Stop A Dog From Barking At People on Walks

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.

Dogs could also bark at strangers during walks 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.

3. Protection or resource guarding. Although this often stems from fear & feeling the need to protect from the “threat.”

Stop a dog from barking at people on walks

The most common reason dogs bark at people on walks is due to fear or feeling unsure. 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 things in general.

How to stop a dog from barking at people when out walking

Since fear is the most common reason for a dog to bark at people, let’s use that as our example. My tips on how to stop a dog from barking at people are below. I always welcome you to leave your own in the comments.

If your dog is barking due to excitement, these tips should still be helpful.

1. Make a list of your dog’s exact triggers. Be specific.

Try to pinpoint exactly when your dog reacts to people. 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 Zuke’s minis 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 martingale collar or a Gentle Leader. See more details on different training collars at the end of this article.

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.

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5. Make sure you do not rush your training.

Very slowly increase the challenge over several weeks. Give your dog time to build the confidence he needs to be calm around strangers.

6. Enroll in a group obedience class.

Do this so that your dog learns to work and focus on you around distractions. The controlled environment with understanding people is helpful!

7. Work on obedience training in general to stop your dog from barking at people.

This builds confidence and trust.

It’s also a great way of building and strengthening the bond between yourself and your pup.

8. 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.

Order Feisty Fido Here

Feisty Fido

9. Use a dog backpack to stop your dog’s barking.

It gives your dog a job to do and helps him build confidence. Additionally, it also offers an increased level of physical activity that helps tire him out and makes him less likely to bark. We recommend Ruffwear’s packs.

Backpacks come in varying sizes and are available for small dogs all the way up to extra large pups. Most come with zip-able pockets on each side that you can fill with water bottles, toys, treats, first aid items, or anything else that adds some weight.

Order a Ruffwear pack here

Backpack pockets for smaller dogs can be a bit trickier to fill than the ones for larger pups because they obviously are limited in what they can hold size-wise, so you may just have to fill those with small sand bags.

You can find backpacks in different price ranges at many pet retail stores as well as on Amazon.

10. Train “watch me” or “look” with no distractions.

This teaches your pup to focus on you when you give him the command. It’ll come in handy when you need to redirect his attention when he’s about to start barking at people on walks. When he makes eye contact with you, praise warmly and offer him a high value training treat or a favorite toy for listening to you. Good boy!

Using a clicker can also help to “mark” the exact moment your dog looks at you. It’s certainly not a requirement but can really help speed up your dog’s learning.

Start training the “watch me” command with no distractions around. This can be inside your home, your fenced-in backyard, in an empty parking lot in your car, etc. You get the idea. Once your pup reliably listens to the command in an area with no distractions, you can slowly start incorporating some.

This could be when you’re at a distance from a school bus stop where kids and/or parents are waiting, during less busy times at a park, or at a drive-through bank or restaurant. Essentially anywhere with slightly more distractions.

11. Recruit a friend to be a nonthreatening “stranger.”

The next training level can involve a friend your dog is somewhat familiar with. Ask your friend to ignore your pup and simply walk calmly next to you. That’ll decrease your dog’s level of excitement and will make him less likely to bark on the walk.

Remember that practice makes perfect, so do this on a regular basis to improve your pup’s reaction to people on walks. Just once per week probably won’t help a lot, so several times per week will yield quicker results.

12. Know how to do a quick “u-turn” to get away as needed.

Sometimes, there’s no space to avoid other people and it’s best to just turn around and walk the other way.

This is easiest to teach when your pup walks right next to you instead of ahead of you. Make a smacking sound with your lips so that your dog focuses on you, then ask him to “look” at you, followed by doing a 180° turn with your pup.

Gentle Leader

13. Ongoing socialization to strangers.

This is the best way of getting your dog used to people (and other dogs). The more he’s used to having others around, the less inclined he’ll be to act up and bark at people on walks.

You can take him to dog-friendly stores or places like wineries and breweries, drive-throughs, your vet’s, friendly neighbors or family for this purpose.

Dog training collar options

Earlier we mentioned finding the best training collar option for your dog. Here are some more details on each of these types of collars. You probably want to try two or three different types to find what works best for your specific pup.

1. Halti/Gentle Leader

Haltis and Gentle Leaders are head collars that give you a lot of control over your dog’s movement. They’re comparable to a horse halter and are worn around a dog’s muzzle and close behind their ears. They’re great to guide the dog’s head away from distractions such as other people, dogs, bikes, or small critters they perceive as prey.

My dog wearing a Gentle Leader
Pros of the Gentle Leader
  • Gentle and effective training tool
  • Great for reactive dogs
  • Good alternative for people who aren’t comfortable using prong collars
Cons of the Gentle Leader
  • May take some getting used to
  • Not a good option for brachycephalic dogs (dogs with shortened nasal passages like pugs or bulldogs)
  • Some people mistake head collars for muzzles
  • They can jerk a dog’s head and neck around
  • Can cause chafing on your dog’s muzzle if the noseband isn’t padded
  • May restrict breathing/panting for extra strong pullers (Remy!)


Other articles on head halters:

2. No pull harness

No pull harnesses are designed to discourage pulling and to help you gain more control over your dog on your walks. They’re worn around a dog’s chest and have no attachment points around a dog’s neck or throat. When the dog pulls, a no-pull harness is designed to gently move the dog’s chest and shoulders to the side.

Remy is wearing the Easy Walk no pull harness in this picture:

Pros of a no-pull harness
  • Less pressure or no pressure on the dog’s neck
  • Gentle training tool
  • Great for teaching puppies polite leash walking skills
Cons of a no-pull harness
  • Non-padded harnesses can cause chafing in the armpits, on the chest and on the belly
  • Not an instant fix as it requires some getting used to
  • Doesn’t work well for some strong pullers or dogs that lunge
  • Some dog can twist out of certain brands


Articles on no-pull harnesses:

  • No pull harness vs. Gentle Leader
  • Does a no pull harness work?

3. Prong collars

Prong or pinch collars are chain collars that tighten around a dog’s neck when they pull. They have flat prongs that fit evenly around the collar.

Pros of prong collars
  • Highly effective on strong pullers and lungers
  • Needs to be fitted correctly to work
Cons of prong collars
  • Can cause serious damage to a dog’s throat area if used incorrectly

Both my dogs have responded well to prong collars. Here’s an example of my dog Ace walking nicely in his prong collar in this video:

4. Martingale collars

Collars made of various materials like nylon, leather, or metal that consist of two loops. The larger loop slips around the dog’s neck, the smaller one clips to the dog leash. They’re also known as humane choke collars.

  • Slide on easily
  • Escape-proof
  • No choking effect
  • Don’t work well for strong pullers and lungers

5. Slip Collars

Collars made of different materials such as metal, nylon, or rope. They tighten around a dog’s neck when they pull.

  • Slip on easily
  • Escape-proof
  • They can seriously hurt a dog’s neck when used incorrectly

What would you add to this list?

How would you stop a dog from barking at people when going for a walk?

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Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

Barbara Rivers contributed to this article. She writes regularly for That Mutt and is a blogger, raw feeder and dog walker. She maintains the blog K9s Over Coffee.

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15 thoughts on “Stop A Dog From Barking At People on Walks”

  1. Our dog gets excited when he sees other dogs, especially the ones barking at us behind their fences. Kuba is very friendly but to pass his Canine Good Citizen test, he needs to ignore other dogs. I started to follow the advice in Feisty Fido, which I actually got for our leash reactive foster dog. Bringing treats on the walks works great: I ask him randomly to look at me and reward for eye contact. We have a long way to go.
    Thanks for the advice!

  2. Oh, and regarding the confidence building – we include some simple dog parkour on our walks. It makes the outings more interesting, it makes my dog more focused, and it makes him listen more. And he is more tired afterwards.

  3. Feisty Fido is great! I also highly recommend the “Look at that” game from Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. I used that with my first dog, who was a seriously frustrated greeter on leash. It worked GREAT and so now I’ve had years of being able to walk her by other dogs with her showing interest but not getting frustrated.

  4. Luckily all of my dogs are very friendly with people to different degrees. Raven is very hesitant. Linus is slightly hesitant. Stetson is enthusiastic. Archer is very enthusiastic. Our biggest problem is Linus barking at other dogs. For him it’s done out of fear/protection. We’ve worked with him and while it’s been better and worse we’ve never gotten him to completely stop.

  5. The “look at that” game is well worth doing! I have a crazy reactive border collie who hates everything and anyone sadly – things are slowly improving but once apon a time the look at that game & treats was all i could do to stop him trying to kill everything around! He was rescued by myself at 2yrs old so we dont really have a history – just guess work However for say the last month or so we,ve had no issuess with people – except really small children!(he hates them especially when they run) Still tries to “herd” the cars but settled alittle with bikes.

  6. Thanks for that book suggestion! I’ll have to check it out.
    Missy & Buzz typically only bark at people when they’re startled or really thrown off by a certain appearance. Someone in our neighborhood goes for daily morning walks wearing this huge hat for sun protection – it kind of reminds me of a beekeeper’s hat. When Missy saw the person approaching with that hat, she started barking quite a bit! She’s gotten used to it now though.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Haha! Remy got totally freaked out the other day when this woman stopped and pulled a small dog out of the stroller she was pushing. He’s normally unfazed by strollers but it totally threw him off to see that dog. It really scared him! Haha.

  7. This month I have come to believe that any change is possible – my Border Collie/Great Pyr amazing young fur-girl had become so afraid of lightning and/or thunder – she could not tolerate being outside or being on the beach with even hint of storm – after July 4th – she was traumatized big-time – but in August and now – she seems to have ‘decided’ to overcome that fear – I thought we would never be outside again during any even distant lightning – but this week and last – we were able to be on the beach during major lightning storm – and she did not flee to the car – it is nothing short of a miracle – I did try to attach thunder or lightning to a training game she likes to play – but it was clearly a decision she made to overcome the fear – she is also very competitive with my first dog who does not care at all about storms – perhaps she decided that she would ‘beat’ him in this area too – whatever it is – it is wonderful and amazing.

  8. Unfortunately not useful for a dog with food allergies. Limited food options also means extremely limited treat options. While my dog likes to eat, she reaches a frenzy where food no longer holds her interest.

  9. My dog is really great about not barking while out on our walks.I can not remember her ever barking at anything outside the house.Even in the truck she don`t bark.Here comes the “but”,but when where in the garage and I have the garage door open she barks at people when they walk by.I know dog barks and her bark is guard duty bark.I have tried everything to get her not bark but she still likes to bark at people.If it`s someone she knows then it turns into a come on over here….hey dad look who`s here kind of bark.So I am starting to use treats to see if I can get her to stop 50% of the time.I do not mind her barking but not all the time.It`s healthy for dogs to bark,I just want her to ease back a little.

  10. Sandy Weinstein

    the only time my girls bark, is when someone is coming to the house. they dont bark at them when they are in the house. they are my watch dogs. the youngest is a love bug, the middle child is not very friendly to strangers especially men. i know if someone tried to do anything to me, she would go after them. however, they are not barkers which makes me mad when people say schnauzers are barkers. it is not the dog, it is the person. i know lots of schnauzers that dont bark. some dog bark of fear or to protect their territory. i have an old pet corrector can, if i just take it out, they know to stop barking. the girls will bark when they see a car coming down the road, or a delivery truck. they will bark at someone. they stop if they come on the deck or in the house. they dont bark in public places though and never have.

  11. I have a dog who is friendly with 99.9 % of people.

    For my dog – his triggers are people who are nervous of him or displaying strong emotions such as anger and people who do not react in a way he expects (such as drunk people).

    How can you train against other peoples emotional states? the only good thing is – if he does not get close enough to people to pick up on their emotions he is perfectly fine. Extreme anger/ rage in a person he can sense from further away. But we have only had this issue with two people in his life.

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