How do I stop my dog barking at other dogs?
According to one study, 22% of dogs are reactive towards other dogs. There are plenty of reasons and factors that can affect whether a dog becomes reactive, such as the way the owner handles certain situations, training methods used, whether they were taken to puppy classes and the genetics of the dogs (Casey et al., 2012).
Although it can seem silly to us for our dogs to react, we need to remember that this is their way of showing they are struggling with a situation and need our help to behave in an appropriate manner.
Usually, though, there are 2 reasons why dogs bark at other dogs.
The first, and most common, is anxiety or fear. This can be that they are scared of other dogs, or anxious that the other dog may be scary and would simply rather not find out.
The second reason is that they are excited by other dogs but get frustrated that they are stuck on a pesky lead.
So what do we do?
Well, step 1 is ensuring they are calm enough to listen on walks. This will make the next step easier. A nice, focused, loose leash walk will help them remain calm during their walk.
The next step is finding our dog's distance where they can cope with the other dog being there without reacting. Imagine your dog has a force field around them, when another dog comes within this forcefield, their guns come out. To find this force field, you will need to learn your dog's body language and watch for the signs that they know the other dog is there, but not close enough to be scared or frustrated.
Next, we need to change what seeing other dogs mean. To do this, we can use a technique called DMT. DMT stands for Distraction, Mark and Treat. To teach our dog this technique, simply say the word “Yes” and give him his favourite treat. It's important that we use their FAVOURITE treat each time. When your dog is looking for the treat when we say “yes”, we can then practice outside. To begin with, simply say “yes” and feed your dog when they look at things they aren’t anxious or excited about, like people, cars, trees etc.
The final step is to put all this together. While you are on the outside of your dog's “forcefield”, wait for your dog to notice the other dog when they do, say “yes” and when they look back at you, reward them.
If you continue to repeat this and stay consistent, your dog will learn that seeing other dogs means they then get a treat. They will start to look back for the treat and their forcefield will get smaller and smaller.
Essentially, because other dogs predict good things happening (you saying “yes” then feeding their favourite treat), seeing another dog becomes a good thing, rather than a scary thing.
So that’s how to stop your dog barking at other dogs. There are lots of other factors to think about like food, health, water, rest and there are even ways we can speed up the process. If you would like to find out more and get more help for your dog, check out our Reactive Dog Program here or book a FREE assessment call here.
Casey, R., Loftus, B., Bolster, C., Richards, G. and Blackwell, E., 2012. Inter-dog aggression in a UK owner survey: prevalence, co-occurrence in different contexts and risk factors.Veterinary Record, 172(5), pp.127-127.