Are you feeling embarrassed on each walk with your dog because of the barking, lunging, snarling, growling, snapping behaviours your dog exhibits?
You are not alone!
You might feel alone and that really plays into the feeling of embarrassment, but the truth is, having a reactive dog is far more common than you’d think.
A(n over-)reactive dog is one who reacts to a stimulus by barking, lunging, snarling, growling, and/or snapping. The stimulus could be anything - people, dogs, vehicles, etc.
We often associate this behaviour with rescue dogs, and a history of abuse or attacks, however even dogs from breeders with no history of violence can (and do!) exhibit these behaviours. Why?
Because it’s normal.
Just like we humans have our way of communicating with hand gestures and language, dogs have their own way of communicating with body language and vocalisations. We are often appalled and frightened by the display because it looks different from what we are used to, and dogs have much larger teeth, so we are programmed to fear this on some level as a survival mechanism.
There are many reasons dogs bark and snark at triggers on walks but it all comes down to two categories:
FEAR AND FRUSTRATION
Let’s start with the latter: frustration. Some dogs are extroverts, very social and keen to interact with other social species, like dogs and humans. Frustrated-greeters, as we call them, generally lack impulse control and therefore, they get excited when they see the person or dog they want to greet, and the leash prevents them from doing this, so their emotions are heightened and that’s when the circus begins.
Unfortunately, we might inadvertently reinforce this by allowing the barking dog to greet the dog or human and they quickly learn that this works and it becomes their go-to on walks.
Sometimes this is unavoidable because the other person might choose to come closer, thinking it’s “cute” and then boom! your dog learns it works.