If your dog is a bit of a barker when they see other dogs in the area, you can work to condition another response, and your strategy depends on why they are barking in the first place. If they are barking because they are nervous about the other dog and therefore fearful, giving them tasty treats as the dog passes by can help. The idea is similar to an open bar/closed bar scenario. When a dog is in the vicinity, the bar is OPEN (continual feeding, small pieces). When the dog has passed by and is no longer in sight, the bar is CLOSED.
Make sure you keep your dog at a distance from the other dog to minimize the chance they will bark and make sure the treat is tasty enough that they will want it more than they want to bark at the other dog. You can also reward your fearful dog for simply looking at the other dog. From a distance where your dog is looking but not yet barking, say ‘yes’ or ‘good’ or click with a clicker while you dog is looking and then give a treat. Every time he looks, he gets a ‘yes/good/click’ from you and a tasty treat. Do not get closer to the dog, but over time see if you can work with your dog in closer proximity to the other dog while playing the “look at that” game.
If your dog is barking because he is merely excited or wants to say hi, do not reward the barking/lunging behaviors with letting him greet the other dog. Get their attention (at first with a tasty treat if necessary or increase your distance from the other dog) and ask them for a ‘sit’. Once they do that, they will have stopped barking and you can give them the treat (if they want it) then allow them to say hello to the other dog. Getting access to the other dog is the BIG reward here, so you can use that as his reward for sitting and ceasing the barking behavior. The more you practice this, the faster your dog will get it! For more information or to contact me, visit pawsitiveencounters.com.
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