One of the most common training questions I get is “How can I stop my dog from growling at other dogs on walks?”
Oh, if only there were an easy fix, right?
I get this question so often that I decided to write a post about it. Now I can direct people here in the future.
As always, go ahead and leave your thoughts/experiences in the comments. And please share this post if it will help a dog you know.
How to stop a dog from growling/barking at other dogs on walks
First, a few “easy” tips to try:
1. Get the right dog training collar or harness.
Seriously. Just do this and make your life easier. You might want to try a couple of options and see what works best for your dog. It’s worth it.
You could try a martingale collar first because it tightens slightly under pressure but is limited in how far it tightens. For that reason it’s called a “limited slip” collar. Unfortunately a martingale collar usually does not give you enough control with a very strong puller, however.
Other training tools that work for a variety of dogs include:
Try not to worry what others think. In reality, most people don’t really care what collar you use. You need to be able to control your dog so your walks are enjoyable and safe.
What’s best for one dog will not be the best for all dogs. In my experience as a dog walker and rescue volunteer, the collar that helps me control the most dogs is the Gentle Leader, followed by a prong collar (pinch collar) and then a no-pull harness.
2. Keep your dog at your side vs. out in front.
“But she pulls!”
So what. Just keep her at your side anyway using one of the above training collars.
Dogs are less likely to react if they’re at your side vs. out in front of you. And if they do react, it’s much less exaggerated.
How many of you have seen a person walking with their dog several feet ahead, and then sure enough when the dog sees another dog, he goes crazy, lunging and barking as the owner tries to “reel him in”?
Just avoid that embarrassment and keep your dog at your side on walks.
3. Enroll in an obedience class.
This will allow your dog to practice working around other dogs and to learn to pay attention to you even with those distractions.
In addition to the obedience class, I recommend working on lots of training on your own so your dog has rock solid skills as far as sit, down, stay, come, heel.
If your dog has the self-control to follow these words, he will have an easier time remaining calm in “high stress” situations like passing another dog.
You might also like this post: How to get my dog to behave in public.
I realize exercising a reactive dog is difficult because when you want to walk him you’re going to run into other dogs. All I can say is get creative and make sure you’re providing your dog with adequate exercise.
The less pent-up energy a dog has, the easier it will be for him to remain calm and collected around his “triggers.”
Some ideas for exercise: Long walks in the early morning, walking with a dog backpack, allowing the dog to run in an open area with a long lead, driving to a quiet park to walk your dog.
Now, the longer answer …
How to stop a dog from barking at other dogs
The above are important, but they are more about prevention than they are training the dog how to respond appropriately.
So, here’s where I want to recommend a book called “Feisty Fido” by Dr. Patricia McConnell and Dr. Karen London.
“Feisty Fido” is extremely helpful for learning how to set up a step-by-step desensitization/counter-conditioning program for a reactive dog.
Click here to order the book on Amazon.
In summary, it will help you:
- Identify your dog’s exact triggers (Ex.: dog from 25 feet away or closer, men in hats, small dogs that bark, etc.)
- Work within your dog’s threshold to set up positive experiences.
- Slowly change your dog’s emotional response to his “triggers” over time. (Ex.: Dog sees another dog 10 feet away and thinks, “Oh boy! I get hot dogs!”
There will be ups and downs with this type of training program – successes and setbacks. We live in the real world where most of us are limited on time and patience, but I think most people will find the book helpful if they have reactive dogs.
Have you read it?
If so, let me know what you thought of the book.
Click here to order.
Other tips for stopping a dog from barking at other dogs
- Find highly valued treats (hot dogs, pepperonis, real chicken, etc.) CARRY A TREAT POUCH.
- Stay calm and quietly move away, asking your dog to sit.
- Keep your body between you and the other dog whenever possible and do a quick “U-turn” by physically turning into your dog and moving her away as needed. Dog walkers, do you use this trick every day like I do?!
And one more thing, if you live in an apartment, I know that has specific challenges, so here is our article on reactive dogs in apartments.
OK, how about the rest of you?
What thoughts do you have on all this?
What tips or questions do you have about stopping a dog from barking on walks?
*This post contains affiliate links.
- How to get multiple dogs to calm down before a walk
- Stop a dog from whining before a walk
- More tips for managing a leash-reactive dog
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