If you’re trying to stop your dog from barking at other dogs, or to prevent your puppy from barking at other dogs when they reach adulthood, you’ll use the exact same principles. When you’re catching up from behind, you’ll need to use some extra time and energy as opposed to those working on prevention!
If your dog displays serious reactivity towards other dogs, you also might consider our Ask the Trainer program. It allows you to work directly with our Head Trainer to develop a detailed plan for your dog and adjust it based on how they respond.
Preventing Your Puppy from Barking at Other Dogs
The very best thing you can do for your puppy is train them properly before they begin displaying any problem behaviors. Don’t get so caught up in housetraining and puppy biting that you forget to take the time and train your dog to properly interact with other dogs and people.
Young dogs need to not only be exposed to all manner of different people and dogs, but they need to have those experiences go positively for them if you have any hope of properly socializing them!
Socialization… The Right Way!
Socializing a dog isn’t just about exposing them to things, it’s about ensuring they make positive associations and don’t develop any fears or aversions to strangers or to other dogs.
The best way to socialize a dog is to use counterconditioning. Pair new or potentially scary experiences with reinforcement, and your dog begins to associate good things happening when they meet new dogs or people.
The other element of socialization is ensuring your dog learns how to maintain focus on you and behave calmly when they meet other dogs. While they are young, you should practice their recall, and periodically regain their attention while they meet and interact with new dogs and people. Reinforce them for giving you their attention, and let them go back to socializing.
Finetuning Your Dog’s Recall and Regaining Their Attention
It’s not always easy to regain your dog’s attention. This is especially true when your dog is in a new environment or distracted by something like another dog or a new person. That’s why we begin working on it as early as possible!
When you’re on a leash and you’re working on a recall, or simply regaining your dog’s attention, you’ll want to call their name clearly. If your dog doesn’t look your way, the next step is to make yourself as interesting and inviting as possible.
You’ll do this by prompting – clapping, snapping your fingers, making kissy noises, or clicking sounds… essentially anything you need to do to regain their attention.
The biggest element in making sure you can regain your dog’s attention is reinforcement. You’ll want to use a strong reinforcer, such as boiled chicken breast. When your dog gets a tasty surprise for giving you their attention, they’re much more likely to tune back in when you recall them next time!
We cover this process extensively and show you how to apply it on a leash, in our Ultimate Barking Solution.
Stopping an Adult Dog From Barking at Other Dogs
We won’t sugarcoat it, regaining your dog’s attention and socializing them is much easier when they are still young. In fact, puppies have a very narrow window to learn social cues and become accustomed to other dogs. Once they pass that window, they can no longer learn how to interact and play with other dogs appropriately.
With that said, even an adult dog who was never socialized properly can still learn how to behave in a civilized manner when another dog is around.
While their automatic reaction might be to bark at the other dog, we can absolutely teach them how to feel more comfortable around strange dogs and react in a better fashion than barking and working themselves up.
Baby Steps for Adult Dogs
Where a puppy might be able to trot up and introduce themselves to another dog without trouble, an adult dog who barks at other dogs might have a harder time with this interaction. You’ll also have a harder time getting an adult dog to cooperate and listen to you because they have gotten into a pattern of behavior.
The pattern of seeing another dog, barking, and amping up their adrenaline can be incredibly hard to break. That’s why we need to start with baby steps.
When you turn a corner and your dog is nose to nose with a strange dog, they’re going to react. But when you start out from as long of a distance as possible, working slowly with your dog to ensure they remain comfortable and responsive to you, you can have much more success.
Starting at a long distance, regaining your dog’s attention, and not advancing until they give you their attention can be incredibly effective in breaking the pattern of panic and barking.
However, this only works if you have control of the other dog and their movements because if you stop and the other dog keeps approaching, you lose the element of distance very quickly. For this reason, you should have an assistant with a calm dog work with you on this type of exercise.
Your Dog Doesn’t Need to Interact with Other Dogs
Just because you’re working on your dog’s socialization doesn’t mean that you have to force them to go nose-to-nose with a strange dog.
Depending on the case, you can certainly attempt to allow your dog to meet the other dog. However, if your dog could potentially react poorly or aggressively towards the other dog, you should probably refrain from having them meet the dog.
There’s no reason to put your dog, and the other dog, in danger just to say your dog can meet other dogs. Instead, practice interactions where your dog calmly passes by the other dog without reacting. Focus on teaching your dog that strangers won’t bother them and that if they keep their attention on you and don’t go into a panic, good things will happen for them!