Tips to Stop a Dog From Lunging at Strangers Who Move

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 25, 2022

stop a dog from lunging at strangers

For this Santa Monica dog training session we worked with Mimi, sharing tips to stop a dog from lunging at strangers who move.

Mimi is a rescue dog found on the streets of Tijuana and it’s a safe assumption that her critical socialization period was a stressful one. The first four months of any dog’s life is the most impactful time they will ever go through. What happens during this time has a massive impact on the dog’s personality for the rest of its life. Additionally, if a dog is pregnant and in a stressful situation, it can alter the DNA of her pups and make them more stressful.

Based on how reactive to movement Mimi is, I’m guessing that both of these factors are at play. Due to how severe her reaction to movement is, I suggested that the guardians speak to their veterinarian about the possibility of introducing medication. There are medication that can help dogs who have severe anxiety, dimming the intensity of their feelings which makes it easier for dog behavior modification to take place as well as comforting and less stressful for the dog.

I spent the first portion of the session covering a lot of common mistakes that people make with their dogs as well as some fundamentals; how to use marker words, the importance of celebrating desired behaviors, how to use a positive interrupter, dog consent as well as the importance of exercise and mental stimulation.

In retrospect, I regret not working on the counter conditioning video below earlier in the session. Although Mimi’s reactivity to movement is very intense, practicing this secret to stop dogs from lunging when she was overly tired was not the best strategy.

How to Stop a Dog From Lunging at Strangers

If you have a dog who lunges at people who move, you need to find a way to help the dog feel comfortable with the movement. In Mimi’s case, this is a reaction, not an aggressive behavior. After the movement stopped, she was able to take a treat from my hand immediately which is a good thing. But the intensity of her reactivity concerns me as the likelyhood of a bite happening directly after the lunge is high. Mimi had previously bit a person who moved, but she did not draw blood which is another positive thing.

To help the dog stop lunging when she sees movement, I went over a desensitization / counter conditioning exercise. I have helped hundreds of dogs stop reacting to many things with this approach. When using this tip to stop dog lunging, its important you go slowly. If you move too far, fast or close and the dog reacts, the repetition isn’t helpful. But if you go slow, the dog can gradually learn the movement isnt something to fear and in fact, means a treat will follow.

I was able to make some progress and reduce Mimi‘s lunging behavior but it was not as transformative response as I usually get. Regardless, the video below outlines a positive way of helping a dog learn to stop lunging at people who move.

By going slow and counter conditioning the dog to movement, Mimi’s guardians should be able to help her feel less threatened or reactive when people move their feet around her. Because of the intensity of her behavior, I’m hopeful that the vet will provide her with some medication that can help lower the intensity of her anxiety and therefore her reactivity. If this takes place, practicing the counter conditioning strategy outlined in the video above should be much, much easier.

It’s always great when you see kind hearted people step up to take on dogs who have challenging behavior issues like Mimi. This can be very stressful on the humans and frustrating as well. Fortunately for Mimi, her guardians are dedicated to helping her well-being. I asked them to follow up with me if they have any questions as well as with progress reports both good and bad so that we can make adjustments to best help this rescue dog.

To help the guardians remember all of the other positive dog behavior tips we shared in this in-home Santa Monica dog training session, I stepped outside to film a roadmap to success video summarizing what we covered.

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This post was written by: David Codr