Ask Alecia: My Dog Lunges at Other Dogs

Dear Alecia,

I have a 3.75-year-old Westie-Poo who tries to “prowl” towards dogs when he sees them on walks and then surprise them by lunging.

He started doing this around a year ago. He’s been to puppy classes and socialized with other dogs from the get go (after getting his shots and all I mean). What’s also weird is that he’s selective of his target. For some dogs, he’ll just bound up to them normal. But for other dogs (medium size dogs in particular), he’ll do the “prowl” where he gets real low to the ground and then jumps at the last minute. This scares the other owners and I totally understand so I’ve been trying to discourage it.

Issue is, he also starts making growling noises but wags his tail at the same time when I don’t let him do this. Again, this scares the other owners and I’m embarrassed by it. Help? — Angie

Dear Angie,

I completely understand the way this must look and feel while you are walking him and to other people. My sense from your pup is that it’s his way of being playful although it doesn’t always look that way.

Here is what I would suggest. First, assume that he is doing this from a humorous perspective as I don’t have the sense that your dog is being vicious. This will allow you to be more relaxed with the behavior and correcting him from a calm, clear place rather than a fearful non-leadership place.

Allow yourself to be aware when he is getting ready to perform this behavior, then call his name, show him his favorite treat and turn around and walk in the other direction. Do so calmly, clearly and as his leader. So he gets in the habit that you know where you are going and he follows you over his instincts. Remember to be relaxed and clear that you are simply choosing to go in another direction rather than fearfully pulling him away and making the other dog a big deal.

Do this repeatedly on the next 5 walks and see if this changes his behavior. Continue being his leader on walks and minimizing the behavior.

Good Luck. Paws Up! Alecia

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Alecia Evans is the inventor of The Walk In Sync™ Humane Dog Walking and Training System with her exclusive 5 Minute Manners Makeovers using the Walk In Sync™ Harness and Accu-Grip Leash, along with her Walk In Sync™ 3 Easy Steps to teach any human/dog duos to Walk In Sync in just minutes.

The former host of the award-winning GrassRoots Aspen TV Series, The Whole Animal-An Alternative Approach to Animal Care, Alecia takes a natural approach to dog training and health care. Her work has been featured on Fox and Friends, The Sandra Glosser Show, NY 1, and in Aspen Magazine, DogTipper.com, The New York Daily News and Woof Report.

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Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the award-winning authors of over 30 pet and travel books as well as the founders and publishers of CatTipper and DogTipper.