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Why is my dog barking and lunging at other dogs?

Dog owners always hope to have calm and friendly encounters with other dogs they meet on their walks.

Sadly, this is not always the case, especially if they’re displaying unfavourable behaviours including lunging and barking. In this article, we talk about dog-to-dog reactivity, behaviour, and training advice.

Most dogs are very social and love to explore new areas and some enjoy meeting others. Socialisation is vital, especially from an early age when they should be experiencing different sights and sounds. This is a big step in helping them grow in confidence, once you achieve this, they’ll stand a good chance of being sociable.

Allowing your dog to meet as many new encounters will help them communicate with others and read their body language and learn whether they’re too much to handle.

Types of negative behaviours

Examples of less desirable behaviours may include:

  • Barking
  • Lunging
  • Overly physical and intimidating play
  • Growling, snapping and/or fighting
  • Mounting

Health

If your dog is displaying any of these behaviours, you should arrange to see your vet as there may be a physical cause for the behaviour. It’s common for dogs to react this way if they’re in pain, it’s their way of warning others to back off to protect themselves from further harm. Even if you can’t see a visible cause of pain, it’s always best to double-check in the hope to resolve the issue effectively.

Anxiety and stress

If the behaviour isn’t linked to a physical cause, next it’s time to consider other reasons for the behaviour that concerns you. Many dogs are anxious about interactions with others as they didn’t get appropriate social experiences. For instance, perhaps they have encountered a dog who frightened or attacked them. Spotting the signs of anxiety and the root cause of this stress will help your pet overcome this early on and build their confidence.

Another reason might be that they are highly sociable and enjoy playing with dogs, so if they’re on a lead and spot another dog, this causes over-excitement, resulting in frustration which is expressed as barking.

Improving behaviour and mental wellbeing

Whether your dog is afraid of others and cowers away, or is too excited causing fear, whatever the underlying cause is, there are improvements you can make through training.

Here are a few things to take into consideration when training your dog:

  • Always consider the emotional state of your canine companion when out and about. He or she can only learn if they are calm and not in a distressed state or jumping around in excitement. If you’re ever concerned, increase the distance between you and the other dog so they’re not distracted.
  • Don’t test their behaviour, always build for success and stick to the training plan.
  • Take charge but in a gentle way and always be positive. This will put you both in the best mood for a successful training session. If you don’t see much progression, go back and repeat previous steps in the training for a few more sessions before moving forward again.
  • Always consider safety. Keep your dog on a lead and walk or train them where others are also on lead and under control.
  • Consider muzzle training your dog. This is essential if he or she has already instigated fights.

The video at the beginning of this article explains the important steps of training when out on walks. It’s important to remember that all dogs are different and some will take much longer, while others may pick it up quicker.

Still need help?

If you have any other behavioural concerns, or have any other questions about your pet, please do not hesitate to contact us for free support and advice.

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