When you’re frustrated with your dog’s barking and lunging, you may be unable to empathize with your dog’s emotional experience of the environment.
Your own learning about what is going on beneath the surface of your dog’s outward expressions can give you understanding of how your dog is experiencing the world around him and help you see your dog is struggling rather than being difficult.
Feeling fear or frustration are some things your dog may be experiencing and the outward expression is barking and lunging.
When your dog experiences fear, this inhibits your dog from seeking pleasure which in turn limits your dog’s learning.
Your dog is emotionally flooded and doesn’t trust he’ll be safe.
First, help your dog regain trust that the perceived or real threat is no longer one.
You can do this by moving you and your dog away from what the triggering situation or event is.
This will decrease the intensity of the trigger which will decrease your dog’s perception of feeling threatened.
Then you will want to desensitize whatever causes your dog’s fear (person or another dog or a truck driving by) so your dog can change his emotional response to each stimuli.
Pairing at a distance (lessens the intensity) the trigger with what your dog finds out of this world pleasurable (most often this is a high valued food item(s)).
Using the Open Bar/Closed Bar method, when something that causes your dog considers to be fear inducing, give the reward in rapid succession or play with your dog while the person or other dog are in view. When they go out of view, immediately stop.
You can also teach your dog an alternate behavior of looking back at you. Once you’ve made the reward marker (a click, a verbal yes/good) reinforced, your dog will offer a head turn towards you when he hears the reward marker.
So, when your dog is looking at the other person, or dog from a distance, say your reward marker or click and when your dog turns his head towards you (the behavior), reward!
As your dog remains comfortable and relaxed (watch body language), slowly decrease the distance to those triggers.
Remember to practice your defensive leash handling for those surprising situations!
Inside your home is a bit of a different story.
Keep in mind, you don’t have a responsibility to fulfill the needs of others wanting to interact with your dog. Teaching your dog to be in his safe zone away from certain guests will ensure your dog is safe and the particular guest is safe too.
Also, not all people want to be around dogs either. Some guests may be time limited like a maintenance person, so management may be a better solution for these types of experiences.
Teach your dog to love hearing the sound of the doorbell!
Teach your dog to settle and relax on a mat with distractions.
Teach your dog to wait.
Teach your dog all four on the floor is way better than jumping up and saying “hello”!
These are a few, what else can you think of that you want your dog to learn?