Your Dog Lunging at Other Dogs

Are You Guilty Of Encouraging Your Dog’s Lunging ?


dog behavior Houston

That’s right, you could be making the problem worse for you and your dog.
I’m going to give you 3 easy steps to work on this problem but first you need to know:


Why Your Dog May Be Barking and Lunging at Other Dogs

An old training method to correct lunging and barking at other dogs on leash was to give the dog a swift leash correction.
Sound familiar?

In fact, you might subconsciously be correcting your dog with your leash as a “knee-jerk” reaction to your dog’s sudden bark and lung at a passing dog.
Your leash correction may be making the problem worse by sending the wrong message to your dog.

What’s the message?

Being too close to other dogs causes a unpleasant leash correction from you!

Continuous leash corrections usually don’t have lasting results and over time can:
1. Create stress in your dog and can make it harder for him to calm down
2. It may stop him from doing it with you in that location, but he could easily do it when someone else walks him OR you have him in another location.

3  Steps to Stop Your Dog’s Lunging at Other Dogs

Here are 3 things you can do to immediately begin working with your dog on better skills out on walks.

  1. Put your dog on a learn-to-earn program at and around your home.
  2. Work on better listening skills with basic obedience commands
  3. Modify your dog’s behavior outside with dogs

Step 1:  The Value of a Learn-to-Earn Program

The program to fix your dog’s barking and lunging at other dogs means stop all punitive training methods and re-gain control over your dog’s behavior.
This all starts at home by putting your dog on a learn-to-earn program.

What this means is your dog must respond to a command (usually a sit command) to earn the things he wants. This includes things like his food, treats, toys, affection from you, walks and yes, even potty breaks in the back yard!
Your goal it to teach your dog to appreciate you as the provider of all good things that come to him in his life with you.

Step 2:  Your Dog Needs to Learn to Listen to You in All Situations

Getting your dog back in the habit of not only listening to you, but wanting to perform for you will prove invaluable outside on walks.
To do this you should begin a program of obedience training. This is not a time-consuming project. What this requires of you is consistent daily practice. You can do this by setting up 3 training sessions a day but for only 2-3 minutes each session.

Each session plan on doing “rapid-fire” of sits and downs. Wean off food treats as your dog gets proficient at his obedience commands.
Once your dog is listening to you inside, train with him in your back yard and later move to your driveway in front of your house. You may find you will have to go back to using food treats (temporarily) in these new locations.

Step 3:  Improving Your Dog’s Behavior Around Other Dogs

Teaching your dog that the presence of other dogs predicts good things may take weeks or even months – depending on your dog.
It takes presenting another dog at a distance at first so that you can apply the “Open Bar Technique.”

The Open-Bar Technique, is a science-based exercise developed by Jean Donaldson, author of the Culture Clash and Training Director of the San Francisco SPCA.

Her technique involves giving your dog lots of praise and very high value food treats he gets at no other time except when he is in the presence of other dogs. Practice this exercise at a greater distance at first. A distraction dog comes into view while you praise and treat your dog. Then the distraction dog disappears out of sight. Repeat this exercise for 15 – 20 minutes each time you train.

It’s more effective if you withhold love, affection and these high value food treats even during normal life with your dog. Only present them in the presence of the other dog.

It’s usually difficult finding a resource pool of “other dogs” with which to practice. BUT, another advantage to this technique is that you can set up your own training scenarios if you can’t find a friend with a dog to help you.

Pick your distance away from a frequented doggie pathway to “open the bar” in the presence of the dog then “close the bar” (no treats or praise) when the dog disappears.

Skeptics might say that you are rewarding bad behavior as your dog barks and lunges at the other dog. But according to Donaldson, the power of classical conditioning (pairing praise and high value food treats with other dogs) is so strong it will eventually override any unwanted behavior that your dog initially does.

Your challenge is to stick with the program long enough to see a positive change in your dog. Remember, it could take a couple of months. The value of working your dog around many different dogs is invaluable.

If you are a little nervous in the beginning just take a deep breath and exhale. Calm energy is good. If you think you need some assistance, I’m just a phone call or video call away.

Together We Can Raise A Happy and Obedient Dog

Jim Burwell, is Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 30 years, serving over 12,000 clients. Jim works with you and your entire family to get your dog to be the best dog ever.

6 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    You’re most welcome. That’s what happens when you do the work – your dog gives you the behavior you want. Excellent Job!!!

  2. Angelica McDonald
    Angelica McDonald says:

    I just adopted my pit Icee this last weekend. She is a dream! She really wants to meet other dogs when she sees them close by (she couldn’t care less if they are more than 30 feet away). When I adopted her, I was told she is friendly with other dogs, but can play aggressively. I was a little leary about how to teach her to slow down when approacing another dog and not lunge. THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE! For the last couple days, ive been teaching her “Watch me” and giving a treat and praise when she ingored everything around us.Today I introduced her to the neighbors dog using the open bar technique. SHE DID AWESOME! NO lunging, wanting to “eat his face”, and let him sniff her and she gave no reaction! I CAN’T SAY THANK YOU ENOUGH!

  3. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Pamela: thanks so much, I’m glad you found it helpful and congratulations on your continuing education on becoming a dog trainer. I have 2 students in my class right now and we are just into
    our first week of learning the science of dog behavior. It’s a great mix of students and we are having a lot of fun. Take care—Jim

  4. Pamela Rachil.
    Pamela Rachil. says:

    Once again, Jim, brilliant post! I just learned about the Bar Open/Bar Closed technique yesterday from Susan Smith’s course! I’m going to use it on one of my dogs who is a reactive barker (reactive to just about everything!) It is not going to be easy to withhold affection from him, but I know in the long run, it will benefit him by getting him to be a calmer dog and my neighbors will hopefully stop complaining about the barking!
    Thanks so much! Keep all this good stuff coming! You are awesome!

  5. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Great article Jim I am so going to practice this with my husband good thing is our son will be dog sitting a neighbors dog at their house soon so we will have one of his triggers to practice with! Like I said on facebook Kane walks fine with me but he gets worked up when ever my husband walks him an I know it is because he practices no discipline when he walks him, he allows Kane to lead the walk and go anywhere he wants which I never allow even sniffing till the end of our walks. Will let you know how it all works out!
    Thank You

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