Does your dog lunge at other dogs while you're out on a walk with him? If so, you probably understand how frustrating this can be. Not only will you feel the strain of your pulling pooch, but you might also feel more than a little embarrassed when you're having to apologize to other dog owners.
So, why does your dog do it?
Well, there are two issues at play here. One is improper leash training, and the other is a lack of socialization with other dogs.
In terms of leash training, if you have proper control over your dog while you are out on a walk, both in terms of the leash and in terms of your authority over him, you should be able to prevent any lunging problems.
And in the case of socialization, if your dog isn't use to the presence of other dogs while walking, he might start to get curious or anxious around them. This will cause him to lunge at other dogs, either to get a closer look and sniff at them or to warn them off from approaching. If you can get him use to the presence of other dogs, the problem can be alleviated.
In both cases, early intervention is key. When possible, start leash training and proper socialization while your dog is still a pup. Eight weeks old is the optimal time to begin. This will get your dog used to your voice and control, and he will start to become less fearful of other dogs.
When you have mastered leash training, you will be able to prevent lunging. And if your dog is used to the presence of other dogs, he will make fewer attempts to lunge at them.
We aren't going to go into great depth on leash training here, as there is much to say on the matter. We will describe the process in brief, but to learn more, consider a professional dog trainer or benefit from our online puppy training courses. Keep in mind that training a dog is a skill, you can't simply read how to do it and be proficient at it right away. Your training skill will take time to develop. Investing in a trainer to teach you, much like hiring a piano teacher to help you learn to play the piano, a dog trainer will help you hone your skills.
You need to get your dog acquainted to his leash, so put it on him while you're both inside, and turn leash time into fun time. You can do this by using treats, as when he starts to follow your commands - sit, stay, heel, etc. you can give him a treat for his good behavior. Your dog will now associate the leash and your commands with something pleasurable, and it should make for better impulse control when outside.
Other dogs won't be your only problem when outside, as there will be other things to distract your pet too. It could be a candy wrapper on the floor, a sweet-smelling plant, a nice juicy stick, a blowing leaf, or the droppings from another animal. Your dog will start to lunge at anything he wants to sniff or eat, but by using the cue words you have taught your dog to follow, he should resist the urge to lunge, especially if he knows there is a treat waiting for him.
Don't be concerned if your dog's behavior isn't perfect. Dogs love being outdoors, and they take great pleasure from the many treasures that await them on the walk. If your dog does start to lunge, you can always slow down, and let your dog examine whatever it is that has caught their attention. So long as there is no threat to their welfare, feel free to let them explore. After all, how would you like it if somebody constantly pulled you away from the things you enjoyed? Consider this for your dog, and let him get the most out of his walk with you.
Of course, when it comes to other dogs, your tactic might be different. Your commands of 'sit' and 'heel' might suffice, and a treat might convince your dog to listen to you. However, you might also want to take a new path if you see another dog coming your way, especially if your dog appears fearful and anxious upon their approach.
Socializing Your Dog
Early exposure to other dogs is key, so this is something you should try to do when your dog is at the puppy stage. This isn't to say you can't socialize older dogs, but by starting young, your pet pooch will get used to other dogs being around and this will be the norm for them.
As dogs tend to lunge and act aggressively to others because of fear and anxiety, early socialization is one way to mitigate any future anxiety.
Between 3 and 12 weeks of age is the best time to socialize your puppy, although you can still socialize them when they're older, as there is no wrong time to do it. During the 3 to 8 week period of your puppy's life they are socialized within their litter by their litter mates and their mother. A good breeder will also spend time socializing them so being use to humans is simply another part of life for your pup.
How to socialize your dog to other dogs
To socialize your dog with others of their kind, you need to be where other dogs are.
If you have other dogs in your home, this shouldn't be a problem. Other places to socialize your dog include:
Dog training classes
The homes of dog-owning friends or family members
You do need to be mindful, of course. Some dogs are naturally aggressive, so you wouldn't want to introduce your young pup to an older dog that is less than tolerant of your pet. Exercise caution, and if you suspect the other dog might be a problem, steer clear.
When socializing, practice the commands that will encourage your dog to come to you, with the usual treat incentives. This will be of great benefit to you later, as when you are out on a walk, you will be able to get your dog under control if he does start lunging. Of course, as he might be more comfortable around other dogs anyway because of his early socialization, lunging should become less of an issue.
Leash training and early socialization are key when it comes to preventing your dog from lunging at others. For more advice, find a pet pro in your area, and get the ball rolling with our online puppy training program.