My Dog Lunges and Growls at Other Dogs

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I hate to walk my dog because he always barks at the other dogs that pass by. Charlie’s a very sweet, 6-year old, neutered corgi, but when other dogs come near, he starts pulling at his leash, snarling and barking.

I yell “No!” and pull back on the leash, but that only mildly reins him in. He’s never attacked another dog, but he does scare them and their owners. I don’t know why he does this; he’s nice to my friends’ dogs when they come by. Do you have any advice to help make walk time less stressful?

There are a number of reasons a dog will lunge and bark at other dogs while on a leash. It sometimes happens if a dog is particularly aggressive, but this doesn’t sound like your corgi, as you say that your dog is nice to your friends’ dogs, suggesting that his problem is specifically with unfamiliar dogs.

Other reasons a dog might behave this way could be fear, acting protective of its owner, wanting to play, or a lack of adequate socialization with other dogs.

You mention that you’ve tried an approach that involves corrections — yelling “No!” and pulling on the leash — and this hasn’t worked for you. Don’t worry, there really are ways to make walk time more fun. Below I’ve given several approaches to try to make life easier for you and Charlie.

1. Consider enrolling Charlie in a Canine Good Citizen class. Teaching your dog to react appropriately to other dogs is one of the core parts of this program and a class would give you and your corgi opportunities to practice and learn this skill with other dogs.

2. Another thing to try is to only move toward another dog if your dog is behaving acceptably. If he lunges and barks, turn around and go back in the opposite direction away from the other dog. When he settles down, you can turn him around and try again. I’ve had good success with this procedure.

3. I also recommend trying this “shaping” procedure for dogs who lunge on the leash. You start by walking your dog behind another dog. Can he do this? If so, move to the next step and try parallel walking. Will your dog walk side by side with another dog (with both dogs on a leash)? The last step is walking toward another dog. The two dogs should start about 20 feet apart, gradually moving closer. You can see from these suggestions that you’ll need a structured practice session and some helpers with dogs to work on this. This is why we it often works best for you and your dog to enroll in a training class.

4. If he will sit and stay on command, you can also have your corgi “sit and watch” as another dog passes by. Give him treats for sitting quietly and watching. Later, you can graduate to stand-and-watch, then “heel” as you walk by another dog. This method involves your corgi knowing how to sit-stay and walk beside you on the leash when you give him the command.