On-Leash Snarking

We've had Bongo for 3 months now and he and Fiji actually seem to be a real team at this point. For a little while we thought we had made a mistake bringing him into the family - he's a great dog but just wasn't meshing well with Fiji, or us. Just about the time we were at the end of our rope, he seemed to settle in. Now we're enjoying our Eqyptian princess and our knucklehead. 😉

Walking two is always a bit of an adventure, but there's a pattern that's developed in the last month or so. They walk along nicely together, but when we pass another dog on the street, even if they all greet each other calmly in passing, Bongo will growl and jump and chew on Fiji just after we pass. She gives it back to him then seems to duck away.

What's that about? I've been saying no, and pulling his leash in so he has to walk close (instead of sniffing and checking pee mail) after he does it. That's only been moderately successful in changing the behavior. Any tips on stopping it?

"If you can't bite the one you want, bite the one you're with", to paraphrase Crosby, Stills & Nash. Sounds like you are doing the right thing, you might pull him in close to you when you are about meet another dog, or whatever triggers his actions, and prevent the behavior. Then you can reward him with some "Good boys" and hopefully will break the habit.

We have that behavior occasionally, it is relatively normal.

Anne in Tampa

Basenji Mix


They walk along nicely together, but when we pass another dog on the street, even if they all greet each other calmly in passing, Bongo will growl and jump and chew on Fiji just after we pass. She gives it back to him then seems to duck away.

What's that about??

I find this interesting too. I observe this same behavior with Duke to Daisy when someone comes in the house or yard. After the initial greet pattern of both to the visitor, Duke starts an ear-biting snarl, then growl and race around the house or yard with Daisy. She gives it her all to Duke, but he instigates the behavior. I think it is his way of putting her in place, or shot of being alpha-male. Like he might be saying to her…"I will do the greeting, the visitor is here for me! Not you!" It's a spectacle - I call it dog talk. I'd be interested to know if anyone has other clues. 😕

It's exactly as Anne says: If you can't bite the one you want, bite the one you're with. It's a way to release the stress. It has a name.. but I only know the Dutch term.. Often the one who is in charge, the dominant one, will react in this way towards the other dog(s).

Maybe it's an idea to get Bongo's and Fiji's attention before the other dog passes.. With a command like sit.. or just by playing with them (bring their favorite toy) It will help Bongo not to build up all that stress/tension..

OMG, Anne put it perfectly. Actually Fiji is alpha, has to go out and come in first etc. Maybe Bongo wants to be sure the other dog knows he's no wuss.

Don't be pullin', don't be mad.
Don't be howlin' over good runs you've had
There's a girl walkin' next to you
and she's just waitin' for something to do.

And there's a Lab near the doggie park
And a Sheltie near in the dark
And if you can't bite on the one you want, Senji
Bite the one you're with, bite the one you're with

(apologies to Stephen Stills)

OMG…..I thought my guy was weird for doing this!! He plays in the doggie park just fine but when he goes for a walk with his brother he does this and attacks him! The problem I have is that his brother is a schnoodle and my guy never had a problem passing another dog on leash until we got the other one. But the schnoodle barks every time we pass another dog so I can't distract my guy very easily (although I doubt I could distract him either way).

It definately makes me not want to walk them together. Also he could really hurt our schnoodle (who is very submissive).

Our girl Roxy does this exact same thing to our B, Spike when he gets out of line with anything on their walks. She's sort of prissy & a "good dog" so we always figured it's her way of saying, "Stop being a jerk & behave, would you!!";)

I think the word being searched for is displacement behavior. Quote below from wikipedia regarding displacement in humans.

"In psychology, displacement is an unconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind redirects affects from an object felt to be dangerous or unacceptable to an object felt to be safe or acceptable.[1] For instance, some people punch cushions when they are angry at friends; a college student may snap at his or her roommate when upset about an exam grade.

Displacement operates the mind unconsciously and involves emotions, ideas, or wishes being transferred from their original object to a more acceptable substitute. It is most often used to allay anxiety."

My two guys don't do this snarkiness on leash but I could see how it could develop. I have seen displacement before in my cat though. When she has tried to jump to the counter or the top of the sofa and misses, she will stop and clean her front paws. It seems almost like a nonchalant behavior after her failed jump and subsequent slip/fall. Displacement behavior is used because it is soothing to the animal. Although it doesn't seem that attacking your walking partner would be soothing, the dog releases anxiety by attacking their partner who they know is "safe" and can't (or won't be allowed to) hurt them like the unknown dog might be able to do.

A few ideas to try…

Although it seems difficult, maybe more exposure to "new" dogs on leash could help. I.e. if you have a friend or neighbor who has a nonaggressive dog and is willing to help, set up training time where you "encounter" another dog (the friend's dog) and work on either getting the displacing dog to ignore the other dog as it passes on your command or trying a command at the outset like sit. Work at first with treats that your displacing dog will go nuts for (for my boys it is cooked chicken, ham lunchmeat or cheese bits) and consider these as like gold standard treats. Then work down to lesser fabulous treats and then try to phase out treats but keep a "lottery" mentality such that every once in a while they get a fabulous treat for the same behavior. Just like why people gamble, the dogs will continue to do the good trained behavior because they just might "win" a fabulous prize for doing so. You should be able to work down to a lesser treat by the end of the first session. You could also take a squirt bottle with water in it for stopping bad behavior at the outset and reward for just the momentary pause you'll get when your b gets a water spurt on his butt.

Avoiding this situation will only make it worse. oh and make sure to ask for and reward for the same behavior from both dogs.

This behaviour is seen when we protection train dogs as well. When we are training, we do not touch the dog at all, if the dog can't get to the person he is after (the target) then he may turn to bite you in retaliation if you are touching him. He simply feels something and reacts accordingly. It is a release mechanism from the anxiety level that has been achieved.

Training with treats will work, if you take it slow.
Clicker training works as well.

I've recently had more instances where my female B (4 years old) is VERY snarky when other dogs walk by on the street. The 10-year-old male B doesn't show this behavior.

She starts growling very aggressively, pulling, spinning, and jumping. To try to teach her a better behavior, I kneel down next to her as soon as we see a dog, stroke her calmly and slowly, and say "eeeeeeeeeeasy" in a very relaxed voice. As soon as the dog has passed by us, and she has remained (relatively) calm, I give her a treat.

Other suggestions would also be appreciated.



Training with treats will work, if you take it slow.
Clicker training works as well.

I was going to say the same thing. I would carry a treat bag with me, and a clicker when out on leash. Use the clicker to mark correct behavior, i.e., sitting calmly while another dog passes. If my dog gets snarky on leash, I promptly stand in front of him, and put him in a sit/wait with a focus on ME (not the other dog). if he persists, I simply become a "goalie" and continue to block his path, get eye contact, and again, get a sit/wait.

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