Why Do Dogs Bark at Other Dogs on Walks?
Let's face it, many dogs bark at other dogs on walks. If you walk often enough, you have likely encountered at least once a Reactive Rover barking at every dog he encounters, what gives? Whether you are a dog owner embarrassed by your dog's unruly behaviors or a simple observer wondering why dogs do the things they do, one thing is for sure: dogs who bark at other dogs on walks often look angry.
Dog trainers and behavior consultants call it "barrier frustration" but don't take this as a sure diagnosis, dogs may bark at other dogs on walks for different reasons. Let's take a peek at some common reasons why your dog goes on a barking frenzy the moment he sees another dog on walks.
A Matter of Frustration
In a dog's dream land, dogs would be free to roam and go greet as many people and other dogs as they want and everybody would be friends. In a real life scenario though things are very different.
Dogs are walked on leashes to keep everyone safe and out of trouble. This restriction though may lead to what's known as "barrier frustration." Barrier frustration takes place in predisposed dogs who are eager to go meet every single dog they see, but are restrained by a leash.
The result is a big barking explosion, a dog's version of a toddler's tantrum that may make your dog seem aggressive. Yet, those who know your dog well, know for a fact that your dog is the friendliest dog on earth who plays well at the dog park and is eager to make friends.
Because puppies and young dogs are very excitable and have little frustration tolerance, you may see this behavior rake place from a young age. This behavior is likely to persist if you don't tackle it in a timely fashion.
Not all dogs who bark at other dogs on walks are eager to go meet other dogs. Some dogs don't want to have anything to do with the other dog and their barking is a distance-increasing signal telling the other dog "stay away!"
Often seen in puppies who weren't socialized enough, fearful dogs or dogs with a history of undergoing a negative experience with other dogs, this type of reactive barking isn't that uncommon either.
Last but not least, some dogs see their owners as a valuable resource that is worthy of guarding. Just as if guarding a big bag of food or a bone, some dogs will bark and lunge at any dogs who dare coming near their valuable owners.
This form of "jealous" dog barking can be quite problematic, especially when meeting dogs who are off leash or not under good control by their owners.
These dogs typically do well being around other dogs until the owner is around. When the owner is around, they suddenly turn into snarling and growling creatures who are telling other dogs to stay away. Often these dogs may not care much about other dogs on walks until other dogs come too close, and invade these dogs' personal "bubble."
Now That You Know...
As seen, dogs may bark at other dogs on walks for various reasons. Now that we have identified several, let's take a closer look at to how we can tackle these different forms of barking.
For barrier frustration: as much letting your dog meet all dogs on walks may seem like an easy fix, not all dogs are willing to meet a dog who is barking his head off. And even if the other dog doesn't mind, you'll be rewarding your dog's barking behavior by letting him meet and greet any dog he wants. Next time, all bets are off that he'll be pulling and barking even more!
The best way to tackle this type of barking is making sure your dog has the opportunity to vent all his energy before going on walks and upping his obedience training. This means every time your dog sees another dog, ask him to heel and heavily reward your dog’s attentiveness to you. This makes for a more polite dog and a flashy attention heeling that will make other dog owners remark how well trained your dog is! A win-win!
For Reactive Rovers: If you are finding yourself walking your dog more and more at the wee hours of the night to avoid other dogs, you may be wondering what to do about it. Here are a few options.
To better control your dog, invest in a front-attachment harness and use it in place of a collar. This piece of equipment will help you gain more control so you feel less vulnerable about being dragged down the street. Then, work on creating positive associations with other dogs starting at a distance from where your dog doesn't react.
With your dog under threshold, he'll be better able to respond to you. Every time he sees a dog from a distance, make a smacking sound with your mouth and pop him a tasty treat. With time, your dog will get the idea that seeing a dog equals treats which should help reduce the barking episodes. Here is a helpful behavior modification technique for Reactive Rovers: the Look at that Dog Game.
For Resource Guarders: One way to approach dogs who act protective of owners on walks is teaching the "Otello" dog that good things happen every time another dog approaches. The jealous dog is therefore fed treats when the other dog comes near. When the other dog is away, the dog is ignored and no more treats are given.
With time, the jealous dog should learn that great things happen when another dog approaches which should reduce the barking, growling and lunging behavior over time.
Caution: When working on dog behavior and its associate emotions, treatment falls under behavior modification more than training. This requires a certain level of skill. Also, behavior modification comes with risks. For safety and proper implementation of behavior modification, consult with a dog trainer or dog behavior consultant using force-free behavior modification.