If there is something that can end the pleasure of walking your dog is when he starts barking at any dog or stranger who crosses his path.
Usually, a dog barks out of fear or frustration. Teaching your dog to stop barking when out for a walk involves helping him to manage his emotions better and learn to cope with his environment, other dogs and strangers.
Here you can find ways to understand better why your dog barks and take the best possible actions to help him.
Why a Dog Barks?
Barking is a means of vocal communication that your dog uses to express himself.
Some dog breeds are more prone to bark. There are even breeds that were bred to bark for a specific purpose.
Some dogs bark to alert their owners of any danger or threat. Others bark to protect their territory and scare off intruders or, like hunting dogs, to warn of the presence of an animal.
Actually, when your dog barks, it can mean many things. It depends on the personality, life history, environment or the specific situation in which he finds himself.
Types of dog barks
- Play Barking. It intends to encourage and initiate a play session.
- Territorial Barking. It intends to keep away an intruder. It’s trigger when someone or something approaches or enters the territory that the dog considers his own.
- Alarm Barking. It aims to warn the dog owner of the presence of something unusual or potentially dangerous.
- Excitement Barking. Caused by the anticipation or experience of some type of pleasant or exciting event for him.
- Fearful Barking. Its purpose is to keep away something that bothers or scares him. It’s commonly confused as aggression.
- Boredom Barking. It’s an expression of boredom, especially in dogs with a lack of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Frustration Barking. Trigger when the dog cannot do something. Either something he wants to do or when something he expects does not happen.
- Attention Barking. It’s an expression of a request for interaction, or engagement.
- Separation Anxiety Barking. Related to the stress and panic that causes him to stay alone.
- Social Barking. Caused in response to the barking of other dogs.
- Cognitive Dysfunction Barking. Due to age, senior dogs can manifest cognitive problems that cause them to feel confused or frightened, and they express it through barking.
Barking is a normal behavior in dogs. As I mentioned before, it’s a way in which they express their desires and emotions.
However, when dogs bark excessively, it may indicate that there is some underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
A particular case of this type of behavior is what dog trainers call “Reactive Dog” or “Leash Reactive Dog”. This type of behavior is mainly manifested when walking a dog on a leash.
Leash Reactive Dog
It is known as “reactive” when a dog overreacts to an external stimulus. It is mainly when a person or another dog causes your dog to bark, growl, and lunge.
A Leash Reactive Dog is a behavior caused when your dog feels frustrated or frightened while restrain by a leash or some type of barrier.
If your dog is aggressive or bites other dogs or people when it is off-leash, it is not reactive only. Other problems that can cause aggression must be considered.
There are two causes of reactivity in dogs, and although they look very similar, the origin is quite different.
If your dog gets along well with people and with other dogs. When he can approach and have access to them without being restrained by a leash or some type of barrier, he will most likely do so without barking or showing uncomfortable.
But when the dog can not have access to something he wants, it can be very stressful for him. It’s common for him to bark, growl and lunge the leash due to the frustration of not being able to approach a person or another dog to play or smell. This behavior is usually accompanied by a friendly body language.
When a dog is not restrained by a leash, when he feels fear or discomfort he is able to distance himself from the situation.
Unable to get away because of the leash, he will become defensive with the intention of driving away the dog or the stranger that scares him. Although it may seem aggressive, the dog’s purpose is to keep the source of its fear away. It is more of a threat than aggression.
In most cases, dogs that bark and lunge are not aggressive. Generally, they are very friendly off-leash.
Why Does My Dog Bark at Other Dogs on Walks?
Flight or Fight Instinct
Related to fear in a Reactive Dog. When a dog is off-leash, it never approaches another dog head-on and makes eye contact unless he wants to fight. This behavior is considered aggressive among dogs.
It is natural for a dog that is off-leash to approach another dog by the side making a sort of arc.
It’s common that when a dog is on a leash, it is forced to approach face to face to another dog. This body language will express to the other dog that wants to fight.
Since most dogs don’t want to fight, they will do everything possible to avoid it. On-leash dogs will feel trapped and unable to get away from each other. In these cases they usually bark, growl and lunge with the intention of keeping the other dog that represents a threat away.
It’s necessary to avoid forcing two dogs to approach to meet each other since this can worsen the situation. This can cause the dogs to change their instincts from flight to fight.
Related to the feeling of frustration of a Reactive Dog. It can be considered that this behavior is the opposite of the previous one.
The most common is that they are dogs that are used to playing and spending time with other dogs. They usually spend time in daycares or dog parks where they are generally off leash with other dogs.
As we mentioned before, they are dogs that when they cross paths with another dog in the street, try to get closer to meet him, say hello or play. But when they cannot do it, they get frustrated and start barking and lunge with the intention of approaching him.
When a dog is not socialized correctly, he is not used or doesn’t know how to interact with other dogs.
This can cause him to feel insecure, anxious or defensive with other dogs. And if you add to this the feeling of being trapped by being on a leash, is almost sure that the instinct of flight or fight is triggered.
How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Barking at Other Dogs When Out for a Walk?
How to Help My Dog Feel Better On-Leash
The first thing you have to do to make your dog feel comfortable on-leash is to teach him to pay attention to you. Start by calling him by his name and when he turns to see you reward him with a treat.
First, start in places where there are no distractions and gradually practice in areas with more stimuli. This training helps your dog to pay attention to you in any environment.
As a second step, when you go for a walk with your dog, and you see another dog approaching, as soon as your dog sees him, get his attention and give him a reward. If your dog turns to look for more treats, gradually approach the other dog and continue rewarding him while he doesn’t react negatively. Identify and keep your dog at a comfortable distance for him.
This method has the objective that your dog associates the presence of other dogs with something positive.
Don’t wait for him to react. If he starts to bark and lunge, give a U-turn and move away at a distance where your dog is calm. You can work previously on a U-turn at home or in an area without distractions.
We must avoid any negative experience since it can be a step backward in progress made. Try to find routes and areas where there are few dogs.
In case you find another dog in front, and you can’t avoid him. Walk around him in an arc shape keeping your dog’s attention on you. Keep rewarding him while he doesn’t react and start barking.
It’s essential to stop rewarding your dog when the other dog is gone. This is to reinforce that the presence of other dogs is good and positive for him.
How to Train My Dog to Be Calm Around Other Dogs
To teach your dog to be comfortable and relaxed with other dogs when you go out for a walk, you can ask a friend who owns a calm dog to come with him to help you.
To start with, keep your friend’s dog at a distance from your dog where he feels comfortable and can pay attention to you. Play with him, either with a toy that he likes or give him treats and a lot of praise.
If your dog is calm and comfortable, gradually approach your friend’s dog and continue giving treats or with the game.
Little by little he will feel calmer near other dogs. Until you can walk by the side of another dog and even stop to say hello without any problem.
If your dog, at some point, reacts negatively to the other dog, it may be that you shortened the distance very quickly.
When this happens, give a U-turn and move away at a distance where he is calm enough to start over. Remember that in these cases, distance is your best ally.
In case you do not have a friend who can help you, you can go to an area that dogs frequent. It can be a dog park or a pet store.
The process is the same, and at the beginning, you should determine how far you should be to start the training. It can be at one end of a parking lot or on a distant sidewalk.
Over time, you can also practice following another dog or walking parallel to him until your dog can do it calmly. Even if your dog is relaxed, you can walk to another dog in an arc-shaped path. Allow the dogs to greet for a few seconds and keep walking.
Remember to reward him for all successful interactions.
Why My Dog Barks at Strangers When We Go Out for a Walk?
There are many reasons why your dog may bark when it crosses his path with a stranger.
But there are 4 main reasons why your dog can bark at people when he goes out for a walk.
Most dogs have the tendency to defend their territory from strangers.
Territorial barking is very common. Although the dog usually seems aggressive, the bark aims to warn that a possible threat is approaching and to try to keep it away.
This type of barking mainly happens at home. There it is common for him to bark at anyone who tries to enter it or just passes near the door.
But there are also other situations that can trigger territorial barking. In fact, as soon as a dog spends more time in a specific place, it is more likely he feels it as his territory.
If a dog spends a lot of time in the car, he may also consider it his territory. That’s why it’s common for a dog inside a vehicle to bark when someone walks by.
Likewise, if you always go for a walk with your dog in the same streets or areas, it’s likely that he will feel them as his territory. Your dog will relate the places with you and will feel the responsibility to defend them.
When a dog that doesn’t bark begins to bark often when he goes for a walk, it may mean that he starts to feel that his walking route is part of his territory.
When your dog likes people a lot, he can get excited when he sees a stranger in the street. This type of barking can also happen anywhere, not only when you go out for a walk.
Some breeds are more prone to this type of behavior and don’t mean there is something wrong with the dog. It only says that he has an enthusiastic personality and a lot of energy.
Although people usually get scared and feel threatened, what the dog seeks is to approach them to greet and play. Can start jumping around in circles, show lots of energy and express this emotion with barking. In these cases, the barking is a kind of greeting and request for attention and play.
Lack of Socialization
It is essential to socialize your dog from an early age, both with other dogs and with people. This helps your dog feel more comfortable and to learn how to relate to strangers.
A dog without proper socialization will feel insecure and scared whenever a stranger approaches.
In these cases, it is common for the dog to show a body language of anxiety and fear. Likewise, he will begin to bark and pull the leash with the intention of keeping away and distancing himself from the source of his fear and even show aggression if the stranger comes very close.
Fear or Anxiety
This happens when some external stimulus frightens him or makes him anxious. It does not always mean a lack of socialization. It can happen with some people and not with others.
When a dog feels scared, insecure or anxious for a particular reason, it will show signs of aggression to keep the source of its fear away.
You have to consider that this behavior can be reinforced if your dog barks at a stranger and he goes away or moves to the other side of the street. Your dog may feel that his behavior was successful and may tend to repeat it.
How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Barking at Strangers on Walks?
We have to take the time to understand the reasons why our dog barks at strangers.
Identifying what triggers the barking of our dog allows us to take more accurate actions.
In case of not being clear why our dog barks, we can try and combine the different techniques to see what works for us.
Distract Your Dog
When you’re dealing with Territorial Barking, the best way to stop this behavior is to distract your dog.
When you see a stranger approaching, get his attention and distract him before he realizes it. You can distract him by using some treats or with a toy to play with.
At first, this helps to avoid the problem since your dog will be distracted and will not pay attention to the person.
But little by little he will learn that strangers are not a threat and will relate them with something positive.
You can combine this method with the “quiet” command.
This method helps to teach your dog the “quiet” command which you can use every time he starts barking.
If your dog starts barking, with a firm and calm voice, say the command “quiet”. Distract him with a treat and when he stops barking repeat “quiet” and reward him.
It is important not to reward him before he stops barking.
Encourage Calm Behavior
Over-excited dogs often bark because they relate a stranger with some kind of reward. This can be attention, physical affection or play time.
To control this type of behavior, it is necessary to teach your dog that when he barks, he will not have any kind of reward.
When you are out walking with your dog, and you see a stranger, keep walking normally. As soon as your dog starts to bark and pull for the emotion of seeing the person, turn around calmly. Walk in a different direction to avoid the person. You can use the “quiet” command if you think it’s convenient.
In the opposite case, when your dog behaves calmly and without barking, reward him.
This exercise serves to teach your dog that if he barks, he will not be able to receive the attention he desires.
Socialize Your Dog
Socializing a dog that is not used to interacting with people can be a long process, but it’s necessary to be persistent.
The most important thing is that he begins to interact with other people.
It’s best to start at home. Invite different people and ask them to be caring and attentive with your dog. It helps that they are calm and giving treats while interacting with him.
It’s necessary to notify them beforehand of the situation and that there is nothing to be afraid of. It’s also vital that they do not move away when he barks as this could reinforce the negative behavior.
If he begins to bark, as soon as he stops and is calmer, offer a reward to reinforce the calm behavior and begin to relate the presence of strangers with positive things.
When you walk your dog, try to take him to as many different places as possible.
Do not keep your dog away from strangers. It is crucial that you remain calm so that he knows that there is nothing to worry about.
It is important that when he stays calm or ignores a stranger, to reward him and praise his behavior.
Why My Dog Barks at Everything on Walks and What to Do?
When your dog barks at everything when you take him out for a walk, he may suffer from compulsive barking.
These dogs bark at almost everything and in any environment or situation.
They can bark at a stranger who crosses their path, other animals, and even shadows or sounds.
It is common that when he barks at a stranger, he does not stop barking even if the person has already left and he no longer sees him. Also if you notice that your dog barks at nothing apparently, it can be compulsive barking.
There are many reasons why a dog can be a compulsive barker. It can be due to anxiety, some trauma or a personality disorder. Although generally there may not be an apparent cause.
If you suspect that your dog suffers from compulsive barking, the best thing you can do is take him with a professional animal behaviorist to diagnose him and help your canine friend.
What Not to Do When Your Dog Barks on Walks
There are some things you should avoid not to aggravate the problem.
Don’t Reward Your Dog’s Barking
It is essential to make sure you reward your dog when he is calm and has stopped barking.
Be careful not to give him prizes while he is barking with the intention of distracting him.
You should also avoid giving treats when he is anxious, scared or excited. Only reward him when he is calm to reinforce this behavior and not another.
Don’t Avoid the Problem
It’s common that when a dog barks when he goes out for a walk, the dog owner wants to prevent the problem.
Some people only take their dogs to walk in places or schedules when there are no other dogs or people.
Even some dog owners stop taking their dogs out completely.
This prolongs the problem and aggravates the behavior.
You have to take into account that your dog needs daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. Likewise, the stimulus that socialization and interaction with other dogs and people are essential for his development. The lack of exercise and mental stimulation can cause other problems such as destructive behavior.
Dogs are very perceptive of the emotions of their owners. It is common that if you are anxious or stressed, your dog will pick up on it.
When you get nervous or react badly to a situation, your canine friend perceives that there is something wrong.
For this reason, it’s important to be calm and act as if everything is normal. So your dog will be more relaxed and less likely to react and bark.
Don’t Punish Your Dog
When you discipline your dog for barking, it is likely that you will make the situation worse.
If you shout or hit your dog for barking, it is most likely he will not relate to the act of barking with the punishment. Instead, it will be associated with the presence of the trigger, be it a person or other dogs.
This can lead to your dog not wanting to go out for a walk to avoid the things he feels that cause the punishment.
It is always more useful to be calm and to use positive reinforcement to deal with these types of behavior.