Walking your dog should be a relaxing, bonding experience for both you and your pet. If your dog lunges and barks at every other dog or human he sees, stress levels can soar through the roof for everyone involved. A few basic changes to your walk style can end the unwanted behavior and bring a peaceful ambiance to your outing.
Why All the Fuss
Your dog might bark for a couple of different reasons while you are walking him. He may feel the need to drive other people or animals away to protect you, or he might be excited to meet a new playmate. Stressful surroundings -- such as loud construction sites or a lot of traffic -- can cause him to be on edge. As the owner of a barking, lunging beast, chances are the next time you're walking him you'll tense up as soon as you encounter those same conditions. Your dog likely will sense your anxiety and become anxious. This pattern of fear sets up a hard-to-break cycle of you becoming tense and your dog barking and lunging to protect you from the intruder.
Master the Walk
The key ingredient to a peaceful walk is using your energy and body language to show you are the pack leader. Hold your head up and put your shoulders back. Focus on something that makes you happy instead of your fear of what will happen if another dog comes along. Put your dog's collar at the top of the neck, which is more sensitive than the densely muscled base. Don't allow your dog to pull in front of you; rather, have him follow along behind. A dog in front of you is more likely to feel he needs to protect you by driving away other dogs and people. Practice meeting other dogs on the walk by having your friends and their dogs help you in a controlled environment, such as a large yard.
Don't Encourage Bad Behavior
When you see another dog on the walk, don't panic and cross the street. Your dog will start to make an association that other dogs or people present a danger, setting him up to bark and lunge in the future. Don't yell, as they will pick up on your excited energy and become more aggressive. Pulling back on the leash triggers your dog to lunge harder. Instead, pop the leash to the side or straight up and immediately release it or give your dog a light nudge on his rib cage with your foot to distract him from the other dog. Don't pick up a small dog when he's barking. He'll interpret the move as a reward of affection for protecting you, ingraining the behavior.
Teach Him Manners
A dog head halter lets you gently close your dog's mouth and guide him into a sitting position. Simply lift up on the leash to close his mouth and give him the sit command. Redirect his attention back to you by changing the direction of the walk. You also can teach your dog to quiet on command. First, teach him to speak by ringing the doorbell and rewarding him when he barks. As he stops barking, give him the command to be quiet. When he is quiet for several seconds, give him a small treat. With practice, he'll respond to the command when you're out on the walk.