We all moved to opposite sides of the concrete, everything is fine, la la la--and then the blasted black dog lunges across the sidewalk, almost getting away from its owner in the process, and scared Eiri half to death...Since then, she's getting progressively more dog reactive on walks, in large part because every single dog we come across barks and/or lunges. Part of it is my fault, too, for not having Eiri's attention as well as I should, so I'm sure she stares, but still. It's driving me completely mad.
Welcome to our world! I was keeping count once and I think the statistic I came up with 4 out of 5 dogs we pass, lunge and bark at us.
The little dogs are the worst (very few calm ones) and the calm well-trained ones actually tend to be the big, older dogs.
Soooo...we survived this phase and we can actually be seen ambling along on the sidewalk at 5pm these days.
It was a combination of things that helped:
- getting them to focus on you instead of the other dog, which involves a command (in my case "Yes!") and a tasty treat. I see some owners use "Sit" instead of "yes" but my dog's joints aren't so great so I stuck with just getting eye contact from him. The timing of the "Yes" + treat is critical. Don't make the mistake of doing it too late, so you are rewarding your dog for getting amped, pulling and reacting (I did this for weeks, and wondered why my dog was not getting the message!)
- making distance (crossing the street, walking behind parked cars, turning corners, etc) helps your dog to stay calmer.
- staying calm yourself (remind yourself: it's just some excited barking and pulling, nothing's going to really happen). The calmness is contagious. Your dog senses it and they calm down themselves. ( Worst thing to do is a suddenly short tight leash and saying in a tense loud voice, "stop it rover. stop it now. be a good dog. stop it!" It seems to rile dogs up...)
- training a Heel command so they know to stay close by your leg and not go lunging themselves! ( I just use a loose "Stay Close", I don't ask for the formal heel where they are gazing at you.)
- walking at times of day with fewer dogs while you are "in training". A few passes for training purposes is nice but passing a dog on every street just wears out both of you and makes walks something to be dreaded...
- keep at it...sooner or later your dog will learn..maybe after passing their 999th dog? Well, hopefully sooner! Mine acts like he passed his 1002nd dog in the sense that the other dog will be going mad on the end of its leash and my dog is doing a mental eyeroll :-)
Well, other people on this forum are actual dog trainers so I'm sure can give better tips!
But that's what worked for me and my dog.