My freaky, lunging, barking beagle
June 8, 2006 1:36 PM   Subscribe

How to keep my dog from freaking out and barking and lunging at other dogs when we go on walks?

We adopted our beagle mix, Harvey, from the city shelter about a year ago. He's about 4-5 years old now. He's a great dog, great around strangers, have to watch him a bit around little kids, very easygoing. He is our only pet. We take him on walks in the morning and in the evening, and when we do, we have to always keep an eye out for other dogs because he simply FREAKS OUT when he sees them. Barks, lunges towards them, whines, etc. Most of the time, the other dogs don't respond.

We've tried to ignore it, tried to correct him by saying "no," simply try avoiding other dogs by crossing the street or lingering behind cars so he doesn't see them walking.

We've had a friend's dog visit and they're usually pretty good together, as long as they're outside. We've tried taking him to the dog park but he can get pretty agressive with those dogs there, too.

It's becoming a huge embarrassment, and I end up trying to reason with him: "Harv, those 100 pound dogs can easily bite you in half, and THEY aren't barking at you." Yeah, so now I'm trying to reason with the guy. Do I just have a little Napoleon on my hands? Is he just "protecting" us? How can I get him to chill?
posted by printchick to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
you gotta watch dog whisperer.
posted by alkupe at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2006

Please take a training class at your local SPCA or shelter, etc. They can assess your pet and train it, and you, in the proper ways to correct this. They're generally low cost, especially considering the return you'll get.
posted by kcm at 1:54 PM on June 8, 2006

(It's called being "dog reactive" if you're asking about specific classes, which I hope you do.)
posted by kcm at 1:57 PM on June 8, 2006

Read Ceasar's Way. Or watch the show.
posted by vronsky at 1:59 PM on June 8, 2006

When you take him for walks, take along a squirt gun & shoot him with water on top of his head every time he shows that sort of behavior. Negative reinforcement works well with dogs, and I've seen this work on my friend's dog.
posted by Alpenglow at 2:00 PM on June 8, 2006

Definitely training classes, and don't get discouraged if it's not instant success. This way you're protecting your dog, too. If he got loose and hurt someone or some other dog, they could make a case for putting him down.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 2:00 PM on June 8, 2006

Negative reinforcement is pretty generally a terrible idea, since it only breaks the owner-animal bond and trust, and may results in replacement behaviors. Take a class, learn from people that work with animals as a profession rather than secondhand from non-pet-owners. Please!

Here's some examples of training options where I volunteer. If you've adopted your pet, they probably offers these classes at reduced prices there for you.

I realize this is akin to parenting methods and I'm going to step out now having said my piece.
posted by kcm at 2:07 PM on June 8, 2006

Obedience training.

I am a first-time dog owner. I got my dog at the pound in March of this year and immediately enrolled in an obedience training class. After eight weeks I knew a lot more about dogs and dog psychology than I did before and had the benefit of seeing the trainer and the other students work with their dogs. Also my dog didn't bark and lunge at other dogs or cats anymore. Obedience classes are invaluable.
posted by melvix at 2:17 PM on June 8, 2006

What happens if he gets close? Is he actually being aggressive, or does he just wanna sniff?

I ask because my dog kinda does the same thing, but I'm pretty sure he's barking at himself. Or me. Or something... but it's more outta frustration of not being about to hang with the other dogs than out of aggression.
posted by ph00dz at 2:22 PM on June 8, 2006

Our rescue retriever mix did that at first. We got one of the collars that people with real big dogs have, the ones that look all scary with the metal prongs. It's called a prong collar. It's actually better for him because when he lunges, it distributes the pressure around his neck, instead of closing off his windpipe like the normal leash did. Also, it taught him not to lunge because there was immediate feedback when he did, and we didn't even have to say anything. Now he's nice and docile on the leash, except when he sees squirrels or cats, but even then, he doesn't lunge full speed. He starts to go, but then he holds back.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 2:23 PM on June 8, 2006

Definitely obediance training. It will be a good experience for you and Harvey. It will also help to socialize him with other dogs.
Keep this in mind also: Now that you have had him for a year, he is getting more and more attached and protective of you. When you approach another dog, you and the walker of the other dog are standing above and very close to Harvey and the other dog, and Harvey can sense your tension, caused by the fact that you know he is going to freak out. This leads to a very tense situation and Harvey feels you and he are threatened, so he acts out. It is diffictult to stay relaxed and calm and still keep him in check on the leash, but that is what you must do.

Also: read this book
posted by bradn at 2:26 PM on June 8, 2006

Also lavishly reward good behavior while on leash. When another dog is approaching, stop and sit or down your dog, and just keep the treat train a-flowin' as long as he's being good.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:26 PM on June 8, 2006

my buddy had a similar problem with his dog, and this is what i saw him do, that seemed to work:

As soon as the dog would exhibit behavior he didn't want, he would kneel down, grab the dog by the snout, look him dead in the eye and repeatedly say "no" in a angry/aggressive tone.

by placing slight pressure on the dogs snout you can cut of his air pathway....hence he can't breathe till you let go.

negative reinforcement at its finest.
posted by TheDude at 2:29 PM on June 8, 2006

Response by poster: We haven't really let him get too close before, except for one occasion when he got away and ended up running into the park and leaping on a St. Bernard (the dog didn't fight back--he was probably laughing too much) and one time when he lunged right out of his collar (it was probably not snapped in all the way or something) and he lept on another passing dog (that dog didn't react as well, thank God.)

We did do obedience class early on, where they did basic commands like come, sit, and stay, which helped some. But he had to be one of the dogs who had to hang out behind his own personal canvas screen because the other dogs freaked him out so much.

I certainly don't want any other dogs or people to ever get hurt, or for him to get hurt either. Thanks for all the advice so far--keep it coming. In the meantime, I'll see what we can do to maybe get some personal training. He really is a fantastic dog and I'd hate for something bad to happen.
posted by printchick at 2:29 PM on June 8, 2006

A second on ROU_Xenophobe's suggestion also: throw a bag of his favorite treats in your pocket before a walk, and keep a few in your hand (makes sure he notices). Reward him for heelling, sitting at crossings, etc, and you will be shocked how well he behaves.
posted by bradn at 2:33 PM on June 8, 2006

I have a beagle, and at the obedience class I went to with him as a pup, I was told by every single one of the trainers that beagles are notoriously stupid or stubborn or smart. Pick one, it doesn't matter, because in the end it just means that beagles [apparently] need near-constant training and refreshers and reminders about who is boss.

It may be time for an obedience refresher course. I know it's time for one with mine (who does the same thing with other dogs, although he just wants to play with them).
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:52 PM on June 8, 2006

by placing slight pressure on the dogs snout you can cut of his air pathway....hence he can't breathe till you let go.

negative reinforcement at its finest.

Like an idiot, I did this to my family dog only briefly (probably 5-10 seconds) as a teenager, and got bitten on the bridge of my nose. I'm lucky he didn't go for an eye or my throat. The dog behaviorist we talked to explained that it was cutting off his breathing, or even threatening to, so it was a self-defense reaction on his part to snap at my face.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 2:54 PM on June 8, 2006

overanxious ducksqueezer: "Like an idiot, I did this to my family dog only briefly (probably 5-10 seconds) as a teenager, and got bitten on the bridge of my nose. I'm lucky he didn't go for an eye or my throat. The dog behaviorist we talked to explained that it was cutting off his breathing, or even threatening to, so it was a self-defense reaction on his part to snap at my face."

There is a harness/collar device called the Halti (AKA Gentle Leader) which does this and is less hazardous to you. (link here has a picture of it; you can buy them at any pet store) My pooch goes stone loco when she sees other dogs and has bitten me because I have gotten in the way. When I got the Halti for her, it really helped out. I was able to cinch the Halti around her snout which would allow me to move her away from whatever was pissing her off while keeping me out of her slobbering jaws.

A Halti or any other collar device should be a supplement to obedience training. Doggie class has really helped my crazy dog.
posted by macadamiaranch at 4:35 PM on June 8, 2006

Every now and then, something comes along that is both so good and so right, I want to sit people down and MAKE them see it and understand it, because the world will be a much better place for everyone.

The Dog Whisperer is one of these things.
posted by frogan at 5:19 PM on June 8, 2006

IANA dog trainer or anything, but I've had incredible success with a simple choke chain. I don't think positive reinforcement is the right way to go here - the dog should assume that it MUST stay with YOU and remain focused on YOU while walking - Not that it's doing some amazing good deed by doing so, which implies that he has some choice in the matter.

Some VHS tape my dad had long ago ingrained in me the following method, which I have used without fail with 3 initallyc crappy leash dogs:

Give a lot of slack. Put a choke chain on the doggie. Walk swiftly and with purpose, and do not alter your course based on the dog stopping to pee, or sniff a butt, or chase another dog. If he turns tail and runs the other way, stay the course. This will result in a few really uncomfortable moments where he absolutely chokes the hell out of himself. But the bottom line is you do not make eye-contact. you do not yell "no". Don't do anything but continue on your way. The dog will learn that when you're walking he needs to pay attention to you or he's gonna lose that slack in the leash.

This really, truly, fully works. I cannot stand to watch someone walking a dog and getting dragged behind them. Both of you are miserable when this happens.
posted by glenwood at 7:45 PM on June 8, 2006

Second for the Halti. My dog used to want to haul me towards "far away" dogs (close ones were fine, she just wants company I guess) same thing with cats, rabbits, etc. After a week on the Halti deal, she heels perfectly with the leash loose all the time, even now that I no longer use it. She still wants to go check out distant dogs, but she wont haul me over while howlin' like mad. Now she just perks up and watches, and occasionally wines. Perfect in my books, since it lets me know there is a strange dog approaching in the park before I would normally notice.

my theory is that when the dog gets excited and starts to pull on the leash, the harness pulls the head down so that they can't keep looking at what they are barking at. So in order to pay attention, she has to relax.
posted by clord at 9:09 PM on June 8, 2006

Take away his dogness.
posted by vanoakenfold at 3:35 AM on June 9, 2006

Did you steal my dog? I also have an adopted adult beagle, and she too is psychotic when she sees other dogs while we're on our daily walks.

She just hears the jingling of another dog's tags and goes cuckoo. On a couple of occasions, dogs have gotten loose and run up to us and Abbie really gave them the business, but no bites were exchanged. Basically, she acted so crazy that the other dogs gave up and backed off.

Something we've had success with is what ROU_Xenophobe mentioned. We always bring a handful of "Meaties" (bite-sized treats by Old Mother Hubbard) on our walks, and Abbie knows it. As soon as my husband or I notice another dog, we calmly cross the street and bring her attention to us by showing a treat (or holding it to her nose, since sometimes she is on her own page on walks, busy sniffing). If possible, we make her sit and look at us until the other dog has passed. Either way, we keep her attention focused on us and the treat. Usually it takes 2-3 treats per encounter. We gush about what a good girl she is and keep walking. She's gotten better, but we have a long way to go. Some days are better than others.

Obedience classes are on the way...

Good luck!

PS, is Harvey fixed? If not, that is a good first step in controlling aggression!
posted by suchatreat at 11:31 AM on June 9, 2006

Response by poster: Yep, he's fixed--they wouldn't let us out of the pound without him getting the ol' choparoo. I'll try the treat-thing-on-the-walks-thing as well.
posted by printchick at 11:53 AM on June 9, 2006

Wow! Lots of great suggestions. I just adopted a female pointer/lab (about 1 year old) from our local shelter about a month ago. I took her to her first obedience class this week and I was SOOOO mortified!!! She was barking at all the dogs like a total lunatic!! Pulling and lunging the whole time!!!
The instructor had to lay a table on it's side so that my dog couldn't see the other dogs!! She still kept trying to leap over it. Our original "adoption specialist" was there and observed this crazy behavior. She said that this dog did not display any of this behavior while she was in the shelter!!??? Our vet thinks she is doing this to reconnect with her sister (that was put down at the shelter due to going a little nutty while there). I don't know. The instructor says that this behavior will get better as the weeks go on in class. I don't think it's aggression.....but...I don't really know the signs to know for sure if it is? She barks wildly, her tail
wags the whole time, some hackles up right between her shoulders, lunging, and pulling. I've tried to reinforce mastered commands (like sit)....with favorite goodies....but she is so obnoxious she doen't want the treats. Is it time to try water in a spray bottle? Thank you.
posted by Bellasmom at 3:20 PM on July 21, 2006

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