Dogs that go crazy and bark around other dogs often receive a variety of labels: reactive, enthusiastic, too excited, high energy, and even aggressive in their personality!
The truth though, is that none of these labels can accurately describe your dog’s personality, nor can they help you solve the problem.
Instead, in this article, we will focus on the problem – your dog is barking at other dogs when you are out on a walk.
It’s making you frustrated, and walks have decreased because your dog is hard to handle.
We’ll give you a few easy tips that you can implement to start teaching your dog not to bark at other dogs!
how to train your dog to ignore other dogs
Change Your Dog’s Expectations
In a lot of cases, our dogs get excited and bark and pull towards other dogs because they want to see them. The first step to stopping your dog from barking at other dogs on a walk is to change the expectation that your dog gets to greet them.
It’s not a good idea in most cases to introduce dogs on leash, anyways. The tension of the leash can lead to many dogs feeling trapped, and can escalate situations that normally would have been fine.
Instead, set the expectation for your dog that other dogs are simply decorations when you are out on a walk, and they don’t get to play with them while on a leash.
Save the dog-dog play time for playdates, dog parks, and dog daycare.
However, simply not letting your dog play on a leash doesn’t immediately change their expectations of what happens when they see other dogs on a walk.
It also doesn’t teach them what you do want them to do instead.
Thus, we have the second part of changing your dog’s expectations – feeding them a treat.
We want to teach your dog a new expectation – they see a dog, and you feed them a snack.
Instead of getting excited about seeing a dog that they might get to visit, they will start to turn back to you for their reward. It becomes a game of “I saw a dog, do I get a treat now?”
In the beginning, you may be feeding your dog treats even while they’re watching the other dog and excited – and that’s OK!
Simply start with the expectation that other dogs = food from the owner, and you’ll see your dog’s behavior improve with time.
Have a Plan before you go
Ideally, you’d be able to keep your dog far enough away from all other dogs to avoid them barking, and practice changing their expectations as previously discussed.
However, real life happens. Sometimes, another owner and dog are approaching you quickly.
Sometimes, there’s no easy way to give your dog the space they need to learn this new expectation.
Having a few different plans and activities for different scenarios will help you manage them when dogs do get too close and set off your excited dog, so that you can handle them better in the moment.
Practice Your U-Turns
If there is a dog approaching you, and you know that passing the other dog would be too much for your dog to handle at this point, you’ll want to turn around.
It’s best to teach this to your dog out of context first, and then you can cue it in the moment.
Start by walking forward with your dog. Then, cue a turn with “let’s go!” or something similar. Turn 180 degrees so you are going the opposite direction, and walk briskly or jog as you do so.
Soon, your dog will learn that “let’s go!” means it’s time to turn around quickly, and it will let you leave situations you don’t want to be in with your dog.
However, if your dog doesn’t come with you at first, and pulls towards the dog you’re turning away from? That’s OK too. Keep walking away.
Your dog will learn that no matter how hard they pull, they don’t get to see other dogs, and they have to actually walk away from them when they are being too excited.
Utilize the Rapid Feeding technique
Sometimes, your dog just needs a little extra help to make it past another dog, or turning around isn’t an option.
That’s where rapid feeding comes in handy.
You can do this in two ways – feeding in front of you, or feeding as you walk.
When feeding in front of you, you’ll back up so you are off the sidewalk and out of the way of the approaching dog.
Shortening your dog’s leash so they have to stay close, rapidly feed them treats.
This takes longer and keeps your dog’s attention better if you feed them one at a time in a rapid-fire fashion, rather than opening your palm to a handful.
Otherwise, you can do this as you walk, to try and keep your dog’s focus while you move past another dog.
Start by grabbing a fistful of treats, and hanging your arm at your side, with the palm of your hand facing you.
Show your dog that you have a handful of treats. With your dog’s nose tucked in close, slowly uncurl your fingers, starting with your pinky, to allow them to access treats.
You can also use a squeeze tube, such as a silicone travel-sized bottle filled with peanut butter, to slowly squeeze out treats for your dog to lick as you walk.
By changing your dog’s expectations, as well as having these two options up your sleeve for handling any situation that comes up, you’ll be well on your way to teaching your dog to stop barking at other dogs on a walk.