If your dog has been barking at other dogs on walks, you might be wondering why and what you can do to stop it. This post will show you common reasons why they do it and what you can do about it.
So, why does my dog bark at other dogs on walks? Possible reasons why your dog barks at other dogs on walks are excitement, being protective, fear, a lack of exposure to other dogs, encouraging the behavior or previous experiences causing it to be distrustful of them.
There are actually many reasons why your dog might be doing it and it could be due to a combination of them. However, there are also some things you can consider when figuring out the main cause and there are multiple things you can do about it.
Why your dog barks at other dogs
Below are common reasons why dogs bark at other dogs and what would make them more likely to be the reason why yours has been doing it.
The reason why it does it might be that it is excited. This would be more likely if it does it when the other dogs are not being threatening and if your own dog shows signs of excitement in its body language. Signs of excitement could include wagging its tail, licking and having wide-open eyes.
It would also be more likely if it does it when the other dogs are dogs that it has played with in the past or if the other dogs are showing signs of excitement around it themselves.
The cause might also be that it is being protective. This would be more likely if it does it when the other dogs are approaching yourself, when they are on its territory or when they are showing threatening body language. Threatening body language could include showing their teeth, a curled nose, pulling their lips back and a stiff tail.
Fear or anxiety
Another possible cause is that it considers the other dogs as being threatening. This would be more likely if it does it when the other dogs are showing threatening body language, if they are large dogs and if your dog is showing threatening body language towards them itself or if it shows submissive body language which can include rolling onto its back, hiding its tail or hiding behind you.
A lack of exposure to other dogs
The reason why your dog barks at other dogs on walks could be that it did not get to socialize with them as a puppy. When dogs are puppies they will learn a lot about who to trust and who not to trust. If it did not meet many other dogs then it will not have had the opportunity to learn to trust them.
In this case, it would help to let it socialize with other friendly dogs whenever possible. It would also help to employ the other tips that will be mentioned below.
Encouraging the behavior
It might be the case that you have been encouraging it to bark at other dogs on walks by rewarding it when it does it. If you tend to give it things such as extra attention or treats when it barks at them, it will likely do it more.
Instead, it would help to reward it when it does not bark at them, to stop rewarding it when it does and to try to redirect its focus before it starts barking.
The cause could be that other dogs were aggressive towards it causing it to not trust other dogs now. This would be especially likely if you know that other dogs were aggressive towards it while it was still a puppy or if it started doing it since another dog was aggressive towards it.
In this case, it would also help to socialize it with friendly dogs when possible and to give it positive reinforcement and desensitization training as well.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out why your dog has been barking at other dogs on walks.
What else happened when your dog first started barking at other dogs
If it did not always bark at other dogs on walks, it would help to consider what else happened when it started doing it.
If it did start doing it suddenly, it would be more likely that it is because another dog was aggressive towards it or because it realized that it gets rewards for doing it.
What is different when your dog does not bark at other dogs
It would also help to consider if there is anything different when it does not bark at other dogs.
For example, if it only barks at certain types of dogs such as larger dogs, it might be doing it because it feels threatened. Whereas, if it only does it to dogs that it has played with in the past, it might be the case that it does it because it is excited.
What to do about your dog barking at other dogs on walks
Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop barking at other dogs on walks.
Positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training is where you encourage your dog to behave in a certain way by rewarding it when it behaves that way or when it shows signs of behaving that way. To use it to get it to stop barking at other dogs, you would start rewarding it with small pieces of treats and stop rewarding it as soon as it starts barking. By doing so, eventually, it should realize that barking results in it not getting the treat.
One option is to try desensitization training where other dogs are presented at a sufficiently large distance so that it doesn’t have a chance to give a negative reaction. You’ll then reward it for doing so and then gradually lower the distance. When it does give a negative reaction, increase the distance until it stops and then start again.
Avoid encouraging it
It would also help to avoid encouraging the behavior by avoiding giving it rewards when it behaves in a way that you do not want. Instead, it would help to try to redirect its focus onto you when it seems likely to start barking and to train it to stop with positive reinforcement training.
Try a growl class
If there is a growl class in your area, it might be an option to take your dog to one of them. Growl classes are special classes for dogs that have a habit of barking that are designed to get them to learn not to bark around other people and dogs.
If you cannot get it to stop or it is overly aggressive around other dogs, you could also get help from a dog trainer in your area. By doing so, you should be able to see what has been causing the behavior and how to get it to stop effectively.
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