Dogs which react and bark on walks can be a nightmare to own. Its easy to get frustrated as an owner, and the withering looks from other dog owners can be hard to bear. Some breeds are naturally more vocal than others, Bichon Frise and Poodles spring to mind! I am finding this out to my detriment. I have a 6-month-old pup who is without a doubt, more vocal than any dog I’ve owned. Insecurity is a part of it for sure, but genetics play a part- she is half cockapoo, and her father, although wonderfully natured, is rather fond of the sound of his bark! Another factor I have come to realise is position of the garden. Previously my puppies would have had access to a quiet back garden, with no vision outside the boundary. As I am currently doing renovations, my puppy  uses the front garden, which has ample views of the busy front road. So, as she grows, her confidence in ‘seeing off’ strangers has grown,and I believe she recreates this behaviour on walks, when we see other dogs. So here are the top 5 things I have been doing to help lessen her reactivity.

  1. Teaching that when close to other dogs, good thing happens. This involves a bit of stalking! unless you have friends whose dogs you can recruit, you need to go to any area where there are well behaved on lead dogs. The trick is to get as close as you can without eliciting a reaction from your dog, and then produce something wonderful, such as chicken or ham. Don’t look for any specific behaviour, no barking is all you want to reward.
  2. Teach a ‘Watch me’ command. This is a command that, as predicted, teaches your dog to give you eye contact. If a dog isn’t focusing on another dog, it won’t react. Practice at home first and build up the 3 D’s over time-Duration, Distraction and Distance.
  3. Stop all play with other dogs. Often reactivity stems out of frustration. Dogs which play regularly with other dogs can sometimes not understand why, when on lead, they can’t greet dogs the same way. Improving your relationship with your dog through play, will strengthen your bond and decrease reactivity.
  4. Teach your dog not to pull. When the lead is tight, dogs can feel more threatened and less able to give appeasing body language, therefore may use a display of aggression to try and frighten off a threat. Try a front attached harness or a head collar if you are struggling.
  5. Speak up for your dog. Don’t allow strange dogs to approach your dog. Speak up! If he feels safer on a walk, he is less likely to react, a polite “no thank you, we’re training” will usually suffice.

Getting to the root cause of any reactivity is essential, so get in touch with a good trainer who should be able to help.