We’ve all been there. Enjoying a nice, relaxing walk with our furry love(s) when they catch sight of another canine and go berserk. Whether your pup is reacting in friendly excitement or a not so friendly outburst, how we react to the situation is what matters.
Before we get into our tips for handling the situation, there are a few basic things to always remember:
1) Respect your fellow dog owners. As happy as our dog might be about seeing another pup, other pups and people have to be respected. To other canines and humans, even a friendly, barking/jumping/whining dog can be just as upsetting as an aggressive display.
2) Stay safe. If your pup has a history of aggressive reactions, please consult a certified, force free trainer. We don’t want anyone getting hurt!
With those two things in mind…
It’s completely normal for your pooch to have their regular doggie friends but still prefer not to meet other dogs on the street. There are many reasons for your pup to be overly interested or excited to say hello to another dog on the street (hello, doggie crush!) In other circumstances your pooch may lose their cool and bark up a storm which can be from the dogs body language, breed, size or a combination of things.
My point is that there are numerous reasons why a pup will behave… well… like a dog. So, what can we do to minimize that dogginess and encourage what we consider more appropriate? Stay calm.
Alfie, Upper West Side
Staying calm is the first step. Our pups know when we’re stressed out, and we often tighten up the leash instinctively when we see another dog approaching. Instead, take a deep breath, and happily ask your pup for her attention. Use whatever cue is normal- my personal choices are ‘look at me’ or a tongue click… but any cue that encourages your dog to focus on you will work. When we tighten the leash it sends the signal to our dog that there is something to be concerned or excited about- those two emotions can go different ways in different pups. Sometimes its friendly over excitement, and other times its aggressive (or potentially aggressive) over excitement.
If she (your pooch) focuses on you, reward her! What that reward is depends on your pup. If she loves food, and will do absolutely anything for that teeny tiny pea-sized (or smaller) yum, thats her reward. If she loves doggie social time (and you’ve ok’d a hello with the other pup parent), the reward is getting to say hello. Sometimes, as is the case with many aggressive displays, your pup is scared by the other dog’s presence and the most appropriate reward is the chance to walk briskly in the other direction.
If asking your pup for her attention didn’t work, find a quieter area further from the distraction (the other dog), and practice a bit more until she’s able to pay attention when closer to the other pups. The most important thing to remember is that your dog is either too excited, or too scared.
Jackson, West Harlem
Talking sternly, jerking on her leash, or letting her pull you toward the other dog will not do anything but encourage the behavior outburst. For most dogs, any attention is good attention. If she’s too excited, your talking to her or ‘correcting’ (jerking on her leash, discomfort from a training collar) will add to the excitement of the moment. Letting her pull you toward the other dog gives her what she wants- she’s rewarded herself for her out of control behavior.
If she’s reacting because she’s scared, talking sternly or jerking on her leash will add to that fear. Suddenly, not only is it the other dog to be scared of, but the other dog + mad pup parent (you!) + discomfort from leash jerks ( which can happen regardless of gear). She may stop reacting in the moment, but without work to address why the outburst happened the reactions will most likely continue- and worsen- requiring stronger and stronger reprimands.
Moral of the story: If you want to implement positive changes in your dogs behavior, being a good guide is key. Turn their focus over to you, and reward them when they do. This will eventually become a learned behaviorand you won’t always need the treats. If you’re still using the old way of responding to your dog’s barks with leash jerks and your own barks, its time to ask the question, why?
For more information on this or any other dog training topics, please contact our Head Trainer, Kristen Studioso CPDT-KA and visitpuptopia.com
Check out more of our doggie training pics below.
Gouda, West Village
Grover, Upper West Side