Hopefully, by now, your dog has officially stopped his pulling on the leash and you’ve managed to put an end to the frustrating Stop ‘N Sniff sessions. That leaves one more area to tackle… ending the barking during walks!
First and foremost, you’ll need to understand what motivates your dog to learn, as well as why your canine friend is barking in the first place.
Dogs bark during walks for all kinds of reasons, but the most common are: to show excitement at the potential of meeting a new friend, to warn you of someone’s possible approach, and to let the people or dogs know they are getting too close.
These dogs love people and/or dogs and feel that every new creature is a potential best friend! The good news is that they mean no harm. They show this by giving excited, high-pitched barks, having a loose, quick tail wag, pulling towards their new friends, and maybe even showing a play bow or two. Their body language is fluid and fast.
The bad news is that these dogs’ excitement levels can be misinterpreted by humans and canines alike. A nervous dog can perceive this exuberant behavior as a threat, and humans can associate a barking dog with aggression.
The first thing you need to do with a Excitement Barker is teach him to calm down! This means plenty of exercise and always having on-hand your dog’s favorite motivator (ie. Special toy, favorite treats). Start teaching your dog to Sit when greeting people inside your home and out, using praise and a motivator as a reward. From now on, no one can pet your dog unless he is sitting! This will help to decrease excitement levels during walks.
Once you have your dog in a good Sit (and the person or canine is a ways away from you), let them know that you’re training your dog and ask for help. Yes, it can be a little awkward at first, but it is the only way that your dog will learn how to nicely handle meeting people. Keep your dog in a Sit as his new friend approaches. If at any time your dog breaks Sit, have the person stop moving forward and ask again for a Sit. In no time, your dog will realize that this works way better than barking and pulling!
Warning of Approach
These dogs are alert dogs through and through. They aren’t necessarily scared or feeling danger from the oncoming person, but they want you to be aware of it. They’ll give a couple of barks and alternately look up to you to see if you see what they do. They may have their hair standing up, chest puffed out a little, and their eyes will be wide. These dogs need to know everything is alright.
Again, be sure to always have your dog’s favorite motivator on hand. When your dog first spots the person or canine, say “There’s a person!” (or “There’s a dog!) in a happy, carefree tone while looking at the person. This will assure your dog that you have seen what they see, and that it is no big deal. Give your dog a treat or his toy while he is quiet, and after you have said your phrase. You will be reinforcing quiet behavior around what he originally thought might turn into a threat. Keep rewarding your dog every time he looks at the person or dog and does not bark. He’ll start to see that you are indeed as watchful as he is!
This one is a little trickier. Some of these dogs are barking merely to say Stay Away, and some are barking to look for trouble. These dogs don’t stop barking at the people/canines. They maintain constant eye contact, rigid hair and body positioning, a high, straight tail, and a low, deep bark or growl. They may lunge towards the people and give off an “I mean business” vibe. This could be born out of fear, insecurity, lack of socialization, or in a minority of cases, true aggression.
Under no circumstances should you allow a person or canine to interact with your dog during a walk if he is showing these signs.
These barkers need to be shown that not everyone is a threat. The best way is to desensitize them to seeing people – showing them that nothing bad will happen if they keep calm. Since most of these dogs are acting out of fear or a lack of socialization, treat them as you would Scaredy-Dogs. Follow the instructions in the Scaredy-Dogs article and you’ll be well on your way.
It can sometimes be hard to tell your dog’s true intentions during barking episodes like this. If you feel that your dog may be showing true signs of aggression, has bitten someone in the past, or if you’d like a second pair of eyes watching the situation and helping out, please consider hiring a Certified Dog Trainer to help. Dogs in this category pose the biggest bite threat and need a lot of help learning how to remain calm and enjoy walks for the sake of walking.
If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle the submitted questions, and give practical advice to solve common dog behavior issues. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.