How To Stop Dog From Lunging At Strangers: A Guide for Bulldog Owners

Bulldogs love being with people to the point that they will lunge at strangers out of excitement. However, the person on the receiving end may not be a fan of the leaping. Your doggo may accidentally scratch the person’s skin or even tumble a child to the ground. While these are unintentional, you should still know how to stop dog from lunging at strangers. This will save both you and your pet from a lot of trouble.

Why is my Bulldog lunging at strangers?

can dogs sense when something is wr...
can dogs sense when something is wrong with their owner

Lunging is a very common behavioral problem among canines. It can either be due to excitement or as a form of aggression. Even friendly dogs could launch themselves into someone else for some reasons.

For us to find the right approach to solving the problem, we have to understand why it’s happening in the first place. Here are some of the most common culprits:

🐶Frustrated greeting

how to stop dog from lunging at strangers

One of the most common reasons why Bulldogs will lunge at strangers is to say hi. This is a well-meaning behavior, which, unfortunately, isn’t welcome at all times.

Aside from strangers, your dog may also lunge at other canines to initiate playtime. Under the untrained eye, it may look like your Bulldog is attacking the other dog. This is why you should dedicate time and effort to correcting this behavior.

Such a reaction from your Bulldog is due to other aspects. Poor socialization and leash reactivity are the usual causes, which I discussed separately.

Also, you may be reinforcing this behavior at home. For example, if you pet your Bulldog once it lunges at you, you’re inadvertently teaching the pooch that the reaction is tolerated. Over time, your pooch will do it to anyone they want to greet.

🐶Poor socialization

Bulldogs that are locked up indoors without socialization are more likely to lunge at strangers. It’s not because your pet is aggressive right away, but it’s the fact that they don’t know how to get along with other people.

Your dog will be extremely curious and excited when meeting people other than your family. Naturally, such a rush of emotion will get the best of your pooch. 

🐶Fight or flight response

how to stop dog from lunging at strangers

While this is not common among Bulldogs, the fight or flight response might be the reason why. If your Bulldog knows that lunging can send a threat away, it will do the same to strangers that make them feel threatened.

Moreover, the fight or flight aspect is also tied to poor socialization. Because your dog isn’t used to the stimuli of being around other people, it will reach harshly on the slightest – or non-existent – hint of danger.

🐶Leash reactivity

Lastly, lunging over is a sign that your Bulldog has leash reactivity. It’s a blanket term that refers to a canine’s habit of lunging over other dogs and humans.

Dogs with this problem are easily provoked by the simple sight of a person. In some cases, the pooch can become aggressive.

Like any of the discussed causes above, leash reactivity can be fixed through proper training.

How to stop dog from lunging at strangers?

Before you start with the methods below, I want to warn you that correcting lunging behavior won’t be easy. Bulldogs aren’t the smartest of the brood, so they require a lot of patience. You should also perform the training slowly but surely.

Above all, you should always stick to positive reinforcement. Punishing and hurting your dog for lunging at strangers will make the situation worse. Worse, the doggo may lunge at you to fight back.

To save you from the hassle, here are five steps to deal with lunging Bulldogs:

✔️Step 1. Stop reinforcing the behavior

how to stop dog from lunging at strangers

Always remember that fixing a behavior starts at home. It will help a lot to reassess how you’re reacting whenever your Bulldog lunges at you or toward a guest.

Do you pet your dog whenever it lunges at your lap as you open the door? If so, you have to stop doing so. Sticking to this habit teaches your dog that lunging is a rewarded behavior. It’s only a matter of time for your dog to this to other people when they want to say hi.

Instead, you should teach your dog to stay ‘down’ as you enter the door. If your dog remained calm, you can squat on its level and give the sought-after pets and hugs.

For this to be possible, you need to perform basic obedience training. I discussed this in the next step below.

✔️Step 2. Brush up with basic obedience

Basic obedience training will give you more control of your Bulldog. Commands like ‘come’, ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘down’ will let you stop your dog from lunging. Teaching name recall is also crucial to catch your dog’s attention once it starts to lunge on a stranger.

When teaching basic obedience, it’s important to use the same command words all the time. For example, if you start teaching with the word ‘come’, you shouldn’t substitute it with ‘here’ or any other word. Doing so will confuse your dog and ruin the training process.

Below is a quick rundown of these basic commands. Make sure that you have a clicker and training treats handy before you start.

‘Come’ command

This command is extremely helpful when your Bulldog got off the leash or has lunged into a person. It will save you and your dog from a lot of trouble. Here’s how to teach it:

  • Put your Bulldog on a leash
  • Let the dog walk a few steps ahead of you
  • After that, go down to your dog’s level and say the command word ‘come’.
  • Tug the leash a bit to signal your dog to come towards you.
  • If your dog comes at you calmly, reward it with a treat right away.
  • Keep practicing, then start substituting food rewards with affection.

‘Sit’ command

The sit command is the most common of all the basic obedience drills. It’s an excellent start for Bulldogs who always become overexcited and lunge at strangers. This command will teach your dog to be calmer when exposed to various stimuli. Here’s how to do it:

  • Hold a smelly treat close to your Bulldog’s nose.
  • Move it up and down to make sure that your dog is following you.
  • Next, move it down enough for your Bulldog’s bum to touch the floor.
  • The moment your dog’s butt touches the floor, give it the treat.
  • Repeat this until your dog masters the trick.
  • After that, you can randomly order your dog to sit before eating and playing. This will reinforce the training even more.

‘Stay’ command

This command will be useful to prevent your dog from leaving its spot. It comes as a perfect pair to the command ‘sit’ to stop your dog from lunging at strangers. These are the simple steps to teach it to your dog:

  • The first step is to ask your Bulldog to be in a sitting position.
  • Next, open your palms toward your dog in a ‘stop’ motion. Say the cue word ‘stay’.
  • Take several steps back while saying ‘stay’. After two steps, reward your dog for staying put.
  • Repeat the process while increasing the distance and duration slowly.
  • Do this until your Bulldog masters the command.

‘Down’ command

The down command can be tricky to teach since it forces your dog to be in a submissive and vulnerable position. In this command, your dog needs to lay its chest on the ground. It’s a great way to stop lunging and other overexcited behavior. Here’s how to do it:

  • Get your Bulldog’s attention by holding a smelly treat close to its nose.
  • Next, move the treat to the floor, ensuring that your dog sniffs continuously.
  • Slide your hand with the treat along the floor. This will encourage your dog to lay its body on the ground.
  • The moment your dog’s chest touches the floor, give the treat right away.
  • Keep repeating this drill until your pooch goes on a ‘down’ position on cue.

✔️Step 3. Start leash training

Once your dog has learned basic obedience, the next step is to leash-train the Bulldog. This will let you bring your pooch outdoors without dealing with a lot of pulling and lunging. Here are the quick steps to take:

  • Let your Bulldog sniff and be familiar with the leash
  • Place treats on top of the leash lying on the ground. This will teach your dog to associate the leash with a reward.
  • Put the leash on but keep the tension loose. Try to walk your dog indoors to let the pooch be familiar with the sensation of the leash.
  • Perform this drill in different rooms and areas of your home. Once your Bulldog has mastered walking on a leash, you can proceed to the next step.

✔️Step 4. Venture outdoors

With basic obedience and leash training already done, the next step is to bring your Bulldog outdoors. This will be your introduction to other stimuli before you place an actual person near your dog.

If your Bulldog tries to pull and lunge, call its name or ask it to sit. Stopping on your tracks will also help the dog realize that lunging won’t take him anywhere.

You can start in your backyard before taking your pet to public places.

✔️Step 5. Socialize and desensitize

To stop your Bulldog from lunging at strangers, you have to desensitize it in the presence of one. You can ask a friend your dog hasn’t seen yet. Ask that person to stand outside your fence while observing your dog’s reaction.

If your dog barks and tries to get near the person, tell it to sit and stay. Repeat this until your dog is relaxed with a stranger standing outside the fence.

Next, you can ask the person to come inside the yard. Again, observe your dog and ask it to stay. As you see, the basic obedience drills play a big role here.

Little by little, you can ask your friend to come closer while controlling your dog. The goal here is for your dog to stay still and calm around a stranger. Of course, smelly treats will help a lot here.

After that, you can invite a group of people to further desensitize your dog. Taking the Bulldog to a dog park where it can mingle with other canines and people. Again, you have to pay close attention to your Bulldog to see how it will respond to the stimuli.

Your dog’s basic obedience training will be indispensable for these outdoor experiences of your dog. If it tries to lunge at a stranger, call its name, ask it to sit, and reward the pooch for the good behavior.

Over time, this repetition will be wired into your Bulldog’s mind. It will soon learn that not lunging on people is a rewarded response.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What should you do if your dog lunges at people?

A: Keeping your dog leashed outdoors is crucial if it has the tendency to lunge at people. In case your dog tries to lunge at people, you should keep a firm grip on the leash to prevent your pet from advancing. Call your dog’s name and slowly take it away from the crowd.

Q: Why is my dog acting aggressively towards strangers?

A: Poor socialization is the number one reason a Bulldog, or any dog, will react aggressively around strangers. The unfamiliarity makes them feel threatened, which could lead to aggressive behavior. There’s a chance that your dog will lunge and attack. However, you shouldn’t punish the pooch as this reaction is likely due to anxiety and fear.

Q: How do I train my dog to ignore strangers?

A: Training your dog to ignore strangers is a long process, but it’s still possible to achieve. Start with proper socialization and desensitization. Once your dog is used to being surrounded by strangers, it would be more unlikely to lunge at other people. You can also draw your Bulldog’s attention somewhere else, so it won’t pay attention to the other people around.

Q: Is it too late to socialize a dog?

A: It’s never too late to socialize a dog, but older ones will surely be more challenging. This is because older dogs have already developed their habits, fears, and biases. But with consistency and patience, any dog will yield to your effort.

Q: Why won’t my dog let strangers pet him?

A: Poor socialization is the reason why Bulldogs won’t let strangers pet or go near them. This is why you should socialize your dog as soon as you bring it home. This will save you from a lot of hassle in the future. However, you should also know that rescue dogs with a history of abuse will normally be aloof of strangers.

Final words

Knowing how to stop dog from lunging at strangers is a skill all Bulldog owners should learn. It will save you and your pet from a lot of trouble, even legal repercussions. Remember that training is the only solution. You should never resort to violence and always use positive reinforcement. This way, you can help your Bulldog outgrow the problem without making further behavioral issues.