Dog Training/non-aggressive leash pulling/barking when other dogs are around
Hello Barb. My boyfriend and I rescued a dog almost 2 years ago when she was about 4 months old. Her name is Molly, she's about 2 years, 4 months old. Before we adopted her, she was unfortunately passed around 4 different families who were unable to take care of her. We are not sure of her breed (mutt). She is spayed. She is extremely loving/friendly and she's never been aggressive towards another dog unless absolutely necessary, and certainly has never been aggressive towards a person. Most of the time, she doesn't even seem to realize when she is not welcomed by other dogs.
The problem at hand is her non-aggressive leash pulling/lunging when she sees another dog. She is completely fine on the leash when there aren't dogs around; she also does well in an off-the-leash dog park setting. This problem has been occurring for about a year, but until recently I didn't realize how bad it had gotten because my boyfriend usually holds the leash and he is a lot stronger than I am, but we are temporarily in different cities so, I do the dog walking alone now.
Today, I found myself completely dominated by her pulling when she saw a dog on a leash on a parallel sidewalk in my neighborhood. She lunged through the grass, pulling me along with her. Once the dog was out of sight, she stopped and went back to sniffing around. The dog came back and she laid down (bowed) with excitement, when she didn't get what she wanted (play), she began lunging and barking at the dog in a playful, but uncontrollable way. It literally took every bit of strength I had to hold her back and eventually I got her to the sidewalk and lightly spanked her backside and told her "No," and to "be good".
I don't know what to do or what the best approach is to solving this problem. I am hoping to take care of this in-house, as to not spend a fortune on a dog trainer. Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated!
Ashleigh, first get some good equipment to help you manage the dog's physical strength. My recommendation would be a Holt Head Halter. This gives you control of the dog's face and you'll be able to redirect Molly when she starts to pull you toward another dog. Most dogs don't accept a head halter easily, so you'll have to work on desensitizing her to it - give her treats when she puts her nose through it, only take it off when she's calm, etc. I'm sure you can find some good videos by searching on "desensitizing a head halter".
Next, learn about the "BAT" technique - Behavior Adjustment Training. The website is www.functionalrewards.com and it's full of information and videos about a good way to work with dogs that are over-aroused on leash.
While you are training your dog to be calmer on leash around other dogs, distance is your best friend. If you see her notice another dog, get her attention before she starts to pull - run the other direction, toss some treats on the ground, anything to break her focus and interrupt the lunging behavior before it starts. Avoid walking during times of the day when a lot of other dogs are out. Take your highest value treats and reward her for voluntarily checking in with you. You should be more than an anchor at the end of the leash. Build that relationship with her so that you are just as interesting as everything else on a walk.
Let me know if you have further questions or need clarification on anything I've recommended.