Even the friendliest pooch can appear threatening to strangers if he runs after and barks at them. Dogs who do this were most likely not socialized properly as puppies. While it's never too late to get your dog used to new experiences, investing the time to get your puppy around other dogs and people when he is young can prevent bad behavior from developing. However, don't worry that you've lost your opportunity if you've got an older dog. It can be a challenge, but, with work, you can curb this behavior.
1 - Socialize your dog from a DISTANCE.
The key is to put your dog in a situation where he succeeds. Each time he barks or runs at strangers, he is reinforcing the idea that this type of behavior is OK. To start the socialization process, take him somewhere he can see others, but you can keep him far enough away that he doesn't start barking and lunging.
2- Provide treats for good behavior.
When he is quiet and walking attentively by your side, offer him treats. Slip them to him from your hand without making a big deal about it, keep walking and treating.
3 - Discourage bad behavior.
If he focuses on someone and starts to growl, do a quick U-turn and head in the opposite direction. Don't correct him, but don't give him any treats, either.
4 - Work your way closer to people.
As he becomes more relaxed around others and focused on you, gradually move closer to the action. Always stay far enough away that he doesn't feel the need to bark, growl or lunge. Continue to feed him treats generously and do U-turns if he starts to act aggressive.
By Stephanie Dube Dwilson
About the Author
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.