How to Stop a Dog From Lunging at People

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 3, 2022

stop dog lunging at people

For this LA dog training session we helped 4 year-old Chiweenie Bilbo, sharing tips to stop a dog from lunging at people.

Bilbo is a pretty anxious dog in general. We started off the session by meeting outside of his guardian’s apartment. When you’re working with a fearful or anxious dog, it’s always a good idea to meet outside. The distractions of the outside world and the open space can help fearful or anxious dogs feel more comfortable.

We started off by showing his guardian an exercise I like to call Click for looks to help as Bilbo barks at dogs that he sees on walks. This behavior is likely due to being insecure around dogs he doesnt know.  I had his guardian grab a clicker and then we moved to an area between two buildings. Anytime you’re dealing with a dog who barks at people or dogs, you want to increase the distance away until you can find a place that the dog feels comfortable. I usually identify this by asking the dog to sit and seeing if they will take a treat. If the dog will not to do either one of those, I move 5 feet away and try again. I keep moving away until I find a distance where the dog will sit and take a treat when it can see the thing they are fearful or reactive to. The ability to sit usually indicates the dog is comfortable enough to start practicing.

I recruited a little dog that happened to be passing by named Max. His guardian was nice enough to walk back-and-forth in front of the Alley way that Bilbo and his guardian were waiting in. Every time that Max and his guardian walked past, I had Bilbo‘s guardian click then give him a treat. This is a great way to create a positive association with something a dog is normally fearful or reactive to.

I would like to see the guardian practicing this exercise in 5 to 10 minute practice sessions, three or more times a week. The more that Bilbo looks at dogs at a distance he is comfortable with and is rewarded after they pass, the more positive he will feel about the experience and the dog.

Once Bilbo is comfortable at that distance, his guardian can move forward 2 to 5 feet closer then practice again. It’s a slow process, but eventually she should be able to get within a few feet of the other dogs and have Bilbo look at them without barking. The goal is eventually Bilbo stops barking at dogs he see’s and if we are lucky, perhaps he becomes interested in meeting some of them.

Next we worked on Bilbo’s habit of barking at people who speak to his guardian on walks. He is fine with people walking by if they arent with a dog, but if they say hello to his guardian, Bilbo will start to bark at them. I set up my camera to show his guardian how to stop her dog from barking at people who talk to her.

It will help if Bilbo’s guardian can recruit a few friends who havent met him to practice this trick to stop dogs from barking when people say hello to his handler. This way they can ask their friend to move closer, further away, stop or move at a different speed. Yoou can practice with strangers, but they you have to adapt to what they do on their own.

A big part of Bilbo’s behavior problems is he is an anxious and perhaps fearful dog. Anxiety and fears are intense emotions that can impact many facets of a dog’s life. We shared a number of tips in this LA in home dog training session to address his issues, but in our future sessions, we will need to work on building up his confidence and self esteem.

But for now, I wanted to share some tips to help with Bilbo’s habit of barking and lunging at people, specifically his guardian’s partner when he comes to visit.

How to stop a dog from lunging at people

One of the main things that Bilbo‘s guardian wanted to work on was his behavior towards her partner. If her partner comes over to her home, Bilbo will move away, pace back-and-forth anxiously and feel stressed out. If the partner gets up or makes a sudden move, Bilbo will lunge at him.

I wanted to share some tips to stop a dog from lunging at people, such as the guardian’s partner. I set up my phone on the far side of the room so that I could demonstrate a positive exercise to stop dog lunging. if your dog lunges at people who move or gets upset at those type of actions, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below.

By breaking the process of standing up into small steps, then rewarding Bilbo each time the step is completed when he doesnt bark, his guardian can help the dog feel more comfortable with the actions. This is also a slow process but it is an important one. It’s crucial that you go at a low enough level of intensity so that Bilbo does not react. Once a dog starts barking and lunging, they are in a hysterical state and any further practice is going to be ineffective until the dog settles itself down. It’s much better to go slow and steady than to take big steps when using this trick to stop dog lunging.

I included a number of other tips in the video to help Bilbo feel comfortable around his guardian’s partner. I recommended that she try to keep his visits on the short side and end on a successful note. This isnt convenient when you partner lives across town, but it shouldnt be forever. Once Bilbo starts to build up a positive association, his barking and lunging should subside or stop altogether.

We scheduled a follow up session in a few weeks to work on some other behavior issues that Bilbo has. But this in-home LA Dog Trainer session went so well that Bilbo tried to follow me out into the hallway after I left his home, lol. Looking forward to seeing this cute little guy again in a couple weeks.

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This post was written by: David Codr