How to stop a dog from barking at people on walks?
Well, first thing to do is determine why the dog is barking at people.
The most common reason dogs bark at people on walks is due to fear.
The dog could be afraid of new people or certain types of people (children, people on bikes, men, people wearing hats). Or, the dog could simply be startled easily by new people and things in general.
Dogs could also bark at people due to:
1. Excitement. “Hey! A person! I love people! Yay!”
2. Frustration (due to excitement). Not being able to reach that person fast enough due to being on a leash. See my post: Leash aggression.
3. Protection or resource guarding. Although this often stems from fear & feeling the need to protect from the “threat.”
How to stop a dog from barking at people due to fear.
Since fear is the most common reason for a dog to bark at people, let’s use that as our example. My tips are below. I always welcome you to leave your own in the comments.
If your dog is barking due to excitement, a lot of these tips should still be helpful.
Here are the steps I would take:
1. Make a list of your dog’s exact triggers. Be specific.
Try to pinpoint exactly when your dog reacts. For example, Honey barks at men wearing hats or tall men once they are 10 feet away. Or, Bentley barks at children once they are 15 feet away, especially if they are running or on bikes.
Your dog might have 5 or 6 different triggers. Brainstorm with family members or roommates so you get the most accurate list.
2. Find a highly valued food reward your dog loves.
Dry dog biscuits might not cut it. You may need to use hot dogs, string cheese, pieces of real steak or hamburger. For actual dog treats, I find that Droolers work well for most dogs. For others, a squeaky toy or a ball might work better.
Find something your dog is willing to work for even under stress (but you’ll be working just outside of when your dog is normally “triggered”). Ideally, you’ll find something that can be broken easily into little pieces.
3. Use the right training collar & walk your dog at your side.
The best training collar or harness will be different for each dog depending on all sorts of factors like your own comfort level, the size of your dog and what makes it easiest for you to control your unique dog. Some options include a slip lead or a Gentle Leader.
The reason the right training collar is important is so you have control over your dog and can prevent pulling and lunging.
I also recommend you keep your dog at your side with little slack in the leash. This is not about being “dominant” but simply if you have your dog at your side he will be easier to control. You won’t have to “reel him in” if you come across a trigger. He’ll also generally be calmer if he’s at your side and less likely to be out in front ready to “protect” you.
4. Work with your dog on basic commands within her threshold.
Head out for a walk with your dog using your dog’s training collar and treats. Seek out her “triggers” but stop just far enough away so she doesn’t bark or react. Shower her with the treats. Then, TURN AND LEAVE before you get close enough to trigger a reaction. You want her to be like, “Wait! Why are we leaving? I want more treats!”
Eventually, you want her to associate her “trigger” with treats instead of fear. Like, “Oh, kids on bikes! That’s great! Where’s my string cheese?”
The goal is to change her emotional response over time.
Other tips that can help:
– Enroll in a group obedience class so your dog learns to work and focus on you around distractions. The controlled environment with understanding people is helpful!
– Work on obedience training in general. This builds confidence and trust.
– Order the book Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell. It’s a short little book that goes over a desensitization guide in detail in a step-by-step format. Such a simple concept (a little more challenging to actually do) but oh so helpful! I highly recommend it.
What would you add to this list?
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