Stop A Dog From Barking And Growling At Other Dogs On Walks

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:

Remy wearing a Gentle Leader

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.

Remy with the EasyWalk no pull harness

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.

Bentley wearing a prong collar

Also, ditch the retractable Flexi leash (for now). Use a 6-foot leash.

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.

4. Exercise!

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.

Ace wearing a dog backpack

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.

Feisty Fido

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?!

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?

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41 thoughts on “Stop A Dog From Barking And Growling At Other Dogs On Walks”

  1. Misty and I are in obedience classes for this very thing. The instructor thinks it’s fear more than anything. She acts so tough and fearless, but I guess it is bluff. We have our third class tomorrow.

    1. Our dog is dog reactive. It seems every suggestion won’t work for her. She has almost no neck and can slip out of a collar in two seconds. So she wears a harness. To make things more difficult, she has food allergies so treats are not an option. Her treats are mini marshmallows and carrots. I guess I could take those along on a walk. Also she is nearly deaf due to ear medicine for infections. The best I can do is hide behind a parked car or stand blocking her view of the approaching dog.

  2. “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.”
    This! I’ve found this to be the #1 tip, and pretty much the only thing that works for Hiccup. Taking this tip a little further, a dog trainer told me turn around and walk into my dog when he is freaking out. Your dog needs to kinda be at or close to your side for this to work, but you just walk into them and make them sit or back up a bit. It worked like MAGIC. It’s still an on-going process for Hiccup. His leash reactivity was so bad he used to do flips at the end of his leash and sound like something from a horror film even if the other dog was a massive distance away. We’ve had him for about 2 years now and I now trust him off-leash with dogs and people (he’d go for people sometimes, too) and he only reacts on-leash now if the other dog barks first. I taught him this silly trick I cleverly called “this side” to get him to switch to walking on my right if we’re going to pass a dog on the left. I just say (obviously), “This side!” in a happy voice and pat my right side. I do it again on the left when we’ve passed the dog. Works pretty well!
    I love this post!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh I use that U-turn trick so often, even with dogs that aren’t reactive but just get a little excited sometimes, like Ace. Maybe it needs a whole post of its own because I don’t think enough people realize how helpful and easy that trick can be, especially when walking large, strong dogs. But it sounds like it works well for your little guy too! “And sound like something from a horror film.” Haha! Back in the day I tried to teach Ace “side” for my right side and “heel” for left but we (I) never made much progress.

    2. Great idea about walking into your dog! I have to try that! My 7 lb Maltese is extremely reactive to people and dogs on walks and the obedience school is of no help. Thanks!

  3. I body block Chip when she does starts barking and it helps. What I have started doing is when she calms down, we sit and watch the dog pass us. So rather than turning around and avoiding the situation. We just take a step back and watch the dog walk by from a distance and I have noticed its helping a lot more. At first I used to treat her when the other dog went past but now she focuses on the dog but still says calm. These days its only every second or third dog that she will react. Huge improvement!

  4. I’ve been tempted to use a training collar with Rodrigo, but my fear is that it’ll make his reactivity worse (and I fear the judgment). I have found that walking him early in the morning so that by the time the bicycles come out, he’s not reactive (or as reactive) after an hour of walking. And I use a shorter leash with him to keep him next to me, this makes it easier for me to feel his body and get ahead of his reactions.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You know your dog best and what types of collars might make his reactivity worse. Have you used any type of no-pull harness with Rodrigo? Maybe that would be your best bet for him. Regardless, it sounds like you’ve found ways to manage his behavior. Those darn bikes!

  5. We use prong collars for the girls when they go for walks. There is absolutely no negative reaction from them when the collars come out (on the contrary, they come running!).

    We stop to the side of the sidewalk or path when another dog approaches. They will sit or be in a down until the dog passes, then they get lots of praise and we continue on our way.

    They are happy and well behaved. Even their vets (they have a “regular” and a holistic vet) always comment on their lovely disposition.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That’s great to hear! Good dogs. 🙂

      My dog comes running if I have his prong collar too. He shuts down, however, if I get out the Gentle Leader! Silly boy.

  6. I occasionally react to other dogs on a walk, but the problem is Mom seems to always have at least two dogs with her which makes it hard to control and work on just me. With having to walk Katie separately because of her age, there is just not enough time to walk me alone as well. We are working on it sort of like you suggest and quite often I seem to be better, but some dogs I simply don’t like.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh Emma, I can’t imagine you reacting to other dogs! There are two dogs in our apartment complex that Ace growls at too. He just doesn’t like those dogs!

  7. Great tips! I implement most of them. And the book Feisty Fido helped me out a lot. Pierson can still be reactive in certain situations, but it is much more manageable now than it first was. Treat distractions help. And so does crossing the street or turning around when we see another dog. The only time he reacts to another dog is if the other dog reacts or if a dog is off a leash and approaches him (there’s this one owner and her dog!). Now, if I could only keep him from reacting to the myriads of squirrels that cross our path when we’re on a walk. Pierson has a very high prey drive.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh good to hear you also liked Feisty Fido. I’m glad it’s made a difference for Pierson. Yep, crossing the street or turning around is what I usually do too.

  8. I have two Dalmatians myself, my older girl is very chilled and relaxed and loves mixing with people and dogs, and my younger boy was turning out the same way too until he was attacked while they were in kennels for a long weekend when he was a year old. He came out petrified of other dogs and would immediately lunge and bark at them, more out of fear than anything else. He was starting to have an effect on my older girl too, so for a few months I walked them separately – I’m pretty strong but not that strong to have both of them lunging on the lead! Both started to improve so that I can walk them together again, but if I see another dog, I immediately call them back, with treats and put them on lead, then if there’s enough room I sit them slightly away from the path sideways on, so they’re not making strong eye contact and feed them treats, partly as a distraction and partly as reward for being quiet. I take them out every day, but I also have a dog walker once a week specifically for my boy, so that he is constantly mixing with a small selection of other dogs, and also take him to a day care place that specialises in behaviour, where he has been running off lead with around 40 other dogs. 2 years on, It is slow – very slow – progress, but he is improving, he’s not so defensive now, and it has turned into over excitement, even with his best friend I keep him on lead until he has calmed down. We live in a very rural area, so don’t tend to come across many dogs on our walks, but we do live next to a red heeler who will attack him any opportunity she gets, so I think progress is somewhat slower due to that – two steps forward and one step back!

  9. I bait my dogs to keep their interest on me and not the outside world when necessary. My dogs are food motivated , so that’s what I use. I make sure they are fixated on the reward before the problem arises. Other dogs might like balls or sqeakies better. Start them young and it never becomes a problem. Also a quick fast game of fetch or chase, pre walk will let the the heebie jeebies out before going out in public. Any way that’s my philosophy. BTW I have found that u turn thing completely useless as a training tool. Let us remember, they are pups, they are, confused and they are used to doing whatever they want. Training is a life long experience, it never ends…

  10. I have had my lovely little rescue podenco cross for 10 weeks now. He was picked up as a stray in a Spanish village and lived for months at a lady’s home where she has 40 dogs! She had the small ones live inside with her and they did not get walked, just explored the area of the house. This has resulted in Syrus having a variety of problems that need working on.
    Syrus has severe Separation Anxiety, did not know any command even No or his own name, has been possessive over his beds and toy but only at night when he’s tired (typical for a street dog) and has difficulty with other dogs on the lead and is cranky with some off lead too. We have now managed to get Sit, Down, Stay and Come to reasonable levels.
    I am not sure how Syrus is off lead as we are in the process of getting his recall down but on lead he is reactive with dogs. He is fine with some but especially bad with big dogs that stare. At training he gets crazy at the beginning or when a new dog joins the class and he proceeds to bark and lunge and loose control once I get his attention, do a bit of training he can carry on quite well although he growls when they get too close.
    I carry chicken and sausage treats which help get his attention and have been getting him to watch me and sit while the dogs pass but he quite often looses focus if they come too close We live in a village with narrow paths and on the open areas many owners do not understand that when you are training it is helpful to call their dog back – most are off lead.
    I have a struggle with myself over getting him to sit looking at me and avoiding all contact and wanting him to have a chance to socialise with the dogs. I often let them meet if he seems calm and then sometimes after a few seconds of sniffing noses he growls and snaps. He puts himself into their face and then tells them to back off – confusing. When he does play with a dog it tends to be over excited spins and running and I often get spun around like a top. I also get many comments from other owners on walks when I am training him to put attention on me, they say that their dog is fine and that I should let him meet as he will never imorove without the practice of contact. It usually ends with him growling and then the dogs ignore each other.
    I would like to know – should I continue with avoiding all contact with dogs to keep him always calm, or would it do him more good to let him meet the dogs I think he would get along with?
    PS. I have bought Feisty Fido just now!

  11. Sandy Weinstein

    thank goodness i do not have this problem with my dogs. they are very good with other dogs. it is just they bark at the deer, and other animals that are in my yard. they dont bark when we are out on a walk or at an event. they will bark if someone starts running and getting loud though. it excites them. however, they are very good. these are good options to know about though. i hate the flexi leashes. i cant stand it when people let their dogs run the end of the leash, they get tangled up with my dogs and they are very dangerous. i always make sure my dogs are near me when other dogs around not only for their benefit but for mine, because i never know what the other dogs will do. several yrs ago, a jack russell ran up and attacked my oldest dog at a dog event, my dog was right at my side and the jack russell was on a long leash, flexi. the woman did not even apologize or ask how my dog was. apparently this dog had problems b/c he wore a muzzle but she had removed it.

    1. Sharon McGuigan-Baki

      Wow same thing happened to me twice with a Jack Russell. First my Malamute was nearing end of her life and I was walking her on leash so she could go potty and a Jack Russell attacked her. I scolded the owner severely as poor Sheena could hardly walk! The second time when my Kuvasz Bianca was a pup a Jack Russell in the park attacked her and she ran out into the street! Luckily it was not a busy street and I was able to catch her! The JR owner picked up her dog and slapped it! I told her stop doing that- neuter your dog and take it to obedience! Neddles to say I do not like Jack Russells or their owners.. LOL

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        Oh gosh! Jack Russells can be intense little dogs. I have always thought about getting one! Haha. I would like a smaller dog that can still be a good running buddy.

  12. I’m going through training my 7-month-old weimaraner to heel. Boy is it challenging! He pulls like mad on all collars (prong, Gentle Leader) but if I carry highly valued treats and basically lure him to my side he does pretty well. It is not the norm for me to walk around with a treat pouch but that’s what I’ve been doing with Remy and I’ve seen some slight progress. Doesn’t really matter which collar he’s wearing but I prefer something to give me a little more control. I rotate between the GL and the prong. I do worry he pulls too hard on the prong at times, and I also worry the GL will hurt his eyes but sometimes I need more than a martingale or flat collar or he’s on his hind legs doing the “kangaroo hop.”

    1. The treat pouch has become the norm for me. I use a front lead harness and lots of treats.( I do adjust food) my 50 pound terrier mix shelter dog pulled badly and barked and lunged like a mad dog on the leash. With treats she now walks nicely and her reactivity has drastically decreased!

  13. I don’t love the prong collar, but when it works, it works! My mom has a (now) 3 year old chocolate lab. He was quick to learn to walk on the leash, and overall he is a very well behaved dog. However, he is still young. And sometimes, he gets all “full of himself” and just WILL NOT calm down (tearing through the house, barking, jumping, etc) And we’ve found the best solution is to grab his prong collar and give it a good yank to make him sit, ‘watch me’, and get a treat. And then he’s fine! Its like he needs to be reminded who’s the boss. He currently walks around with a regular flat collar on for going out to do his business and on walks, and also the prong collar. Can’t say we would have survived his severe puppy days without both.

  14. Sharon McGuigan-Baki

    I use easy walk harness with Hannah and I tell her ‘quiet’ if we see another dog and I reward her with praise and a treat.I also tell her look at me and she does and I praise her and give treat. Also if a dog walk by the house and we are out front I praise her for being quiet and reward her. She is a Shepherd so if we are not out with her she will bark and wag her tail at passing dogs.

  15. I have four large dogs, two goldens, a lab mix and a pyr mix. The pyr can be reactive to other dogs and will draw in one of the goldens. I switched all of them to prong collars two years ago. They are not pullers, so 99% of the time they have no idea they are wearing them. But when there is a dog they don’t like, it is a life saver. I can use it quickly to get them to sit and watch me. I am working specifically with the pyr on one set of dogs that always lunge the electric fence right up to the road. He is still a work in progress, but much better than he was.

  16. I rescued Griffen about 16 months ago. He’s a Chihuahua/Chocolate lab mix (yes, I know ;), about 25 pounds. He’s a wonderful dog but if he should see a person or dog when we’re out walking, he does the bark/lunge/snarl thing and his hackles go up. He also lunges/barks at people who come to the house, including our vet (we had to change to a vet clinic instead, but he did the same thing when we went there recently). I’m thinking that this behavior is motivated by fear, since he’ll walk and stop to look back every few feet, as if he’s looking for someone to come sneaking up on us. Our street is extremely quiet but I do find that I breathe a sigh of relief when we’ve made it through a walk without encountering anyone. Next step is a behaviorist.

    1. An update. I had Griffen’s DNA tested and it turned out that he is a Patterdale terrier — a type that is made up of Parson Russell/Russell/Border terriers — and neither Chihuahua nor Labrador (except for his webbed feet!). I think that’s the explanation for his intensity, and I also suspect that he was never socialized properly. He still barks/lunges at other dogs and people in the street when we encounter someone. We’re seeing a new trainer now. She has us using an e collar but it doesn’t seem to be making any difference. Using positive reinforcement — giving treats when he saw someone — didn’t work either. He did the behavior AND got treats — he’s that smart. So this may just be something I have to live with.

  17. We have 2 rescue dogs and they do not like other dogs. We called several people for help. We use the gentle leader harness and the one dog would get so agitated that she would get it in her mouth and chew on it. (We have gone through at least 3 with her) We call several people for help and the most helpful advice was this: When the dog looks at another dog it is okay. It is not okay when she reacts. When she looks without getting agitated I give her a treat. (I just use the dry dog food and give her one of the pieces.) She is not perfect but she is getting better. When she sees another dog and doesn’t get excited she looks at me and I give her a kibble. She is not perfect but she is a lot better than she was.

  18. I personally like the prong collars for larger dogs that are hard to manage on a walk. They work well on smaller dogs too. I also avoid other dogs on walks as a rule. You just never know. I cross the street or just turn around. I will say “leave it” I always keep them at my side and in control. I always want to know what triggers them and try to correct it or avoid all together. Sometimes it is impossible to do. Sometimes I use a really good treat (really smelly) to distract them. I won’t give it to them unless they did really good and a reward for good behavior. Easier said then done.

  19. I adopted an American Bull Dog/mix, 78lbs., 3 years old and very hard headed. I can tell he never had toys to play with, if I throw a ball he just looks at it bounce by him and tug ropes he would barely mouth. One of my neighbors adopted the same day I did and the two dogs are the best of friends. They will run and play and wrestle each other for hours. When we approach other dogs mine will whine, cry, bark and try to get to them. I don’t think he wants to hurt them but, I think the other dog is fearful because of my dog’s size. After I move closer to the other dog I turn my dog’s rear to the new dog so he/she can smell it. This tends to calm my dog and the other dog down. Mine will then greet the other dog face to face. They tend to get along after that. One trick I use that helps getting his attention while on walks is I keep the squeaker from destroyed pet toys and I use it when he is focussed on other dogs, people or whatever and not listening to my commands It breaks his concentration for a minute and I get him to focus on me. I really like this POST. Thanks

  20. My dogs (Abby a 9 month old lab and Dash an 8yr old mix breed) were great at not reacting until last week. We were out for a walk on a trail and we were on leash practicing tandeum healing. When a huge golden retriever yes a golden retriever cane charging out of the woods and attacked Dash flattening him and ripping his ear open and biting his neck and dragging him. I dropped the leashes and my pAbby ran away and hid. I couldn’t get the fight broken up and the golden retrievers owner was no where to be found. Seemed like forever before he arrived and the two dogs were separated. Now my puppy is afraid of any dog that barks and my old boy refuses to walk if their is a dog coming to wed him or behind him. He sits and wants to wait. Which is ok for now but if the other dog owner can’t control their dog and the dog comes near my Dash barks.
    So sad for them both because we love our walks together.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m so sorry to hear this happened to you. Hopefully you can seek out some positive experiences with other dogs that are calm and friendly and gentle.

  21. I got the EasyWalker harness and every time I take Chance out (he is a miniature poodle) is a work session. He has been doing fairly well though he was unhappy about the harness at first. He has even begun to automatically sit when I stop him from pulling ahead. I even got him to not react to 2 different barking dogs. I was encouraged but last night we happened to go out at the same time as some nearby neighbors with their 2 dogs and suddenly Chance went insane. I managed to grab him and turned him away from them but it took at least 5 minutes to get him mostly calmed down. Then I hustled him into the house. I am ordering the Feisty Fido book and we will have to start back at square one.

  22. One of mine is excellent walks beautifully by my side and rarely reacts to anything. The other one, 3 months younger, reacts to everything! Leaves, grass, dogs, birds, aeroplanes, people though he loves his treats normally at this point NO , he may take it from you but will spit it out. He starts barking almost the second you walk out the door, the only thing that breaks his focus is a jar with dice in. A short sharp shake and a firm NO at the same time and he stops and looks at you and then will sit, look at me, take his treat as soon as you move in any direction bark bark. Funnily enough, he is the gentlest of the two and the cuddliest. They both wear a harness and lead and a slip lead at the same time as I have had a D link snap on a walk, this is fine when he has worn himself out.

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