The most common question many canine behavioural experts get is, “Can you tell me how to stop my dog barking at other dogs?” While we might not mind hearing our dogs shouting for us when we get home from work, or when we’re playing in the yard, a pooch yelling at another pup can cause some headaches when you’re out on your daily walk.
Most of us know that taking our dogs on walks means we’re likely to encounter a handful of other animals on our route. If your dog gets excited b they presence of another pup, they’re going to bar, jump, and potentially even run at their new friend in an attempt to play.
So, what can you do about it?
Today, we’re going to be sharing everything you need to know about why dogs bark at other animals, and what you can do to rectify the problem.
Step 1: Finding Out Why Dogs Bark at Other Dogs
There are plenty of reasons why your dog might bark at another pup.
The first and most common reason is your dog is overly excited. Seeing another animal is a sure source of mental stimulation for a dog. If the other pup makes eye contact, this can ramp the excitement up to 11. Other reasons your dog might bark include:
- Lack of socialisation as a puppy: Ask a behaviour consultant why dogs bark a lot as they grow up, and they’re tell you that their socialisation as a puppy will have had a big impact. Dogs learn how to act around other animals when they’re young. If you didn’t socialise your dog during this time, or you adopted an adult dog, this can lead to excessive barking.
- Fear or concern: Sometimes, dogs are just having emotional responses to something they perceive as dangerous. If another dog is barking, your pup will respond to the loud noises as a sign of a potential threat.
- Negative reinforcement: If your dog has a history with a bad owner who often punished them when they were around other people or dogs, this can lead to a release of adrenaline and intense emotions when you take your dogs outside around other animals.
If you’ve recently adopted your dog and you don’t know why they tend to bark or panic when they see another animal, you might need to take your dog to a professional for some extra guidance.
Step 2: Remove the Reason for Barking
If your dog constantly barks at other animals as they pass by your house, there’s a good chance they’re getting some kind of stimulation out of the action. Your dog might like causing other dogs to look at them, so they engage in excessive barking to provoke a reaction.
You can remove sources of stimulation when your dog is at home by closing the curtains or putting the dog in a different room when other animals are around. When you’re outside walking your dog, it’s harder to avoid the issue. However, you can cross the road if you see another dog coming, to reduce the risk of an interaction.
You can also gradually change the way your dog feels about the stimulus of seeing another dog. If you have a friend with a pooch, ask them to approach you slowly when you’re with your dog. As your friend approaches, play with your dog and give them treats to gain their attention. When your friend and dog walks far enough away, stop feeding the treats.
This teaches your dog to associate the smell and approach of another dog with something positive. However, it does take time to see results. You’ll have to practice on a regular basis. The good news is that you can also practice at home. Rather than closing the curtains when a dog walks by, you can occasionally leave them open, and use the opportunity to give your dog a treat.
Step 3: Learn How to Avoid Common Problems
Often, teaching your dog how to avoid a certain behaviour, like excessive barking, will take time. Start by making sure you know exactly what causes your dog to bark. For instance, for some pups, it will be dogs that are larger than them, or pups who try to come too close to their human, home, or territory. Once you know the source of the problem, you can avoid them where possible.
The easiest way to stop barking and lunging from your dog when they see another canine, is to avoid putting them in a position where they want to do that. While you can gradually expose your dog to more positive interactions over time, or even get some support from a qualified dog behaviourist, you’re still going to need to learn how to deal with the problem in the moment.
If you can’t avoid a dog encounter, make sure you can get out of the situation as quickly as possible. Toss a ball or toy in an opposite direction for your dog to grab their attention. Toss a treat to your dog to get their mind on something positive and focus on making a U-turn to an area where that other dog isn’t going to be.
Feeding your dog treats, even when you’re actively avoiding and walking away from the problem, still has a positive impact long-term. This process is called classical counter-conditioning, and it can help to break dogs out of their ingrained barking behaviour. Using a treat method, you can actually teach your dog to turn and walk away with you on cue. This will help you to avoid more unhelpful behaviours, like lunging.
Step 4: Stay Calm in Any Situation
Negative reinforcement doesn’t work with dogs. The more you try and stop a bad behaviour like barking or lunging with shouting, the more you’re going to generate a fear response in your dog. With that in mind, it’s important to make sure you’re treating your dog with calm affection, no matter how frustrating the barking might be.
Remember, anxiety is contagious – and something your pooch can sense in you. If you start getting worried that your dog is going to freak out as soon as you see another dog on the street, your dog will sense that worry and be more likely to respond badly.
Instead of panicking, keep a tight hold on the leash, and remain confident. Try to keep your dog’s attention on you, using the treat technique, or by playing with a stick, ball, or other toy from your walk. If your dog doesn’t pay attention, don’t worry, just stay calm and practice your leash control.
For most people, the natural response when you begin to approach another dog will be to shorten the leash. You may then pull on the leash to keep your dog close to you. While this might make you feel like you have more control, it also shows your dog that something is wrong. Keeping a loose leash or using a no-pull harness shows your dog there’s nothing to be worried about.
Step 5: Don’t Tell them to Sit
If your dog likes to bark at people and other dogs, you might be tempted to tell them to sit as soon as you see someone approaching. When they sit, you don’t have to worry about tugging at the leash or stopping them from lunging. However, asking a dog to sit also puts them in a vulnerable position.
If your dog’s barking is caused by fear or anxiety, they might feel more powerless when required to sit, because they feel like they’re not ready to jump in and protect themselves if they need to. A better alternative is to teach your dog to pay attention to you and distract their attention with other activities.
Although your dog may still be nervous and bark at sights of other dogs at first, they should gradually stop feeling their fear if every time a dog approaches, you’re doing something fun. Take the arrival of another dog or person on the street as an opportunity to practice tricks you’ve been teaching your dog.
You can teach your dog to give you your paw on cue, spin around, or simply look at you. Once your dog gets used to this activity, give them a command on your walk and you’ll help them to stay focused on you, rather than the perceived danger. Don’t forget to reward them with treats when they act according to your demands.
Step 6: Get some Extra Help
Training your dog to give alternative responses to seeing another dog on the street, or in your vicinity can be tough. The tips above, like positive reinforcement, keeping the attention on you, and even avoiding the situation, when necessary, will help in most cases.
However, if your dog has been exposed to some bad circumstances in the past, it’s going to be hard to change their behaviour on your own. Whatever you do, don’t give in to negative reinforcement strategies like bark collars. Instead, look into finding a dog specialist who can give you and your pup some training sessions.
There are tons of dog professionals out there who can help you figure out what it’s going to take to handle your dog’s barking behaviour. For the best results, look into animal behaviourists with experience dealing with barking during walks and other noisy antics.
Banishing Bad Barking Behaviour
Barking is something that dogs do for dozens of different reasons.
However, if your dog seems to be constantly barking whenever he sees another dog, it can become a little problematic. The tips above should help you get control over your barking issue, so you can enjoy more relaxing walks with your pup.