We have recently had a few “lunge and bark” episodes with Ray and, surprisingly, they were directed at people who he knew.
In fairness to him, he did not know them too well, but he had met them before on a few occasions without any apparent problems.
Our general conclusion is that he was demanding more treats, because it tended to happen after somebody had given him treats, and was then involved in a conversation with us. He used to do that with us, but quickly learned that we did not respond to “lunge and bark”, but did often respond to laying down and being quiet! He has yet to learn that rule when others are involved.
The problem becomes a little more significant because he is generally in an area where, more than likely, he is the only dog around. Ray is quite big and has a voice to match so when he barks, lots of people will hear him which could have negative ramifications! What is of more concern though is his size and manner when going through that routine. Having a 78lbs Ray (he has put on a few pounds) lunges at you while barking, it can be quite the intimidating experience.
What we have decided to do, when in any situation where treats may be involved, is to warn the individual of this habit. We will then explain that should he decide to lunge and bark, we will immediately turn him around and take him away from the area. We are hoping that, not only will the person understand our quick departure, but Ray will soon grasp the idea that the “lunge and bark” routine is counterproductive!
We had another “lunge and bark” scenario recently which is not so easily explained. Carol and Ray were waiting for me in the lobby area of our local food store when a lady (who has met Ray a number of times) approached and asked if it would be okay to kiss the top of Ray’s head (Eeek!). Carol explained that he would almost certainly react aggressively so…. no, but thanks for asking. The lady left and 5 minutes or so later Ray suddenly executed his lunge and bark routine.
Carol looked around and the same lady had been coming towards her, presumably to chat about something. As treats had not been involved, we could conclude that he saw the woman approaching his Mom and went into an aggressive defense mode.
Another possibility is Ray’s ability to almost demand eye contact, and some people will stare at him either because of his attention to them, or they just love his face (the more common reason). We know that holding eye contact with any dog can be interpreted as challenging by the dog, with the potential for an aggressive response. We can of course ask people not to stare at him which should minimize that possibility, but somebody approaching either one of us? We have to work on that one!