Bark! Bark! Woof! Bark!
Sound familiar? Well, probably not. Our interpretation of dogs is terrible. However, if you read that and thought about your dog barking, specifically at another dog, then this blog is for you. Today, we’re diving deep into that topic to answer the question: “why does my dog bark at other dogs?”
Why Does My Dog Bark at Other Dogs?
The most vocal dogs are often the most reactive dogs. Before we go any further, being reactive isn’t always a bad thing. If your dog is trained and able to approach others safely, then a little barking isn’t always something to be concerned about. It can come across as aggressive to other people or animals, but your dog likely isn’t showing signs of aggression if they’re just barking.
Aggressive behavior can be spotted with their body language. Look for raised hackles, tail between their legs, showing teeth, or growling. If your dog is doing any of those things while barking, then you should be concerned and look into training courses to correct those behaviors.
If your dog is just barking for the sake of barking, then we’ve got you covered.
What is Reactivity?
Reactivity is a common term that means your dog overreacts to normal, everyday situations. Knocking on the door? BARK! Person walking outside? WOOF! Another dog bark down the road? Time to howl!!
Your dog can also jump up and get hyper-focused on the new sound or movement, can growl, lunge, or even snap and bite. Again, if they get aggressive, please look into a training course to help get your pup more comfortable with their triggers.
These behaviors mean that your dog is experiencing very intense emotions, and they’re trying to cope with those overwhelming feelings by doing things that make them feel better. Barking and acting out are ways for them to express those emotions and feel safer.
So, how do you get them to stop? Well, that depends on why your dog is reactive.
Why is My Dog Reactive?
Reactivity often develops when your dog is around 5 months old. This is when they tend to develop fear, or at least start showing extreme fear in random new things. If you adopted an older dog, then these fears will come as a surprise to you.
Our favorite Doggy Brace subject – our employee’s mini dachshund – comes with an unknown past. He was adopted from the shelter when he was two and, for whatever reason, he hates it when his owners high-five each other. Everything from the movement to the sound triggers him. We don’t want to make assumptions, but it is something his owners have to keep in mind when he’s in the room.
In general, adolescent dogs have big feelings and they’re not well equipped to deal with them. They’re particularly susceptible to feeling very worried or very excited, which leads to some big behaviors too.
They can easily become fearful of other dogs because of limited socialization or a particularly bad experience. This leads them to become reactive to those triggers, even when they’re in a safe space.
Frustration Leads to Barking Too
Sometimes, it’s not reactivity at all! Sometimes, your dog may just be frustrated that they can’t go and say hi to the other dog, or they don’t want the other dog on their lawn.
The frustrated dog is often fine with other dogs off the lead, but doesn’t listen to you and might even be a little rude or over the top when they play.
This type of behavior is usually way more common than reactivity and it does require some training so your dog understands that they can’t be friends with everyone. We recommend the sit and stay method: have your dog sit and stay when they see another dog. They can wiggle and wag their tails, but they should know not to whine, bark, jump, or lunge at the other dog until you say it’s okay too.
You can also try BAT training!
What is BAT and How Can it Help with Frustrated Greetings?
BAT Training is Behavior Adjustment Therapy (BAT), which basically teaches your dog that if they don’t react, they’ll get rewarded. It’s an alternative training technique that uses functional rewards for handling reactivity.
When creating BAT setups, you want to reward your dog for exhibiting uninterested or disengaging signals when they see other dogs.
For dogs feeling fearful, the functional reward they get for calm behavior is to move further away. With those that get excited to see other dogs, calm behavior results in them getting to move closer.
The distance you start working from is also crucial. Expecting your dog to offer immediate calm behavior in close proximity to another dog is asking too much. Pick the spot where your dog can see the Stooge, but it’s at a sufficient distance not to trigger an over-excited reaction.
We hope this helped you understand why your dog barks at other dogs and helped you find steps to take to combat it. That’s it from us. Play on!