Does your dog keep barking at other dogs whenever you take him for a walk?
If so, this guide was written with you in mind.
Specifically, we’re going to explain some of the main reasons why your dog could be barking at other dogs, and what to do about it.
Ultimately, we aim to show you the key steps you need to follow that’ll stop this from happening permanently, or, at least, make the behavior less intense and frequent. So let’s begin.
Why Does Your Dog Bark At Other Dogs?
The first thing to realize is that there are different types of “dog aggression”.
In cases when your dog barks at other dogs, your dog has usually succumbed to “fear-based” aggression, which as the name suggests, means they’re behaving in this way because they feel scared or threatened by the other dog in some way.
This fear could be caused by a few reasons, such as a lack of socialization when they were a puppy, traumatic experiences with other dogs (perhaps they were bullied or attacked as a young dog), or even because they’re detecting fear or apprehension from their owner.
So what can you do about this? Let’s take a look at some of the potential solutions.
Always Be Calm
We’ve all seen dog owners who yell at their dog or even pull and tug at their leash to keep them under control or otherwise reprimand them for their behavior.
The problem with this tactic is that it does little to calm your dog down, and it’s actually more likely to reinforce the behavior – because your dog may even think you’re joining in!
So the first step is to remain calm and composed at all times.
If you’re feeling threatened, anxious, or tense, then your dog is going to feed off this energy as well and use it to reinforce the decision to behave in this way.
Distract Your Dog
One of the keys to overcoming this behavior is distracting your dog at the right time. As soon as you notice that your dog has seen the other dog, observe their behavior.
Is your dog becoming tense and stiff before starting to bark? If so, this is the perfect time to distract them before they escalate into barking, tugging, or further aggressive behavior.
You could call their name to get their attention fixed on you – and even give them a treat once they’re fully facing you and not paying attention to the other dog.
The next step is to turn around and avoid the other dog entirely.
Most importantly, you don’t want to let your dog get closer and build up more aggression – otherwise, the treat may easily become associated with this unwanted behavior and make the situation worse.
Instead, you want your dog to associate receiving the treat with calmness and the absence of the other dog – so do your best to keep the other dog out of your dog’s line of sight.
Desensitizing Your Dog
The other fundamental step to dealing with barking at other dogs is to gradually desensitize your dog to the stimulus. This essentially means applying the “distraction” step from above gradually and patiently over a long period of time.
It’s unlikely for your dog’s behavior to perform a complete U-turn after just one exposure – but with continual, repeated exposure – starting with the other dog far away, and working up to more difficult and closer tasks, the behavior should improve.
Over time, your dog will learn that the sight of another dog, combined with a calm, relaxed demeanor, leads to a tasty treat – so your dog will gradually lose the desire to behave aggressively or bark at the other dog at all.
Avoiding Other Dogs
As an emergency measure, you can try to walk your dog when other dogs aren’t around. While this doesn’t cure the problem, it is something many people resort to as a short-term measure.
Of course, choosing to walk your dog during times when other dogs aren’t around can be useful for reducing the amount of exposure they have, and making life easier for yourself in general. While this shouldn’t be an ultimate solution, there’s no denying that it can be the only option from time to time.
Typically, the early afternoons are less busy, as many dog owners walk their pets in the morning and the evening. Obviously, this may vary depending on where you live.
If you can find a route that will give them very light exposure, such as only seeing one or two dogs from a distance – then this can be an effective way to gradually desensitize them as well.
Socializing Your Dog
Something else to consider is socializing your dog more often. This could mean letting them interact with “friendly” dogs at first, so perhaps you have a family member with a dog who isn’t considered a threat by your own. This can be a fantastic starting point.
An even better thing to do would be to enroll your dog in socialization classes with other dogs.
While this may be a daunting task at first, it will get your dog used to the presence of other dogs in a calm and controlled way. These classes are especially effective (and important) if you have a puppy because this will set the stage for how your dog views other dogs in the future.