say hello, so they bark and pull on their leads.
It’s important to note that if your dog displays fearful, anxious or aggressive behaviour around other dogs, we would recommend getting in touch with a qualified canine behaviourist for help. Anxious and aggressive behaviours come from a place of fear. Scared and fearful dogs won’t simply get used to being around other dogs over time without the intervention of a qualified canine behaviourist.
If your dog displays over excited behaviour, that would be down to their frustration at not being able to say hello to and interact with and a new dog.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Barking And Lunging Due To Fear Or Frustration?
If your dog socialises in a relaxed and calm way with other dogs when off leash, however starts barking and lunging when on leash, this is an important sign. This means that your dog barking and lunging at other dogs when on leash is due to frustration. Your dog is over excited and wants to interact with that dog and play with them, but they can’t as they’re on a leash.
However, if your dog barks, snarls, lunges and is aggressive toward other dogs both when off leash and on leash, this is a sign your dog is experiencing fear. In this case, its recommended that you seek the attention of a dog behavioural expert.
In obedience training, your dog must learn to ignore other dogs while out and about. By teaching your dog to ignore other dogs, you will keep your dog from annoying other walkers, disrupting training sessions, or getting into fights with other dogs.
Recommended – Reward your dog for behaving well and ignoring other dogs by treating them to canned pumpkin. Dogs love it and it’s a dog superfood! Read this article to find out where to buy canned pumpkin for dogs.
How To Train Your Dog To Ignore Other Dogs
There are four methods below that you can use to train your dog to ignore dogs. You may want to use all four, or maybe just one or two of them will be enough to make the difference. Either way, read on to learn about these methods.
Method 1: Attention And Reward
Your first step should be to train your dog to focus on you. Teaching your dog a command to look at you is the most critical component of this stage. You can give your dog any other command once they are paying attention to you. It will be vital to acquire this skill for when your dog will be brought in close proximity to distractions such as other dogs.
How It Works
- Call your dog by name before heading out on a stroll. If he looks at you, reward him with a treat or goodie.
- Repeat multiple times throughout the home over the following several days, until he always looks at you when you call his name.
- First, start with a distance walk. Begin by keeping your dog at a good distance from other pooches as you walk. Then, as soon as he notices them, call out his name. If he turns his attention to you, reward him with a treat.
- Using the same strategy, get closer to other dogs as you walk. If he behaves, reward him with a treat; if he doesn’t, move him further back and start over.
- Make sure that you and your dog are getting closer and closer to others until you can both walk right past other dogs and their owners without your dog barking or misbehaving.
Method 2: Controlled Leash Walking
This method teaches your dog how to walk politely on a leash. Once they learn this and have mastered the command for paying attention to you, they will be much closer to being able to go out in public without being distracted by other dogs.
How It Works
- While out for a walk, keep your dog on a leash and give him the instruction to pay attention to you.
- Keep your dog on a tight leash when walking so that they are close next to you.
- Keep a small bag of treats and feed your dog one at two to five minute intervals. If you do this consistently, your dog will remain close on you because he knows you have treats.
- Give your dog the order to focus on you if they start getting distracted by anything around them. Give them a reward and plenty of praise as soon as they turn to look at you.
- Getting your dog to walk well on a leash may need a lot of work. Make it a point to work on these skills and approaches with your dog on each and every walk you go on together.
- Over time, even without incentives, your dog will intuitively walk beside you and look toward you on walks.
Method 3: The Group Social
This method puts your dog around lots of other dogs but in a controlled and orderly way. This allows your dog to get used to being around dogs, while understanding that she can’t always say hello and interact with the other dogs.
How It Works
- Ask a few of your friends to help you train your dog. They should agree to bring their dogs over for a lesson.
- Put your dog on a leash and stand behind him in a broad open space.
- Set a distance of 20 feet between your friends and their dogs.
- Ask each of your friends to walk their dogs past where you and your dog are standing one by one.
- Say “NO” and instruct your dog to sit if he lunges or barks at other dogs. If he does, reward him with a tasty treat.
- Train for 30 minutes every day or several times a week for the best results. As soon as your dog has acquired this skill, you may take him for walks in public with confidence knowing that he will behave in the same manner.
Method 4: The Leg Prod Method
This method will require you to anticipate your dogs over excited behaviour and use your leg or knee to gently regain your dog’s attention.
How It Works
- Start by taking your dog out for a walk around the local area where you’d usually go.
- Maintain a calm and relaxed temperament while you walk. Your dog will respond in the same way since he is aware of this.
- If your dog begins to lunge at another dog, do not yank on the leash; this will simply encourage him to lunge harder.
- Instead of tugging on the leash, gently prod your dog in the side with your knee to divert his attention. Give him a reward if he calms down.
- If he refuses to back down, you may need to give the leash a brief sharp tug while calling his name to gain his attention. If he complies, give him a treat for good behaviour.
- Changing your dog’s behaviour might take a few weeks, so be patient and know that it will eventually happen.
Don’t Stop Your Dog From Meeting Other Dogs
Most people want overnight results, no matter what the task or activity is. However, be aware that it will take your dog time to fully learn to ignore other dogs when out and about. Your dog’s behaviour will improve, although there might be the odd ‘relapse’.
But don’t become discouraged and simply stop your dog from meeting other dogs when out and about. Especially without offering your dog alternative treats or rewards as this can sometimes lead to your dog becoming frustrated.
Final Thoughts On How To Train Your Dog To Ignore Other Dogs UK
Dogs usually bark and lunge at other dogs because they’re either experiencing fear, or they’re frustrated that they can’t meet with and interact with other dogs.
If your dog is fearful, anxious or aggressive around other dogs, then it’s strongly recommended that you seek the help of a qualified canine behaviourist for help. This is because scared and fearful dogs won’t simply get used to being around other dogs over time, no matter how you train them. Such dogs require the intervention of a qualified canine behaviourist.
However, if your dog is simply over excited to see other dogs and lunges and pulls on their leash as a result, then you can correct this behaviour yourself.
There are four great methods for training your dog to ignore other dogs while out walking. They all take some time to work, but your dog’s behaviour is very likely to improve.