Your Pet Question:
How do we stop our mixed breed (large) dog from barking and lunging at strangers when he’s on his leash? Is he trying to protect us?
Katie Mackenzie, Alberta
The Expert Says:
There are different possibilities, either your dog is afraid of the strangers or is territorial of you, but regardless of the root, there is still a way to modify this unacceptable behavior. But first you need to get your dog under obedience control on the leash when it is just the two of you-doing many “sit- stay” with a head halter and leash practices will help. Then enlist someone you know who is a “stranger” to the dog to help you. The “stranger” needs to walk by for a period of four days (approx 15 feet away) and toss a treat towards the dog without making eye contact. After a few days of this, have the “stranger” dip towards you closer and toss a treat, again no eye contact. Once the dog is good with that and does not lunge, have “the stranger” walk up and give your dog a treat, again NO eye contact and NO reaching out to pat the dog, the stranger must stay neutral. Eventually the dog will equate passing people with positive experiences. By using your voice and visual cues with each food reward, further training can also be undertaken as well.
Deena Cooper is a certified animal trainer and owner of Deena Speaks Dog training centre in Toronto, Ontario.