Help me train my dog not to bark at other dogs while we’re walking.
My dog Charlie likes to pull towards and bark at other dogs while we’re walking. I’m new to dog ownership and not well-versed in dog modification methods. I’ll try to give relevant information without writing a novel.
1.) She’s a rescue dog, somewhere around 9 years old. She’s been with me for the past three months.
2.) She’s part rat terrier and part potato
, very sweet and submissive
, a goofball
, and quickly came to believe that I hung the moon and stars.
3.) She came pre-trained for most things like sit, lay down, stay, wait, go, no, ball, etc. and I feel that I haven’t had any issue modifying or reinforcing these inside the home.
4.) She has a great interest in me and what I’m doing, a pretty good interest in my girlfriend (who is a grand dispenser of affection), and a general interest in other human visitors to my house.
5.) She has practically zero interest in other dogs. I have confirmed this through both conversations with her previous foster parent and a play date with another friend’s dog who is a champion play date dog.
6.) Her primary motivators are fetch (tennis balls) and belly rubs. She’s not terribly interested in food. I would wager that if I were holding cooked chicken in one hand and a ball in the other that she’d be staring at the ball and waiting for me to throw it.
If Charlie is off-leash at the ball field and we’re playing fetch she will gladly do whatever it takes to outrun any other dog on the scene so that she can get that ball. If the other dog wants to run alongside, fine. Charlie doesn’t care. She will, if pressed by the other dog, do the barest of butt-sniffing formalities and then come right back looking for the ball. She will snarl or attempt to get snippy if she feels the other dog has too much interest in her or the ball.
If Charlie is off-leash at the park she will frequently run around like a nutso, once again taking the barest minimum time to meet any other dogs she comes across. Only once has she run off barking at some other dog - it came too close to me so she chased it back to its owner, barking the whole time. All other interactions have been met with the barest minimum of interest on her part.
The problem is when we’re doing our daily walks on-leash. If another dog 10 yards away turns to look at her with sufficient interest (meaning not just head turn but alert body posture) then Charlie’s hackles go up and within a second or to she’ll start barking, lunging, and jumping. This is the behavior I wish to correct, or at the least minimize. If the other dog doesn’t even look at her then she usually goes on her way, or maybe raises her hackles but then keeps walking. Her aggressiveness is directly correlated to how much attention the other dog is giving her.
I have tried:
1.) Asking her to sit quietly until the other dog passes and then giving her a treat for good behavior (either dog treats, which she doesn’t have a huge interest in, or belly rubs). Sometimes this works. Sometimes she looks at me patiently and quietly right up until the point where she loses it. This isn't how I'd prefer to do it, though, since my neighborhood is dog-heavy and if we stop for every dog we pass we'll be stopping all the dang time.
2.) Doing my best to guide her several yards away which works until the other dog looks and pulls in her direction at which point she flips out.
3.) Shortening the leash so that she can’t get towards the other dog - this clearly worked against me as now when I shorten the leash for any other reason she starts to get a bit defensive thinking something bark-worthy is coming.
I am unsure what to use as punishment when she acts out like this. I would rather correct this behavior through rewards but the concept of rewarding an absence of behavior is harder for me to work out. I have, when frustrated, tapped her on the head while telling her she’s a bad dog, and it’s clear that she knows this is a physical punishment - she gets extra submissive and pitiful-looking. If she flips out towards another dog and I make her sit and look at me while I tell her she was bad eventually she goes into a bow like, "oh man I’m so sorry let’s just play please play!" and this is the only time I see her do play-bowing so I know she’s trying to say, "Look! I’m good! Let’s just drop that whole thing!"
Hopefully this should be sufficient information to help you diagnose my dog as well as diagnosing me, and for you to prescribe some way to correct her behavior and mine. I’m open to any suggestions that aren’t about beating or otherwise hurting this dog.