You finally have taught your dog to walk without pulling on his leash and all seems fine…until he spots that squirrel across the street. Suddenly your relaxed, well-behaved dog has been transformed to some sort of barking, lunging, animal that feels like he is pulling your arm off as you try to hold him back. Your dog’s trigger may not be squirrels, it could be rabbits, or other dogs, and the actual causes are varied, but the suggestions that follow should help you teach your dog to deal with these triggers in a way that will still allow you to enjoy your walks.
First, what is causing your dog to go crazy like that? Usually, it is f
rom two main causes; fear or what is commonly referred to as “prey drive”. If your dog is barking at another dog or a person that he has spotted, it is usually (but not always) a fear reaction. To their owners, a dog that is barking loudly and pulling at his leash to get to something across the street certainly doesn’t seem like a reaction caused by fear, however many dogs exhibit fear in this way in order to send a loud and clear message that “I am uncomfortable with you being near me. Stay away!”. Alternatively, some dogs will have a seemingly uncontrollable need to chase after any squirrel or rabbit that they spot. This “prey drive” instinct varies in intensity from dog to dog and from breed to breed. I have two dogs and lucky me, one has a classic fear reaction to other dogs and people, while the other loves other dogs and people, but is driven to chase after rabbits and squirrels. Unfortunately, when I am walking the two of them, if one gets excited about their own trigger, the other always has to join in with the excitement. Now as hard as it may be to control one dog that is lunging and barking at something or someone, imagine what it is like with two medium sized dogs going crazy like that. I have to admit that before I was able to get things under control, they were able to knock me off my feet on more than one occasion.
How does one deal with this? I will be going over several differe