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My 5 month old male is all of a sudden starting to bark and lunge at strangers. This is my first dog so I’ll admit I’m probably not a great trainer but I want to be

He doesn’t bark nicely it’s more of a “it you come near me I’ll hurt you” bark and I’ve tried putting treats in front of his face as a stranger walked by and he didn’t care about the treats

I’ve read it’s because he’s afraid and I should walk him away and de escalate the situation is that true?

I’m just not sure what to do to teach the correct behavior
 

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Many puppies go through this phase so you are definitely not alone!When they are very intense or stressed they won't take treats.You need to catch the pup BEFORE he has a chance to react,give him something else to do,then reward for that.When you see someone approaching calmly move away to a distance where your puppy is comfortable and have him sit and look at you,treat,go on your way.
Sometimes running quickly past the scary stranger"Look at me,look at me!"enthusiastically will keep his focus on you.Sometimes carrying a squeaky toy with you works to get the pup to whip his head around and look at you.He may even chew the toy happily as you hold it while you pass the person and totally ignore them(which is the goal).Keep trying and you'll find what works for him.Plus catching him before he fixates:)
 
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From my experience with a similar situation (pup wanted to eat moving vehicles) I started taking our walks when there were few of them around (late at night). When one was approaching, we moved to the side (a few feet into someone's driveway or the intersecting street), asked for (well, required really) an alternative behavior and focus (with us this was "sit!") and rewarded that behavior. So basically, working out of range of the stimulous and slowing decreasing the distance. It worked wonders.



So ---- walk where or when you will encounter very few other dogs, where you can see and manage the approach, where you can move your pup away and require an alternative behavior. Which you reward profusely to begin with.



Good luck.
 

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Funny thing about puppies, this. Some puppies are suspicious of strangers from an early age and slowly get over it in time, for others it seems like at some point a switch gets flipped and they go from happy-go-lucky to Cujo when people or dogs get anywhere near them, and 4-6 months is a common timeframe for this. It could be fear, or more accurately perhaps a fear period, but the motivation isn't always clear. Fear, resource guarding (their person), barrier frustration, and aggression can and do look a lot alike.

I absolutely agree with Terri that catching the puppy before he's going berserk is key! But I also would suggest avoiding close encounters with strangers for a couple weeks to see if your puppy's new behavior doesn't just resolve itself. If it's a fear period it usually passes in a week or two, and you're likely to notice other odd behaviors like fear of trash cans or the vacuum or other things that your puppy was fine with beforehand. You'll also notice when the puppy gets back to his old self, as one day his newfound fears will dissipate almost as quickly as they appeared.

In either case, rather than isolate the puppy while he's working through this "phase", I recommend taking him out but maintaining enough distance from other people and/or dogs that your puppy can maintain his composure. A park with lots of open grass areas (where it's highly unlikely to encounter off-leash dogs and/or people coming up on you unexpectedly) is a favorite of mine. But any spot where you can stay some distance away from people while still seeing them is good for this conditioning. You can just sit quietly with your puppy taking in the sights, or play or train some (which should be the same thing for a puppy) while there. As you notice your puppy being less concerned and more relaxed you can slowly, a little each day, move a few feet/yards closer. Just watch the puppy's body language, if he's tensing a little but not going berserk you're probably close enough. If he starts to get too agitated to maintain his composure without fixating and barking, you're too close. Good Luck! Just be patient and he'll come around...
 

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Was he friendly prior to this? From the pups I've raised, they can get stranger-danger-y about 4-5 months old, but not if they are super social and confident from the get go. It's not really a phase that passes, it's part of his temperament and something you'll have to work with.

I personally don't like it, but I've certainly been through it, and made it out with a dog who was neutral, but not "social" in public.

It's something I correct, even in a pup, but that's so nuanced I won't get into it in writing. If you can find an experienced** trainer to help, now is the best time to start addressing this. It might go away, but I highly doubt it will, so you need to figure out how best to manage your dog.

Don't let him experience bad reactions to people again and again. That is in essence "training" this behavior. Treats might work, walking by fast, or engaging with a toy helps, but all those break down unless you can make it clear that the reactive-defensive behavior is not acceptable. I ended up doing this rather by accident with my pup years ago and it opened up a whole new understanding of training.
 

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You've gotten some good advice here so just let me add to watch your own body cues. Now that you know your pup is prone to react poorly, make sure you are not tightening up on the leash, changing your breathing, tightening muscles, etc. All these can become cues to your pup that something is not right. The more relaxed you are (count trees or door knobs or breaths if you must ) the more your pup will learn that strangers aren't such a big deal.

Also tell everyone to ignore your pup. No talking or looking and especially no petting! I know it can be hard for folks but the more strangers just become a normal part of the environment the happier you will both be.
 

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Was he friendly prior to this? From the pups I've raised, they can get stranger-danger-y about 4-5 months old, but not if they are super social and confident from the get go. It's not really a phase that passes, it's part of his temperament and something you'll have to work with.

I personally don't like it, but I've certainly been through it, and made it out with a dog who was neutral, but not "social" in public.

It's something I correct, even in a pup, but that's so nuanced I won't get into it in writing. If you can find an experienced** trainer to help, now is the best time to start addressing this. It might go away, but I highly doubt it will, so you need to figure out how best to manage your dog.

Don't let him experience bad reactions to people again and again. That is in essence "training" this behavior. Treats might work, walking by fast, or engaging with a toy helps, but all those break down unless you can make it clear that the reactive-defensive behavior is not acceptable. I ended up doing this rather by accident with my pup years ago and it opened up a whole new understanding of training.
This is a great point, and I too try to stay away from describing corrections in writing, because people often misunderstand or misinterpret; and it's all about the timing, so it's really best to have someone experienced help you with that!

Personally, though, I treat reactivity similarly to most other training, in that I use a quiet "no" as a negative marker when the pup does something I don't like. I start that when puppies are very young, just like you do with a positive marker like "good" or "yes". It's part of the dialog, not a verbal correction like a more forceful "NO" is!

With a reactive dog I always start at a distance, as I said, and I let the dog watch other dogs or people, I don't try to distract or have them focus on me initially. I do however preempt fixation with the negative marker, then give them something else to do and praise and treat that thing. IME that's usually enough for the dog to snap out of it with that object, and we rinse and repeat that process for some time at that same distance until the marker is no longer needed before moving in a bit closer. If the subtle negative marker is not enough to snap them out of it, you're too close, move further back!

As time passes and the distance decreases, and the dog begins to better understand the desired behavior, I gradually increase the intensity of the correction - but again, this part isn't to be rushed. I prefer that the puppy/dog has ample time to think through the situation and "decide" on the correct behavior while providing subtle cues and ample encouragement!

As @car2ner mentioned, your reaction to approaching people is as important as the dog's, because they pick up on subtle body language you may not even be aware of, and you might be unintentionally fueling your dog's excitement! This is where an experienced trainer can be extremely beneficial, helping you to "refine" your technique really quickly, saving both you and your dog weeks or even months in the process!

There is no single "right" method to train any dog any behavior, and I'm certainly not suggesting that's what this is. But I've had very good results, and it's a method that anyone can be successful with, even with little previous experience or knowledge in dog training!

Good luck!
 

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Yeah, mine started around that time too. I got him at 5.5 months and it was there. All good advice here, demand neutrality, don't ever expect outgoingness.

I worked with a trainer who knew his sire to deal with it. Suspicion is a thing in his lines. He is forward defensive. We got it under control by creating a focus command (watch me) ..which now that I do IPO has evolved into Fuss. I can focus heel him past just about anything. When I wasn't catching it, and he lunged at someone, it was a hard correction. I make those decisions, not him is the idea here. Which brings me to my next point...starting IPO and bitework with him had such a positive influence on his confidence, my handling skills..etc..that it made everything come together nicely.

He will never be a dog that someone can come up and effusively greet (unless he knows you). It is my job to prevent people from doing that, and to have trained enough control into my dog that i can get his focus if it DOES happen. The controlled nature taught of biting and not biting and barking in IPO has really helped immensely with all of that.

I also board him with my trainer when I go anywhere. He is not a dog I can trust to just anyone. Explaining to your average sitter that you have to be alert if anyone has the audacity to stare at your dog while approaching is a bit above the paygrade for the rover.com crowd. He HATES when people loom and stare. He hasn't lunged at anyone in months and months, but that is after training and training will always be going on.
 

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Mine also started lunging at people when he was 6 months. Not in an aggressive 'I will hurt you' way, but in a super excited way. I don't know if it was his age or if it was because between 5-6 months I had to leave the country and he was staying with my best friend (in my own apartment). My best friend was the best person who could take care of him, so much better than my cousin or people from Rover.

But when I came back, he started lunging at people like I said. One of my trainers said it might be because he had a slight abandonment issue (because me leaving him for a whole month) and is acting up by being extra protective. And by 6-7 months he had hit 65lb so he definitely was not small anymore.

How I manage? I train, train, train, practice, practice, practice. Have my friends come over and ring the bell. Walk around the neighbourhood where other dog walkers are. I didn't avoid people or other dogs, I look for them and use them as an opportunity to train and work with my dog.

Techniques that I use are 3 things:
1. Change to choke collar and flick as a correction.
2. The Cesar Millan 'kick,' which works even now.
3. The 'look at me' command.

You have to act JUST BEFORE he started lunging.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Op here. Thanks for all the advice everyone

He was friendly with strangers before this started but idk if I’d say he was outgoing more of would just say hi then immediately walk back to me. He was so good at ignoring people that I didn’t even put a collar on him when he was in our yard until he was around 4 months old because he would follow me everywhere and listen to every command. I did collar him on walks though

But this week he’s started ignoring commands and doing bad things on purpose. Like he knows not to bite but he does it as a game so I correct him. But he’s gotten “sassy” is all I can explain the behavior as. The barking started at the same time. I like that he’s protective as I live in a bad area but I worry if he gets off the leash god forbid he bites someone!

I wonder if I contribute to this barking though. Because he didn’t finish all his puppy shots until a few weeks ago so we only had him meet a few people and dogs as a little guy and so I wonder if he’s just afraid. I’m also anti social personality so when I see people out and about I don’t say hi very much I just walk and do my own thing and maybe my dog picks up on that
 

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Op here. Thanks for all the advice everyone

He was friendly with strangers before this started but idk if I’d say he was outgoing more of would just say hi then immediately walk back to me. He was so good at ignoring people that I didn’t even put a collar on him when he was in our yard until he was around 4 months old because he would follow me everywhere and listen to every command. I did collar him on walks though

But this week he’s started ignoring commands and doing bad things on purpose. Like he knows not to bite but he does it as a game so I correct him. But he’s gotten “sassy” is all I can explain the behavior as. The barking started at the same time. I like that he’s protective as I live in a bad area but I worry if he gets off the leash god forbid he bites someone!

I wonder if I contribute to this barking though. Because he didn’t finish all his puppy shots until a few weeks ago so we only had him meet a few people and dogs as a little guy and so I wonder if he’s just afraid. I’m also anti social personality so when I see people out and about I don’t say hi very much I just walk and do my own thing and maybe my dog picks up on that
So, the plot thickens...LOL!

Given this new information I'd say what youre seeing is adolescent behavior, not a fear period.

Important distinction, because your approach in working through this "phase" should be different IMHO. My approach to adolescent behavior is to step up the "firmness" in my communication with the dog. It's not an angry or punitive thing, just firm, fair, and consistent - with added emphasis on firm LOL! He's not acting out of fear, he's testing his boundaries...so make sure he understands that your boundaries are non-negotiable! My pup was that same age when she first looked right at me and decided to blow off a recall. She also started barking at people and dogs we'd pass while riding in the car, and resumed lunging at dogs as we walked by them (my puppy did this at a pretty young age, and had - or so I thought - gotten past that!).

At any rate, there's a saying I've heard over and over through the years: "No matter what the problem, obedience is the answer"... Always good advice, but especially important during adolescence! Train, train, train! Keep it fun, but keep at it!

IMO adolescence is a time when it's especially important to be disciplined as a trainer. NEVER issue a command that you cannot immediately enforce if needed. What that means is YOU have to think and evaluate a situation BEFORE giving a command. If there are lots of distractions, or if you're not in a position to enforce the command, don't say anything...handle things a different way. Walk over to your dog and leash her, rather than attempting a recall she's likely to ignore is a good example. And, as others suggested, inappropriate barking at non-threatening people should be corrected (always, of course working your dog under threshold).

I personally think it's also a great time to put your dog into situations where barking at a person is appropriate and praised! As Cometdog said, it's not about teaching the dog not to bark at people ever, it's teaching them that you get to make that call!
 

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I am firmly in the position of show the dog what you want first. Make sure she understands what you want and are asking of her, then praise and reward what you like, correct what you don't. Sometimes, you'll just have to correct what you don't like, and that's going to be OK if you have the language in place.

Make sure to train the dog in a language of positive and negative. "NO" marker and "YES" marker need to mean something (the right thing) to the dog.

Always mark a correction with "NO" (as much as reasonably possible, and there are situations where it's not, and that's also OK)

When the dog does something you like, "YES" and reward. Be happy, be open, praise and build up the dog when he succeeds at something hard for him. Teach him an engaged fetch and tug game- so that he is eager to play with anything you throw. My pup is just as eager to fetch and tug with pinecones as with an actual tug toy. Makes life easy. It's key to have the dog asking to engage with you. It's pretty easy to get there with a pup with decent drives.

These are things I learned from my mistakes- I am still not perfect and still learning but my almost-perfect pup at the moment makes things so easy!
 
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