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Barking/lunging randomly at strangers when out?

Hi, now i wonder if anyone has come across this and may offer some insight? Basically Reuben will sometimes bark at complete strangers and this morning he lunged towards a lady as we were waiting to cross the pedestrian crossing and she nearly jumped out of her skin! He use to sometimes bark at young men when off lead, so i use to keep an eye on him and get his attention to prevent this from happening. But now it seems to be when we are stationery and he just randomly picks on individuals. His superlorin is wearing off now and i wonder if it is hormonal etc?


Any ideas, and what do i do when he does it?

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oh and just to add to this, he does it at random dogs on leads - not all the time but sometimes




not being up to speed on your Reuben, how old is he? Also, how socialised is he? Phil is 4 (near enough) and used to race around and go up to people, sometimes jumping up if they were friendly and knew him. He'd bark at other dogs on leads trying to get them to play.

A lot of this was puppy behaviour and he stopped doing it about a year ago. We broke his chain of thinking so he focussed on us: If he is near other people we don't know when walking I'll make him either sit until we have more room around us, or make the lead shorter so he walks closely at heel. Whenever we stop near people he is told to leave them - this means no playing, no sniffing etc and has evolved into stand - he'll lean against us and ignore the people or dogs! Key thing seems to be to be getting him to do something before he thinks of anything else! If he looks like he is going to do something he shouldn't we use stop - we'll stop walking, he'll stop doing and the walk will stop for him until he is calm.


He does keep close to my wife if she is out with him on her own so perhaps your dog's behaviour is a bit defensive -minded.


all the best



Well Sue, i did ponder a bit on whether a fear related thing. It is strange because it isnt like a surprise element but more like when next to a few people at the same time especially when at the pedestrian crossing in the morning on a school run and people standing close to us. so maybe it is an overcrowding thing ie, people to close his personal space. so possibly a defense response like Bryan suggested. He is on the lead at this point and in a sitting position as we await for the 'green man' to cross the road. In fact the last two times it has happened, this has been the case. he is usually quite hyped up as well as it is when his walk starts.

He did use to run up to random men and circle them and bark (when off lead) but to stop this happening I would call him close to me and pre-empt the situation and this seems to help and hopefully started breaking the habit. I think this morning shocked me as he actually lunged and did mouth the woman's coat and fortunately with my apology she wasnt cross (probably didnt notice the mouthing, but i did) and was just startled. He does lunge sometimes towards some other dogs on the lead (esp when crossing roads) and is quite vocal. So maybe it is a 'you are in my space' type of reaction?

I will monitor it more and tonight i did some 'watch me' training with him so I can strenghten his focus on me when I need it, as admittedly I think that has slipped (through my own lazyness).


Bryan, Reuben is 2yrs 4 months old, and has been very socialised and like most setters loves people and other dogs but has grown up a bit from that early young puppyness - thankfully, lol. and what you do sounds really good and something I do too but poss let slip lately. And those who know Reuben know he is quite a cheeky bolshy boy too! But yes it could be defense as you say as also it has been the last few months that he barks quite protectively at strangers at the door of people that I invite into the house that he doesnt know.


They really are a learning process arent they these dogs of ours!

Yep, seems there's always something new with our setters!

I reckon Reuben is still a bit young to be settled and is working things out. He probably has worked out that at road crossings your attention is elsewhere and if he is keyed up for his walk then he will get bouncy. Phil  is very keen on his walk too so we break it up with lots of (relevant) commands to keep him in check and he likes to show off being good before he gets to run.

Btw I don't like Phil sitting too much unless I want him to stay in one place, e.g. when he is out shooting, sit is too close to crouched-down-ready-to-jump if he is excited.


On the subject of jumping, Phil only jumps up and mouths now during play we start. He's not to do it (it was a puppy thing I think) otherwise but sometimes he does to ask if we want to play. I often hide carrots etc in the garden or house and divert the puppy play into something more thought-requiring of him.



Hi Bryan

                One of my bitches was terrible for doing the exact same thing. I found it to be an attention seeking behaviour. Basically when I knew a situation was approaching where this behaviour would be demonstrated I gained the bitches attention and got her to focus on a treat or me as the other dog or person passed. If she did bark I completely ignored the bad behaviour and just carried on walking removing her from the situation. After a while she realised that this behaviour would not be tolerated and she also did not gain any attention, either good or bad.

Give it a go I was amazed at how much this technique helped in this situation. If I can be of further help then please get in contact with me.

Barking and lunging, particularly in GSD's can have a pain association, or even perception (particularly visual) disturbances. I would need to know why he is doing this and investigate all possible causes. It is very rare that I have come across a Setter with these issues.  Quite recently I had a 3 year old Pom come in,  and I picked up a hind leg issue the owner hadn't been aware of.  Pain management from the vet started to have some impact but then then the behaviour suddenly deteriorated over a shortish period of time and I noticed some more strange things happening, I asked the owner to press the vet for a thorough medical, and other issues were then discovered which totally amazed the vet, because on the surface she looked an amazing fit and healthy animal.  It is always worth a proper check out,  especially eyes, gait and a blood work up to see if there is something more triggering this behaviour.
I am having problems with my 5 month old male irish setter.  When playing he becomes aggressive also when on a walk regardless of whether on lead or off he swings around and lunges at me bites and growls not playfully the problem seems to be escalating he has been to puppy training and we have now started agility (a gentle class for puppies) he has trained very well sits/stays/does little tricks for a treat and is a lovely calm dog most of the time. But when I shout no and turn my back on him it makes him worse. and this Jekyll and Hyde behaviour is very worrying.  I don't allow him to paw me jump on me etc. he waits for his food so I don't think it's a training issue.  He only has 1 testicle fully descended the other is partially descended could this be the problem.  I am taking him to the vet next week Fran you mentioned eyes, gait and blood work could you elaborate on these problems and what to ask the vet to check for he also seems to tire easily but i didn't know if this was because he is still young I can't remember what my previous setter was like at this age he certainly wasn't aggressive like this.  Also in the last week he has gone off his food he has always licked the tin clean but now picks at it although he seems to be hungry.  Sorry to bombard you with all this info but i really do feel this problem needs addressing
Hi Sue thanks for your reply I have said 'enough' as you suggested but he totally ignores me even if I throw him a ball or toy he will fetch it but will grumble on the way back and after a few goes will start attacking me as if he doesn't want to do it so I play/train him instead so that he doesn't get so excited like throwing a biscuit and making him wait for it he's fine with this type of play.  I feed him raw this is a complete food by Darlings with fresh meat and seasonal vegetables with amounts based on body weight so I don't think it's a dietary problem but I will monitor this and mention it to Darlings he has also gained weight since being on this food but is not overweight
Hi Teresa.  Considering you are feeding Darlings, it is most unlikely that this will be hyping him up.  However, as Sue says, you need to stop playing and interacting with him before he gets wired up enough to start being aggressive.  I also wonder how much exercise he is getting?  at 5 months he is still very immature, and in my experience, I have seen it all too often that over exercising leads to very wired dogs.  Also over stimulation to the point that they are getting adrenalin highs, particularly during the teething period which he will be right into at the moment.  Another thing which can lead to this kind of behaviour is mis commnunication.  You shout "no" or "enough" to him and he doesn't understand what is going on. This can result in young dogs going balmy.  It would be like somebody shouting at you in Russian and appearing threatening towards you.  What I have always done with my youngsters is restrict exercise to short runs in the morning, and evening, but putting them in their cages as soon as they return home, to settle them down to prevent over stimulation.  I also put them in there with stuffed kongs, ice cubes, frozen bones etc so that it helps with the pain of teething,  If I felt they were becoming wired, again I would put them away for a couple of hours with their frozen items, to try and keep them as calm as possible.  Basically, I treated them like silly wired up kids, which is what they are at this age really ;-)  I hope this helps,  but if not, privately mail me and I will see if there is any good help available to you in your area.

Thank you everybody for all your advice and help on aggressive puppy i'll take it all on board and let you know how it goes don't want to start dreading going for a walk!  It's great to have advice from setter owners setters seem to respond to a gentler approach maybe moreso than other breeds and he is so lovely and i want to do my best for him he wants 2 rest alot when out so i'll cut the walks/runs down as suggested

Hi Teresa, I have only just seen this discussion and agree completely with Sue and Fran's advice.  Our little darling Bella could be an absolute monster at times, particularly when tired.  Like your boy she was angelic in classes but quickly saw games as an opportunity to have a good bite.  Our dog trainer advised us that we needed to teach Bella how to play properly and put in some firm rules that we both stuck to (my husband was a devil for letting things get hyper) and as soon as Bella put teeth to skin then the games were over. It took some time (and initially some much larger toys!) but we are now at the point that when we are playing and I show her my hand (a bit like a traffic policemen saying stop) then she has to sit down and calm  down until I say it is OK.  We still have moments, she is only 2 after all!!

As I am the 'at home' owner she also told me that Bella needed some quiet time on her own where she would learn to settle herself and for her to learn that it was OK to be apart from me when I was in the house so I also built that into our routine and now when we get back from our morning walk she comes into the house and takes herself straight off to her bed in the hallway for a drink and a rest and I don't even get a look in.

Hi Elizabeth thanks so much for your advice it's good having this site for all the great advice that you can get for your breed of dog i think over stimulation may be the problem and more rest required i think i'm forgetting he's still a baby and expecting too much too soon but i hope it doesn't take 2 years for an improvement.   We both dozed in the garden this pm as the weather was lovely and he snuggled into me and didn't try and mouth or bite me once.  this is what it's all about a lovely calm setter puppy




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