So what do you do? Likely you’ve been scolding your dog for his outbursts, pulling him away while he’s barking, or crossing the street to avoid an altercation all together. At this point you’ve noticed that the behavior is continuing and may even be increasing in frequency. There are several reasons why. Firstly, pulling your dog never works. As with walking on a loose leash, a tight leash should be treated the same way. Simply hold your ground. Do NOT pull back. You will just end up in a game of tug of war. By holding still you are diffusing the energy and providing structure. You will be surprised how quickly they learn that a slack leash means they get to go where they want.
Secondly, keeping an eye out for approaching dogs and keeping your distance is much easier than trying to calm down an excited dog. Pay attention to your dog’s body language when they first see the dog. If they keep moving forward at a normal pace, keep going. You haven’t reached their threshold yet. If they stop and stare, but the tail is still relaxed, you have your chance to begin counterconditioning your dog. More on that later. If they crouch down, growl or show any other outward signs of distress, it’s time to pick up and go. Your best option is to cross the street. Simply changing your direction now puts this new dog behind yours, which won’t make your dog happy. They will keep trying to check behind them and you’ll have a hard time getting them to move forward.
Third, yelling at your dog never works. All they hear is noise and excitement and they will feed off that. A firm “no” followed by a correction (if needed) is all it should take to snap them out of their frenzy. If you remain calm, your dog will be calm.
Let’s talk about counter conditioning. If someone gave you a cookie every time you cleaned your home, you’d probably have a really clean home. Same theory works for dogs. By replacing a negative experience with a positive one, you are conditioning your dog to associate good things with other dogs. When you see another dog approaching on your walk, watch your dog for signs of tension. If they see the dog and keep walking calmly, slip your dog a small treat (1 bite). You can keep treating your dog as long as the behavior is acceptable. Dogs won’t eat when stressed, so if your dog stops responding to the treats, you have pushed him beyond his threshold. Increase distance from the other dog and start again.
This will not be a fast process, but if you are consistent with your dog, you will see a difference in their behavior. And remember, if you’re still having problems, I offer several packages for obedience training.