Help! My Dog Barks at Everything

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Q. My dog barks at anything and everything when we’re out on walks. He’s friendly, but he gets so excited. What are some ways to keep him calm?

A. Walks are often the highlight of a dog’s day. But a dog can get so excited and worked up about his walk that he becomes almost uncontrollable, forgetting about the person attached to the other end of the leash as he pulls and strains forward. When a dog gets especially worked up, he can start barking in excitement. This can look threatening to an outsider and gives the handler a sense of being out of control. A few simple changes in the way you conduct walks can make a major difference in the way your dog behaves.

Why Your Dog Barks

Barking can be a symptom of a deeper issue. Sometimes a dog on leash will feel threatened because he can’t get away from whatever it is that is upsetting him; this dog barks as a way to warn others away and protect himself. Assess whether there is any fear or anxiety underlying your pooch’s vocalizations, such as fear of people or other dogs. If you suspect that this is the case, contact your veterinarian; she can address the problem and refer you to a veterinary behaviorist or certified professional dog trainer if needed.

Many dogs who are friendly and relaxed when they are off leash are more likely to react to other dogs, people or unfamiliar sights while on leash because they are frustrated by their inability to get close to the object of interest. Your dog may continue to bark until he is allowed to go up to the person or dog. This reinforces his barking and makes it more likely to occur in the future.

Some dogs may bark because it guarantees attention from you. In this situation, your dog may bark because it works to get you to react — by picking him up, for example, or petting him. Scolding him or yelling at him is also a reaction, and can seem to your dog like you’re barking right along with him.

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