How To Stop Your Dog From Lunging While Walking

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
Nothing ruins a walk faster than when your dog lunges as other dogs or people. Here’s what to do to stop your dog from lunging while walking.

Taking your dog for a daily walk is one of your most basic responsibilities as a dog owner. Not only does your daily walk give you time to bond with your pup but it also helps him to work off his excess energy. If your dog doesn’t have proper leash etiquette, however, that daily walk can turn into a chore that is unenjoyable for the both of you. Lunging is one of the most common leash-related problems that dogs tend to exhibit and it does have a solution – let’s talk about how to stop your dog from lunging while walking.

Why Dogs Lunge on the Leash

Lunging behavior can manifest in different ways and for different reasons. In many cases, dogs pull on the leash because they haven’t been taught how to walk properly on the leash in the first place. When a dog pulls on the leash it is often because he is eager to get at something – this happens when he sees an animal in the distance or if he sees another person he wants to greet. In other cases, dogs might lunge on the leash as an act of aggression or as a defense mechanism. When dogs feel threatened they may back off and adopt a submissive position or they might lash out in an attempt to scare their aggressor away. If your dog’s lips are curled back in a snarl and his ears are flattened against his head when he lunges on the leash, this second condition is most likely to blame.

Related: Teaching Your Puppy To Walk On A Leash

Tips for How to Stop Your Dog From Lunging While Walking

The most important thing you need to know about dealing with your dog’s lunging behavior is that you cannot punish it away. Many dog owners make the mistake of yanking on the leash in response to their dog’s lunging or they yell at the dog. Not only is your dog unlikely to understand why he is being punished, but it could actually make the situation worse, especially if he is already frightened or distressed. Lunging behavior is referred to as “leash reactivity” by dog trainers and animal behaviorists and it is a natural behavior for a dog to develop – this doesn’t mean, however, that you need to allow it to happen. There are some simple steps you can take to correct this type of behavior. Here are some tips for decreasing your dog’s leash reactivity:

  • Take your dog for his walks in an area or at a time when other people and dogs are unlikely to be around. This many mean walking your dog later at night or avoiding the dog park.

Related: How To Safely Walk Your Dog In The Big City

  • If your dog is extremely distressed by the approach of another dog, turn him around and walk in the opposite direction. If you have a small dog you can also try picking him up and turning away.
  • Consider using a product design to limit your dog’s vision so he doesn’t become so stressed out on your walks. Look for doggie sunglasses or other products like the Premier Calming Cap.
  • Keep your dog on a head halter during your walks so you have greater control over his head. The halter alone may make your dog feel calmer and it will also allow you to redirect his attention quickly if necessary.

If you truly want to change your dog’s reactive behavior you can do a little bit of training to desensitize your dog to the perceived threat. Keep your dog outside on a leash and have a friend bring another dog into the picture – as soon as your pup starts to become nervous, distract him with a few treats – you should also give him plenty of petting and verbal reassurance. After a few seconds, have your friend lead the other dog away at which point you should stop giving your dog treats. Repeat the sequence, only feeding and petting your dog when the other dog is present. After a few repetitions you can start moving the other dog closer and increase the length of the exposure. Eventually your dog will learn to associate the presence of another dog with good things and you can continue working with him from there.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

More by Kate Barrington