If you have a reactive dog, or even just an overly excited dog, then you know how frustrating it can be when your dog lunges and barks at other dogs on walks. It's embarrassing, to say the least.
I reached out to three professional dog trainers to get some realistic tips that dog owners can try if they’re dealing with this type of problem. If you have a dog that tends to bark at other dogs, please feel free to share your own tips in the comments.
How to get your dog to stop barking at other dogs
1. Use treats to teach your dog to focus on you.
The first thing you should do is teach your dog to pay attention to you on walks, according to Carol Millman, a dog trainer with Wag the Dog, in Vancouver, B.C. Start by practicing without other dogs around, and give your dog treats for looking at you.
“A dog who is paying attention to you is spending less time scanning the environment for things to bark at, like other dogs,” she said.
As your dog is successful, you would begin practicing around mild distractions, slowly increasing the challenge.
Of course, there will always be those moments when other dogs are unavoidable.
In these situations, dog trainer and author Robin Bennett said to use highly valued treats (like real meat) to distract your dog. Reward him with the treats while the other dog is still nearby.
“The goal is to teach your dog that being in the presence of other dogs is a great thing because it causes treats to show up!” Bennett said. “It also gives your dog the chance to do something else other than bark.”
2. Teach an emergency “U-turn.”
Bennett said she teaches dogs an “emergency u-turn." That way, if she encounters a dog that is too close, she can say, “Whoops, let’s get out of here” and her dog happily turns to go in the other direction.
She said this should be a trained command so the dog gets used to doing it. You don’t want to add to the dog’s stress by yanking him in another direction all of a sudden.
3. Determine your dog’s reason for barking.
Dogs will bark for a variety of reasons, and dog owners should be aware of the root cause of their dogs’ barking, according to Millman.
For example, if your dog is afraid of others dogs, helping her overcome that fear will also decrease her barking behavior.
Or, your dog might really love other dogs!
“Maybe she needs some more scheduled playtime at the dog park or a daycare,” Millman said. “A dog who is starved for the company of other dogs can get excessively excited when he sees one.”
She also suggested increasing your dog’s overall exercise.
“If your dog is dragging you around on walks, barking, and displaying other excitable behavior, she isn't tired enough,” Millman said. “Consider turning your morning walk into a jog, or get on a bike.”
4. Determine your dog’s comfort zone
“Most dogs have a certain distance where they can see a dog and not bark,” said Colleen Demling, founder and CEO of Pawtopia, a dog training company in San Diego. “Even if that distance is 100 yards, try to get your dog exposure to other dogs at that distance.”
She said if your dog gets to see other dogs without reacting, then with practice and patience, this distance will decrease.
“Dogs need repetitive, calm exposure to the situation that is upsetting them in order to overcome it,” she said. “This means the owner needs to get outside and actually look for dogs.”
5. Use an appropriate training collar
If you can find a training tool that gives you more control over your dog, you should have an easier time keeping her calm.
There are many options available, and some of the training collars available through dogIDs include a slip collar or a martingale collar.
6. Stay relaxed yourself
Sometimes when dog owners think their dogs are going to bark, they get nervous themselves as soon as another dog appears, said Demling.
“They shorten the leash, get tense and may even start saying ‘No, Fido’ before anything actually happens,” she said. “All of that tension transfers straight down the leash, and your dog will think you are afraid, which will only make him react more.”
Instead, dog owners should try to stay calm so their dogs have an easier time remaining calm as well.
Demling added that owners will often forget to praise their dogs when the dogs aren’t barking.
“They are too focused on correcting the bad behavior that they never say ‘good dog’ when the dog isn't barking,” she said.
Does your dog tend to bark at other dogs?