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Just as you’re starting to enjoy walking your dog, she explodes into a frenzy of barking and lunging. She almost pulls you off your feet as she strains towards another dog. Or perhaps you notice when you’re home, and you realize that your dog loses her mind whenever another dog walks by on the street.
Owning a dog that barks and lunges at other dogs sucks. Trainers call this problem “reactivity” or “leash reactivity,” and it’s a really common behavior problem.
Why does your dog bark and lunge at other dogs?
Getting to the bottom of why your dog does what she does can be a valuable insight, but isn’t 100% necessary for fixing her behavior. Our book, Practical Solutions for Aggressive Dogs, can help!
You will also find plenty more advice in our archives about reactive dogs.
But let’s get to the root of your problem here, first.
We’ll go through some basic questions about your dog’s reactivity (barking and lunging) and how to fix the problem.
What Is Reactivity?
“Leash reactivity” or “reactivity” is a blanket term that trainers use to describe dogs that bark and lunge at other dogs. In essence, we’re saying that these dogs are overreacting to stuff around them.
These dogs are easily provoked. In most cases, just seeing another dog is enough to set them off.
Most dogs that bark and lunge at other dogs are really stressed out by other dogs. They might be scared, aggressive, or overly excited.
Seeing another dog without being able to escape, attack, or go say hi is generally “upsetting,” so the dog barks and lunges.
We can look at barking and lunging as a “distance increasing” behavior in most cases. Your dog is trying to get the other dog to go away.
The exception here is dogs that bark and lunge because they’re so excited to go say hi that they can’t stand it. These dogs bark and lunge in more of a fit of frustration than a defensive display.
Is My Dog Aggressive?
In most cases, dogs that bark and lunge aren’t really aggressive in the traditional sense – but that depends on your definition of “aggressive.” In some cases, dogs that bark and lunge behind windows and fences or on leash actually are really friendly off-leash.
Barking and lunging is basically a threat display meant to keep others away (as I said, in most cases). It can spill over into aggression, but it’s not quite the same thing at this stage. It’s more of a threat, than actual violence.
Reactivity is generally limited to just when your dog is on a leash or behind a barrier. If your dog is biting other dogs, she’s not “just reactive” anymore. Likewise, if her issues with other dogs spill over into off-leash times, she’s not “just reactive.”
Why Does My Dog Bark and Lunge at Other Dogs?
There are a lot of reasons that your dog might be barking and lunging at other dogs. Since we can’t ask your dog, we can only guess. Here are a few of the most common (and best) explanations for this behavior:
- Fight or Flight. When your dog is on a leash, behind a fence, inside of a crate, or behind a window, she’s a bit “stuck.” If she’s upset about seeing another dog (maybe last time she saw a dog, he was rude to her and she wants more space this time), she doesn’t have many options. She can’t flee if she’s on leash or otherwise contained, but she wants the other dog to go away. In effect, your dog learns that barking and lunging works – so she keeps doing it, maybe even doing it more and more as time goes on.
- Frustrated Greeting. Some dogs never really learn how to pass other dogs politely on the street. They spend time in puppy classes, dog parks, and doggie daycares playing beautifully with other dogs. Their well-meaning owners let them pull over to “go say hi” when they’re little. Then their owners stop letting them “go say hi.” They see another dog (another playmate!) and want to go over. But they can’t because of this darn leash! Frustrated, they bark. The next time, they see another dog, and they get upset again.
- This problem can happen whether you let your dog “go say hi” to other dogs most of the time or some of the time. It can also happen if you used to let your dog go say hi, but no longer do.
- Undersocialization. Some dogs just don’t quite know how to interact with other dogs. This can make them extra-nervous around other dogs. When undersocialized dogs learn that being on leash means they can’t get away from the other dogs, they are more likely to be reactive. This ties back into the “fight or flight” reason for barking and lunging.
- Ill-Advised Training Techniques. Unfortunately, many training techniques can actually make your dog’s barking and lunging worse. Choking, scolding, spanking, rolling, or otherwise correcting your dog for barking and lunging can easily backfire. That’s because your dog learns that other dogs (or people, or whatever she barks and lunges at) makes you do these unpleasant things. In turn, she tries to keep the other dogs further away by barking and lunging more.
- This can happen even if the corrections that you’re giving aren’t all that painful or scary. Anything startling or even mildly unpleasant can make your dog more scared of/suspicious of/aggressive towards dogs or people.
Of course, not all shy dogs or dogs trained using corrections start barking and lunging at other dogs. There’s a genetic component to this behavior – some dogs are just more likely to develop this problem than others.
Pair that with in-utero hormone exposure, early life experiences with the litter and the breeder, ongoing socialization, and ongoing training, and it’s very difficult to point to one specific reason for your dog’s barking and lunging.
All of these factors can come together to “make” your dog bark and lunge. You might never know exactly what causes your dog’s reactivity. But you can take steps to fix it.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Barking and Lunging?
As you can imagine from above, I don’t recommend using correction-based training for dogs that bark and lunge. These training methods can get results with some dogs and skilled trainers – but they often backfire. Using praise or petting alone isn’t enough to override the intense emotions that most reactive dogs are feeling. Finally, using treats incorrectly can be downright useless.
So how do we fix it?
Prevent Your Dog From Barking and Lunging
This is an integral first step. Make sure you know exactly what causes your dog to bark and lunge. Is it kids, dogs, men in hats, bikes, cars?
Then make sure you know how intense that thing has to be to cause problems. For some dogs, a sleeping dog across the street is no biggie, but a running dog in agility class is a Very Big Deal. Distance, speed, number, and volume of the “bad things” (called triggers from here on out) can all change how your dog thinks about them.
Now it’s time to avoid those things. Exposing your dog to them over and over won’t cut it. This isn’t about “socialization.” It’s a bit late for that!
You might need to change the time and route of your daily walk. Start paying attention and crossing the street when you see the triggers. Turn around if you have to.
Basically, do everything that you can to avoid putting your dog in a situation where she’ll bark and lunge.
Stop Barking and Lunging Right Now
Of course, sometimes things will still go a bit south. If your dog starts barking and lunging at something, you’re in damage control mode.
When you’re handling a dog that’s barking and lunging, you have a few strategies:
- Get out of there. This should always be your first choice. Work on an “emergency U-turn” at home if you can. If you haven’t done that yet, you might need to literally move your dog out of the situation. Try not to make this unpleasant for your dog, no matter how embarrassed (or frustrated) you are. Your dog is already upset, and punishing her won’t help at this point.
- Toss treats. That’s right. If your dog will eat, even if it’s between barks, feed her. This helps teach your dog that her triggers make treats happen. You can throw treats on the ground to get your dog to play the “find it” game, or you can feed your dog while you high-tail it out of there.
Feeding her no matter what she’s doing is called classical counter-conditioning, and it’s actually a foundation of good learning theory. Trust me (and trust the science).
If your dog is already barking and lunging, don’t try to get her to sit or make eye contact with you. That’s where treat-training can go really wrong for this problem! Your dog is totally in her “lizard brain,” and isn’t likely to comply with your commands. You’ll just get frustrated (and feel stupid, if you’re like me), and she’ll keep barking and lunging.
How to Really Stop Your Dog’s Barking and Lunging
Of course, reacting to your dog’s reactivity isn’t the whole story. Nor is trying to live in a perfect bubble where nothing ever upsets your dog.
What you actually have to do is train your dog to make her less emotional about whatever her triggers are. This is best done with help from a dog behavior consultant (remember, I offer email/text support, 15-minute calls, and 1-hour calls).
I’ve been there. My first foster dog, Naomi, was incredibly dog-reactive, barking and lunging if she so much as saw the silhouette of another dog from across a soccer field. I tried yanking on her collar, pinning her to the ground, trying to make her sit, and trying to force her to eat when she was wild-eyed and slobbering from trying to attack the other dog. None of it really worked.
What eventually worked for Naomi and me? The same thing that’s worked for thousands of other dogs that bark and lunge at other dogs.
We started teaching Naomi that other dogs made good stuff happen for her. We started small – a stuffed dog across a soccer field. If she glanced at the stuffed dog, she got a piece of chicken.
Then we used a real dog. A glance at the dog made chicken rain from the sky.
If Naomi saw another dog and then looked at me, she got treats.
Then the dog got closer. And still, Naomi just had to acknowledge the other dog’s presence and then look back at me in order to get chicken.
The dog started to walk, run, jump, and even look at Naomi. And still, she just had to notice it and then look at me in order to get treats.
Then we started practicing obedience behaviors around other dogs. Sit, down, hand targets.
Meanwhile, we worked on U-turns, find-its, and modifying our routine to avoid other dogs. I did my very best to avoid other dogs whenever we weren’t in training. If we did run into other dogs, I hauled Naomi away and then showered her with treats.
We did some other stuff, too – like Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. Many of the dogs that I work with nowadays are also on behavioral medication. There are lots of other exercises and games that help teach a dog not to bark and lunge, but most of them come down to one basic principle: teach the dog that her triggers make good things happen, especially if she chooses to ignore them.
There’s no need for corrections, force, or even obedience in the traditional sense.
Naomi got adopted several years ago after I’d had her for about two months. She still can’t play with other dogs or pass them on the sidewalk if they’re too close, but she can let them pass while she steps to the side.
If you’ve got a dog that barks and lunges at things and you’d like help, I’m here for you. Check out your options for online training today.
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.
Thanks for the great help. R Staack Woodburn Oregon
Thanks for your advice!! My dog has improved on the leash triggers but the dog park is another story entirely. He’s so excited and wanting to get others(most often times older dogs) to play so much he barks incessantly right in their face. It’s like he needs a young puppy to play with all the time! But that’s not practical or possible either. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!! I do take him on walks everyday. He is a year old Jack Russell/ Beagle/coonhound mix with a lot of JR personality!
I might take a “cool down” period away from the dog park and instead focus on hiking with appropriate dogs that will tell him off when he’s being rude. Adding in LOTS of extra space and movement can really help diffuse these intense dogs.
Our 6 month old husky is driving us nuts…we have another dog at home who she’s fine with, albeit somewhat aggressive. She’s been totally alpha since 3months old. We take her to a doggy daycare 2x per weeks and she’s a social butterfly . Same with play dates. But on walks, other dogs even 50-100ft away and she goes crazy, jumps like a dolphin, lunges, occasionally growls…it’s not entirely aggressive, but not completely friendly either, seems to vary, even on the same walk. Showering her with treats doesn’t help, although she’s usually very food motivated (chronic counter surfer), neither does alpha rolls. She’s very trainable for bathroom breaks as well as some agility and obedience tricks, so she isnt stupid.
She’s often a sweet dog but a Jekyll and Hyde personality..
Hi Lars, have you been able to try any of the strategies outlined in this article?
I have a 6 month old female puppy that is terrible on walks. Whenever she sees people or other dogs she goes crazy. Barking and lunging with her heckles raised. Idk what to do, Ive tried making her sit. And giving her treats when she’s quiet but when they are to close she will not take any food or direction from me. She loves the dog park and other dogs but is very nervous and scared all the time. I’ve taken her every where with me and she’s been around children and dogs so I don’t know why she’s so fearful.
Hi Erica, it sounds like your puppy is very scared of other dogs. Making her sit probably makes her feel like she can’t escape, which makes her MORE scared. Try avoiding other dogs and feeding her whenever you see another dog. If you’d like more help, feel free to book a session with one of our trainers under “1 on 1 training” in the menu bar, we work over video chat!
Thanks for these great tips! I have a four year old that is pretty reactive, but I only adopted him a year ago. He’s barking seems to be a mixture of excitement and not knowing how to properly interact with dogs, but also a bit of fear and anxiety. I think a lot of his issues with other dogs just come from lack of exposure and poor training when he was younger. I’ve been doing a lot of training with him to focus on me before we reach a dog and then keep looking at me as we walk past a dog. He’s doing really well at focussing on me instead of the dog, and I give extra treats when he looks at the dog and then looks back at me. I’m just worried that because he now isn’t getting much interaction with other dogs, he’s getting worse when he does have the interaction. Is this a problem, or do I need to realise that he’s not going to be the sort of dog that can interact too much with other dogs?
It really depends – I am afraid to say it’s hard for me to say without talking to you a lot more and getting a lot more detail! 🙁
My one year old shih tzu has been reactive on a lead, however only barking/lunging/growling at some dogs, off lead she will say hello or completely ignore them; any tips would be useful as this only seems to be happening when she feels like it? She does bark at certain noises when we are in the garden too as she can’t see them; I know shih tzus can be stubborn at this age and hopefully with extra “training” she will improve; just would be helpful to get some advice thanks
I have a 4 year old Boxer who is incredibly reactive on a leash when we’re walking. I walk him up and down the street a lot and he does perfectly fine as long as there are no people or dogs. When he sees another person or dog however he goes totally ballistic (barking, lunging, growling, hair raised). He’s generally a very friendly dog off-leash and at home but our other dog is very dog-aggressive and I’m worried he’s learning this from her. I’m afraid to walk past other people because I’m not sure if he’s being aggressive or just overly excited. I would eventually like to walk him around the block if we can get his behavior while walking past others under control. Any tips would be so very appreciated!!
Sure thing – what have you tried so far to work with his behavior? Anything mentioned in the article?
Hi there!! I have a 6 month old German Shepard, when walking I can’t face other dogs he goes absolutely mental. He lunges and barks aggressively and will not stop until they’re out of sight! I’ve tried the distraction it’s worked several times I’ll always carry treats but I dread seeing other dogs because I’m finding it so so embarrassing I just don’t know what to do with him anymore!
I’m sorry, it sure can be embarrassing. Are you located near any trainers who can help in-person with an expert eye?
Hi Kayla, thanks for replying! Yeah I’ve signed him up he’s on the waiting list but due to covid there’s been nothing on and there’s limited numbers! Just trying to preserver at the moment, he actually snapped his lead on last nights walk trying to run to another dog, and when he got off he chased the dog!
Oh, I’m glad! Let me know if I can help in any way – I work with people remotely, though this sort of issue is really best done in-person in my opinion.
Thank you for sharing Naomi’s story and all your great advice, Kayla! We have just adopted a 7 year old Kelpie who is very loving and well behaved at home but a nightmare on our walks when she sees other dogs. We don’t know her history but some scarring and her behaviour makes me think she’s been in dog fights or abused by a man (certain men or any running person sets her off too). She’s usually very responsive to our commands but she absolutely panics as soon as we see dogs from a great distance. She’s backflipping / lunging / whining / barking and we’re trying to calm her and make her sit but wind up yelling NO at her repeatedly. We know it’s best to high-tail out of there but sometimes we get caught with a dog in both directions and don’t know what to do.
We’ve been seeing a local trainer and trying to train her with counter conditioning who advised us to use our marker word YES when she’s looking at the dog, wait for her to look at us and then feed her the treat. I think we’re dreaming if we think she’s going to give us attention at this stage. I’m going to do my best to remove ourselves from the situation and shower her with treats, even if she’s misbehaving. Seemed counter-intuitive to me at first but I can understand it now, thank you.
I’m so glad to help, and even happier that your trainer is helping you out with some great counterconditioning plans!
Hi Kayla, do you have examples of these techniques working (beyond Naomi)? We are in week 3 of adopting a really sweet and cute rescue (a little less than 12 months old) and he’s great and making progress except for when he sees another dog on a leash – then he just loses his mind. He is fine meeting dogs who aren’t on a leash or when all are unleashed (at the dog park). I found a great trainer and we’ve been working on non-assertive positive reconditioning (although the trainer has never seen him lose his mind about another dog), and the trainer has reassured me that it will take some time and he hasn’t lived with us for very long either. I will try incorporating the techniques you described, too. But we can’t imagine having a dog who we can’t bring outside of our home bubble, so now we’re back into discussions about whether we should give him back to the rescue where we got him. Is there hope or should we expect to always have to be vigilant about this? Btw, we live in Helena (not far from you) and I was born in Ashland 🙂
Hi Valerie! Thanks for sharing your story, and I’m sorry you’re struggling. I actually have worked with dozens, if not hundreds, of dogs like Naomi – she was just the first “serious” case I ever worked with. That said, with some of these dogs, there’s always a bit of vigilance to ensure that they’re not surprised or overwhelmed by other dogs. Just like some people, not all dogs roll with all the punches really easily. It tends to be a good sign when they’re fine off-leash – so keep at it! Tracking your progress is often helpful to see how far you’ve come even when things aren’t perfect yet.
We have no idea what to do. We recently moved into a house with a wooden fence that has gaps in it. There’s a really friendly large dog next door, we have 2 mini dachshunds. My dogs are constantly trying to lunge and barking at the dog next door. We push mesh up over the fence and my dogs are trying to bite through it to get to the other dog. The dog next door just looks at them and wags his tail. My dogs are normally very sweet and wouldn’t hurt a fly but this dog next door situation is driving them bonkers. We’re lost, and don’t know what to do.
Hi Hollie, have you tried the look-at-that games outlined in the article?
Til I read this I truly thought my dog was alone. Yes, he is Purebred APBT. However, he didn’t even have leash aggression until after returning to training class on leash after being neutered st 7mo. He had been going to Doggy Daycare about 2-3x wkly. For about 4-5wks. @that time. He entered behavioral training @6mo. So he knew every1. All the dogs. But after being neutered and since then he has had horrible leash aggression. He’s now 8 1/2 yrs. I wouldn’t trade him for the world. But I would give anything to get rid of his leash aggression against other dogs/animals that make him feel intimidated. It has calmed down over the yrs. But.. its never gone and he’s never played w another dog outside Daycare. It burns my heart. I’ve tried everything. Now he’s also so jealous ofl my grandbaby’s, I literally cannot tolerate being around him w them. He is never mean to them he has never been human aggressive. He jus barks & cries & whines. His heart rate is always to high around them. More So than The Leash Aggression. I NEED TO FIX THIS!! My oldest granddaughter (from my Son) will be 4yrs this mo. I rarely see her ever. My newest and youngest was jus born 2mos ago. My daughter brings her over 1-2x week. We try everything to work w him but he never seems to get better. Its hurting me to death. I cannot punish him or yell at him. Or do anything as far as training either. Its always the same. My daughter does not want to give up. But I feel I have to keep my GD safe. I know Ziggy won’t hurt her. But his bark is loud aggressive and Very Scary. So I just don’t know of anything & don’t want to be mean to him. I can’t, I Iove him. But, I haven’t seen my 2older Grandkids in a few mos. My son will not allow Ziggy near them. If Any1 has Any Advice or similar experience. PLEEEEASE HELP ME!!! PLEASE!!!
Hi Michelle, I’m so sorry you’re struggling. Would you like to schedule a consult to talk more in-depth? I can’t help through the comments section of my blog.
Hi Kayla! Are you still here? I just noticed there are no recent comments here, and no instagram account? I loved reading your article on leash aggression. I have one of ‘those’ dogs, usually as sweet as can be!
Yep, still here 🙂 Instagram is under @collie.without.borders
Thanks for the article. I have an 18 month border terrier who I have recently bought. Shes perfectly house trained but the sight of another dog causes her to pull, bark, even go to bite the other dog if she gets too close. She gets extremley agitated and seems to be no way of getting through to her to calm her down. Grateful for ideas? i will try treating her when she sees a ‘trigger’
Hi Mike! How are things going? The article outlines my main suggestions – if you’d like more personalized help we’re taking online clients!
Hi Kayla! Thank you for this great article.
I have an 8-month-old Aussiedoodle weighing at ~55lbs (and still growing!). My partner and I have been trying to train her on leash reactivity as well as recall, but when using high-value treats like chicken, she doesn’t seem very food-motivated when we are outside even when we stuff it in her face to get her attention.
We have already tried all of these tips, but like I said, she doesn’t seem very food-motivated. Being a heavy, large, excited pup who just wants to meet every person and dog, we struggle to remove her from the situation – when we do, she is left agitated and excited, and becomes even more reactive to the littlest things. We try to walk her at night when there are less people, but we can never avoid it.
Overall she is a great pup! Well-mannered, knows tricks, and friendly with other beings off-leash. But she comes off as aggressive and scary to others with her deep barks and growling, and we want to fix this behaviour! Any other things you can suggest to help?
Hi Beck! If you’d like more detailed, personalized support, we’d love to connect with you for an online consult. Is she normally food motivated indoors?
My dog Mabel is pretty good on/off the lead alone, she will only react to dogs running very quickly, and her reaction is limited to running at them, then swerving last minute, or barking at them. I’ve tried to not react now and get her to leave and follow me, which she is good at, but when we walk with the other dog Maddie(on the lead due to her prey nature), she becomes protective I believe and unless they both meet the other dog simultaneously and it’s a very calm dog she barks at them, and shows intimidating behaviour to them. Should i try to improve her confidence alone or is there a way we can walk these two together without looking like a barking mob of dogs. Maddy is excited and frustrated on a lead so whines which is definitely a trigger for the barking from Mabel. I’m getting maddy out alone to increase her interactions so she’s less likely to whine in excitement. both are rescue females.
It’s honestly going to be easier to work with each of them alone. While it might feel like it’s taking longer, the better training sessions will make sure you get results faster. Let me know if you’d like to schedule a call with one of our trainers to get you started.
Hi, when you were training Naomi with the real dog who was moving closer, what did you do when she started barking? Did you move back or did the other dog move back? Once I get ours to settle again in this situation, do we keep giving treats as long as she looks at us or should I be getting her to do any tricks etc so she’s not only focused on the other dog?
Great questions, Kate! We tried to get out of dodge however we could if Naomi started barking (sometimes we moved, sometimes they did – it depends). Then I did my best to soothe her. We usually had to end our training session then because she was so worked up. If your dog CAN settle down, shake off, and relax some, feel free to try again. But if they’re still tense, scanning, or staring at the other dog, you probably need to take a bit more of a break before going back to training. Just feed some treats for looking at you and call it quits.
Hi Kayla, your article is great and I have been following it to train my leash reactive foster dog. He is great at dog parks and loves to play with other dogs at the park. He is also very good with my other foster dog. However, while on walks as soon as he sees another dog he starts barking, he doesn’t lunge at them though. I noticed that this could be due to stress/ anxiety since his limbs tighten up. He is very treat motivated but I have seen that on walks when he sees another dog he doesn’t take the treats and he just wants to bark at the other dog. I usually walk away when I see other dogs but if he has already seen it before turning around, he keeps turning behind and continue barking. Please do advice on what I can do to make his fear of other dogs go away and make him less stressed during our walks. Thanks!
Hi Pooja! It sounds like you’re on the right track. Can you keep an eye out for other dogs and move away from a distance where your dog won’t react to them yet? You may also want to find someone local to help you with set-ups to practice since being surprised on the street often undermines your goals. I’m happy to help more if you let me know!
Im at my wits end with Cleo. I live in an apartment complex with lots of dogs and avoid them at all coats like the plague when we are on walks. I even chatted with other dog owners about not coming near us if they see us out. I choose “off” times to take her out, turn around if I see a dog even remotely in our eye sight, have hid behind cars while others passed, and even have that to straddle her to keep her focus away from a dog but sometimes a dog gets in her eye sight and she goes bonkers. She is very strong and jumps so high in the air and growls and pulls so hard she either chocks her self and/ or injures me. Today on our morning walk she saw a dog about 35 feet away and jumped/pulled so much that I ended up getting my hand sliced from her leash.
I’ve tried using treats as you’ve described in this post but they don’t work with her. I am really at a loss and don’t know what else to do.
Oh, Lauren, I’m so sorry that you’re stuck in such a difficult situation. It sounds like you’re in over your head. Would you like to connect over email about finding a local trainer to help you out more? I also wonder if medication would help, since there’s virtually no way to make an impact in training when she’s so stressed and constantly inundated with triggers.
Hi Kayla – so happy to have found this page! Had a bit of an incident today with our 8 year old rescue (we’ve had him for 18 months) and want to get a consistent way to deal with things moving forwards. When we got Rocky we were told he was aggressive towards other dogs and had to be separated from the one he lived with previously. Some scarring around his mouth suggests he may have been injured. We also heard he had been part of a breeding pair so has only been neutered late in life. He is perfect with people and our family’s dogs and puppies but will growl at dogs he doesn’t know on the street if they show any sign of interest in him. However, my friend’s puppy can hang off his ears and jump all over him without a single reaction. Today he ran across a field and made a beeline for a dog that has barked at him before. He ignored every other dog in the park (2 minutes earlier he had been happily walking off lead passing other dogs showing very little interest) and headed right for her and attacked. She fought back and by the time I got to them the fight was broken up and he was standing looking very shocked, but not longer aggressive. This is the first time we’ve seen him involved in an actual fight, aside from growling and dominating behaviour like barking in other dogs faces. Usually the other dogs are submissive to him. Could this altercation have taught him a lesson? Or, damaged him further? I obviously want to avoid him ever running off and doing this again before he/another dog gets hurt. Any advice would be really appreciated 🙂
Hi Rocky, I would absolutely NOT allow this dog off-leash around other dogs. I would immediately start working with a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant to get further help and a personalized training plan – this is well beyond the scope of the comments section of a blog post.
My dog seems to be all over the place with how he reacts to other dogs. When he sees another dog he drops to the ground and either inches toward the other dog or refuses to move. Most of the time if I let him say hi to other dogs he’s ok but lately he’s been lounging as well which isn’t like him and I’m not sure when it will happen or not.
Hi Kelly, that’s interesting. Have you tried any of the suggestions in this article? It’s not uncommon for dogs to try a few different approaches, and their responses often differ from dog to dog.
Great information in all the comments and responses; however, nothing that covered what is happening with my 3 year old Golden Doodle, Scout. He has always been very social on and off leash. He loves to play with other dogs at off leash parks. We’ve recently moved across the country and found a hiking trail that is off leash. Scout has taken up barking/lunging as a form of play and he will even show his teeth and nip a bit in his ‘play’ but then immediately retreat and run away. In your article, your description was similar to what Scout was doing but he hadn’t always been that way. Nothing has happened; no bad experiences. If I have a ‘talk’ with him, he will stop the behaviour for a bit (not always). He is becoming very aggressive and to the point that I’m not comfortable taking him to off leash parks anymore. I had chalked it up to teenaged behaviour but I’m second guessing it. Any suggestions of retraining him? Thanks!
Hi Simone – it’s pretty common for this behavior to show up in relation to a move and/or going through teenage changes. I wouldn’t expect it to go away with age. The basic training suggestions in the article still stand. If you’d like personalized help, I’m happy to schedule a call with one of our trainers.
I have a four year old rotti/Sheppard. She has always been a dog park dog and her behaviour is pretty good there. However when I walk her and she sees another animal… dog, cat, bird, squirrel … anything she goes after it. I an vigilant and will change direction or take her off the bath but she will fight to get to the animal and she is pretty strong…. the other thing is she does it when an animal passes the house or appears on the TV although I think she believes it’s a window
Hi Wendy, have you found the tips in the article helpful for changing that behavior?
Hi Kayla. I am so stressed dealing with my two dachshunds. I have a mother and daughter, and the mother (Cookie)is definitely the main problem (I rescued her and her litter when she was 3), but Harper (the daughter) always tries to support her mother’s insanity. They bark at cats and birds and pretty much anything that moves but have gotten better about this. The major concern I have is that they go absolutely crazy when they see other dogs. I do my best to avoid other dogs but it’s often not possible. Cookie has actually bitten another dog once and Harper almost bit another dog trying to protect her mom. I know they are anxious, especially Cookie, but I don’t know how to help them; and I’m so stressed and embarrassed by their over the top reactive behavior. I’ve been yelled at by neighbors and had people threaten to call the police. I tried using a trainer and it was an utter disaster. They are fine at home and friendly with most people, but this dog aggressive behavior has become unmanageable.
Hi Suzanne, I’m sorry that sounds so stressful! We’d be happy to help you get to the bottom of this in a one-on-one consultation. You can find the link to that in the menu above, but unfortunately we can’t get into specifics of your case in the blog comments section.
I have a 1 year old German shepherd × Lab, she barks and lunges when another dog passes by (if a dog is walking towards her she doesn’t bark). It is difficult to manage because she is 100lbs+. She was socialized but not enough (it takes her a little bit to get comfortable with other dogs to start playing). So I was just wondering what I could do to prevent the lunging/barking.
Hi Alana, we have several suggestions for reactivity in this article and under “reactivity” in our blog!
Hi Kayla – I’m so happy to have found and read your article! I can’t wait to read through your other advice! Silly question- but with regards to classical conditioning, how is the dog able to determine that the trigger to make it rain in treats isn’t her barking but the actual trigger, like another dog? We have a sweet one year old pup who was fairly easy to train with very basic commands, but will bark at 50% of the dogs we encounter on walks because she wants their attention. If we make it rain in treats when this happens, how does know she’s not being rewarded for her barking?
Hi Jenny, that’s a great question and a super common concern! Basically we watch the dog’s behavior; a dog who is barking for treats will bark and look AT YOU, and usually won’t be very stressed. But if your treat-giving is actually counterconditioning we should see a reduction in barking and ultimately your dog should relax; they may look at you for treats, but won’t bark AT you. Does that help?
Hi, I have a 6 year old wire haired dachshund that is not good around other dogs in public. He’ll bark incessantly at another dog until I have no other choice but to cross the street. In his case I think it’s uncontrollable excitement at seeing another dog and fear. He has been bitten twice but even before that he was aloof around other dogs. When he was a puppy in play groups he never exhibited much interest in playing with other dogs. Can this behavior be changed at his age or is it just who he is. I’d like to get to the point where I can take him for a walk without zigzagging across the street ever time I see a dog coming.
Hi Robert – that’s definitely something that can be improved with training! Right now you’re doing the right thing by avoiding other dogs as much as you can; the suggestions in this article should also help. If you’re stuck, we’re always available for video/remote training under “1 on 1 training” in the menu above!
My beautiful Cocker was given to us when 4 mos. old, she as well as us has learnt a lot during these last year…she minds her own business and people approaches us to let interact with their pets…not a good idea lately, she starts sniffing, going around the other dog, and then barks and shows aggressive behavior, usually they say, she just wants to play rough…?? she is full of energy and jumps on others at the off leash parks, not afraid of much bigger ones….
Hi, it’s hard for me to say for sure without seeing the behavior firsthand. If you’d like to book a consult with us over video chat, we could look at video and help you out there!
I have a 5 year old Dobie that does this when dogs get in his face repeatedly at the dog park. I continually move around the park and kept interacting so he is coming to me, but not sure how to stop this when other dog owners won’t correct their dogs behavior
Honestly, I avoid areas with owners who let their dogs treat my dog like that. It’s not worth the risk and my dog doesn’t enjoy that sort of social interaction. Are there other places to go for a nice walk/hike with a few of your Dobie’s friends, rather than random stranger dogs?
I have a yorkie (8 years old) that after some trauma that left her one eyed (happend when she was 2) it got worse. She can be dominating, but she is very fear based and can show aggression because of her deep fear. She has some dogs she can say hello with but few (everyone around her size, big ones are a huge no no). I see a difference in treats so I will continue to be better at that. I’m going to be better to not pass others as best as I possibly can, but I was wondering if I could pick her up when we pass others? She doesn’t mind it, and sometimes that helps if it’s really bad (she has always wanted to be close to me when scared since she was born, especially when she’s scared) I just don’t want to do anything that’s not good. Hope you’ll be able to answer me on that 🙂
Hi Belle, if picking her up helps I would keep doing it!
Hi. I have an F1b medium
(45 lbs.) Labradoodle who is more poodle mix than Labrador. She is 21 months. She tends to have some anxiety and always excited when meeting other people. I’ve been working on stopping her from jumping up to greet them. After reading your article and some of the comments, I now understand what “leash reactivity” is and why my dog barks & lunges at other dogs. (She’s very strong and not easy to control when excited). I was doing some things incorrectly… like corrective training and holding her down & trying to make her obey me and sit, however, that hasn’t worked &, in fact, has been getting worse. She even barks inside at my front glass door if she sees a leashed dog with owner pass by the front sidewalk. On our walks, I do turn and walk away now if I see another dog in the distance approaching our direction… and mostly walk her at night when less dog walkers are out in my neighborhood. I’m going to try the treat tactic you mentioned and see if that helps. I probably need a certified trainer at this point… and some meds to tone down her anxiety. I would really appreciate it if you have any more advice or thoughts about my doodle?
Hi Doris, I’m glad you’re seeing improvements thanks to this article. I’d be thrilled to help you out more in detail and/or help you find a local trainer if you’d like!
Hi Kayla, I have a 22 mth female border collie that I got from an 8 week old pup and in last few months have seen increased reactivity. She was always triggered by bikes, skate boards etc which I can manage at the park but can still be a problem at intersections or coming towards us or from behind on the footpath. Further to that I am noticing walking past other dogs on the street she is 5 times out of 10 lunging and becoming aggressive (not biting). If we are at a cafe waiting outside for coffee, she may lunge if a dog tries to come up to her whilst she is on leash. Off lead she is fine unless a dog is in her face bothering her and has got into a scrap occasionally. My behaviourist is fully booked but has offered similar advice re counter conditioning, its early days but seems to be working with the bikes but a lot harder with dog walking. I just came home from agility class and she got into two scraps crossing paths with other dogs that were approaching her as we were lining up for the jump which I wasn’t expecting. The teacher showed me a flick to do on the leash (rather than restrain which I had been doing) and Bronte seemed really timid around me after that. Are you able to give any tips around leash handling in these situations (i.e loose or tight)?
Hi Cathy, I really prefer using a loose leash to help reduce anxiety for the dog. If you’d like more personalized advice, we’d be happy to connect over video chat this week as a consult! Check out the options in the menu bar above.