Over the years I have helped many people whose dogs are barking on the walk in a multitude of different ways. It can take many different forms:
- Barking at other dogs when they get close to one another
- Barking at dogs even when they are in the distance
- Barking at people who look at them or try to interact
- Barking at certain people, e.g. those with beards, hats on, high viz
- Barking at passing cars, bikes, pushchairs, buses, paper bags blowing down the street…
- Only barking if they are on the lead
- Only barking if they are off the lead
Barking on the walk is about DANGER
Simply put if your dog is barking on the walk in any of the ways listed above that is because they are anticipating danger, or considering something specific to be a danger! This could be a danger to themselves, a danger to you or both. They are warning it to stay away and leave you alone.
Our expectations are that dogs should enjoy the walk. Afterall it’s for their benefit. That’s what we’ve been led to believe all our lives anyway! If we look at things through a dog’s eyes, we will see a slightly different picture.
As soon as you leave the house, the pack have left the territory and therefore made yourselves more vulnerable. Most of the time you will see some adrenalin from your dog before you even leave the house. As soon as you get the leads out maybe. We’ve been taught that this is excited behaviour. It’s actually an adrenalin rush in anticipation of the potential dangers that are to come. Imagine yourself leaving the relative safely of your basecamp and going on patrol in Afghanistan, and this is potentially how your dog is feeling. Personally I’d be terrified!
Dogs are naturally territorial, so they will be wondering what the purpose of leaving the territory is. Going into ‘no mans land’. The barking is a pre-empt to a fight. They are letting the ‘threat’ know not to engage.
As alluded to above, some dogs don’t even wait until there is a specific threat. Some people have reported these other barking on the walk behaviours:
- Barking continuously throughout the whole walk
- Barking and screeching before they’ve even left the house
- Barking in the car on the way to the walk
This is like the war cry of the Vikings before they charge upon a city, whipping themselves up into a frenzy, ready for whatever they may face. This helps to keep as yet unseen dangers away, plus keeps them in a state of readiness. It’s a really strong sign that they are feeling very stressed though.
Some dogs behave differently depending on who is walking him/her
In some households the dog will bark on the walk with one person, but not another. This will be because they either feel more stressed with one person than the other, or because they consider one person to be more vulnerable and another to be more ‘useful’ should there be a danger situation.
For instance if your dog has been barking on the walk for a little while and you find that embarrassing, you are likely to be feeling stressed and tense before you even encounter a challenge. Your dog will pick up on this. Meanwhile someone else may feel a bit more indifferent to it, so this allows slighty more relaxed feelings for your dog.
How to stop your dog barking on the walk
This is and isn’t straightforward. It’s not straightforward in the sense that there isn’t one piece of advice like “If you dog barks do X”. However it is straightforward in the sense that this all comes down to leadership. Who is responsible for protecting the pack? The leader. To stop your dog barking on the walk, you will need to convince your dog that he or she can look to you for your decisions, rather than making their own in times of perceived threat.
How do you do that? Well that’s where I come in. It’s my job to teach you as a household how to convince your dog to look to you for decisions. A good starting point is to read “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell. I provide 121 support. It’s not complicated fortunately, it just requires a clear understanding (which I’ll supply) and a consistent effort (that’s your job). If you’d like more information about how this works, get in touch, or check out my consultation page.