My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Barking: On Leash


Few things are quite as embarrassing as having your dog barking and lunging at people, dogs, bicyclists, etc when you are out for a walk.


Reward all attention. We mean any attention, anytime, anywhere, inside or outside. We want your dog to know that looking at you causes you to smile, praise and give treats. We do not treat it as a separate exercise but rather just something your dog learns to do anytime they want something or are unsure of a situation.

Reward the calm before the storm. We know, we know, why would you do that? The dog isn’t barking yet. And that is exactly our point! Reward your dog before the barking starts and he may be able to happily walk past the distraction without reacting at all. By praising quiet, you may avoid noise all together.

Practice sit. A sitting dog is better than a lunging dog, so practice sits! Practice in the house and outside, randomly and persistently. Practice them with treats as a reward, not as a lure, meaning that they are out of sight until the dog has done what you told him to do.

Act the way you want your dog to act. Meaning, if you want him to be relaxed, calm and happy – move, speak and touch him as if you are relaxed, calm and happy.

Try a Head Halter. These can be helpful when used properly. The trick with most head halters is to use a smooth upward pressure to stop forward movement and to help redirect the dog. Release all pressure immediately when the dog sits or calms. NEVER yank or jerk on a head halter and NEVER use a head halter with a retractable leash.

Build the basics. Work on improving your dog’s basic obedience at home and in other non-problem situations. The better your dog listens when he’s not stressed, the more likely he is to listen when he is stressed.


Don’t tense up. We know, it’s difficult when you are nervous about what is likely to happen next, but when your dog looks to you and sees you looking worried, tightening up on the leash, clenching your jaw and breathing shallowly he does not think, “Gee, she much be nervous about what’s going to happen next.” Nope, he thinks, “This situation is really upsetting my person, it must be a serious problem!”

Don’t wait for the barking to start. If something is going to happen that your dog normally barks at, reward him before he starts up, and keep at it! You’ll be astonished at how much this helps many dogs.

Don’t focus on “No!” Saying, “no” is tempting but the problem is that your dog does not know what “yes” is, so getting upset with your dog tends to just upset them more, not give them better or more options. Anytime you start to think, “No!’ focus on what the yes could be: Yes, look at me or Yes, sit. Training should focus on the YES!

Don’t walk your dog on a retractable leash. That allows your dog to get too far ahead of you and doesn’t give you adequate control. Use a four foot or six foot leash (we prefer four foot).

Don’t practice failure. If you can avoid a situation that is likely to be a problem, avoid it. Turn around and go a different direction, walk a different route, or walk at a time of day when you won’t encounter your dog’s trigger. Repeating failure won’t help your dog improve.

by Sarah Wilson,

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