Dog Barks at Strangers on Walks: Why Does This Happen?

Dog walking is beneficial for pets just as much as it is for the owner. Countless individuals report that it is one of the most enjoyable elements of having a dog. 

This exercise allows you and your dog to socialize with pets and people during outdoor ventures. However, walks can turn into a stressful situation if your dog becomes unmanageable. 

It can certainly be awkward or frustrating if your dog starts barking continuously towards strangers; we get it. 

Looking at other dogs behaving correctly can make you wonder, “why can’t my dog behave like that?” Before any training, attempt to understand the reason behind it. 

Thanks to animal behaviorists, we can now make a few guesses about what makes your dog bark at strangers during such an enjoyable activity.


Why Your Dog Barks at Strangers

Dogs are Territorial

Dogs have an instinct of being territorial, some breeds more than others, but all of them possess this particular characteristic, which can be overcome at home most times. 

For instance: German Shepherds, Bullmastiffs, and even Pekingese can get a little defensive if they find someone entering their space. 

They have an inbuilt feeling that any unfamiliar person possesses a threat to them. 

That is why the same dog barking at a stranger during a walk stays calm around family members or familiar faces. 

Their instinct to protect their territory and their family is their strongest reason. This is especially the case if your dog has lived in one area for an extended period. 

Of course, for some dog owners, having a protective dog is a desirable trait. If this is your case, best protection dogs is a great site for finding the right protective dog for your particular situation.

Fear or Anxiety

Among all other reasons, one of the primary reasons for your dog barking at a stranger is their fear of other humans or pets. 

The dog can become very defensive and unpredictable and might end up attacking another person. This behavior could be the result of any trauma they had been through in the past. 

For instance, they may have been abused or bitten by other dogs or have stayed in a kennel among aggressive dogs. 

Moreover, lack of socialization can cause them to have an extreme fear of human interaction. In some cases, a trip to the vet or training may be just what your dog needs. 

Just like with humans, dogs have anxiety too and may need to see their doctor!

Over Excitement

Barking to play is a different perspective of why your dog barks after seeing so many humans on the trail. 

Some dogs develop a fear of social interaction; on the other hand, some are incredibly social and get hyper excited and showcase their feelings through barking. 

They enjoy meeting new people and want to play with everyone they see. If their back coat of hair is not erected and eyes are not still, it is more likely to be a play bark.

If your dog is very young, perhaps weeks to months old, you may just need to give it a little time. Younger dogs love to bark, so if this is the case, wait a few months and reevaluate the situation.

In some cases, a new move can cause this, so for those who’ve moved recently, perhaps wait it out for just a few more weeks before taking action.

Compulsive Barking

Compulsive barking means the dog is barking without any specific reason. Your dog can bark when they see a stranger and bark when they encounter another pet or even a shadow.

So, if you see your dog barking over nothing while on a walk, that is compulsive barking, and if your dog is a compulsive barker, he may show other repetitive behaviors as well. 

This characteristic can result from trauma, anxiety, or personality disorder, which can be treated using various training methods and/or a vet visit.

Luckily, this issue can be resolved with time, and with proper training, your dog will be back to a calm mind state in no time.


Dogs, just like humans, can get very bored too. The primary reason your dog may bark due to boredom could be because it’s the only time they’re able to get out and have fun. 

If you find yourself working a lot away from home regularly, your dog may simply be bored. 

To combat this, bring your dog out more often, or try to play with it more at home. It’s natural to become overcompensating when a dog isn’t as active as it should be. 

You may also consider bringing a toy with you if this is the case. By getting a toy that squeaks, your dogs’ attention will be turned away from the stranger, keeping your dog quiet.

What to Do About It

Training With Other People at Home

Home is the comfort zone not just for humans but for pets as well. If your dog gets aggressive upon seeing strangers on the walk, start training them at home. 

You can invite guests to your home and ask them not to retreat if the dog barks. Do not be harsh on the dog as well, and allow him to calm down. 

Then ask the visitor to treat your dog. This way, the dog will learn that strangers are not a threat. Dogs can be overprotective, but teaching them this way can quickly help your dog overcome it.

Reward Them

Keep in mind that yelling and punishing your dog will make things more difficult for him but rewarding him for good behavior will do wonders. 

You can praise him or give a reward if he passes any stranger quietly. When the dog barks, give him a command “NO.” 

In this way, he will learn that a reward will be provided for good behavior, and the dog will begin to correlate good things with strangers.


There are many options available for this purpose, from reading a book to taking an online course to an obedience school. 

This professional training helps you better understand the management strategies for your dog, so you can always opt for professional training. 

For instance: “Training the best dog ever,” a book by Larry Kay, has positive reviews from dog owners. Though it’s not “real” training, it can help you learn to train with helpful tips at home.


A dog that is barking at strangers on a walk is his way of communicating with you. 

This could result from fear or anxiety of strangers, lack of socialization, over-excitement, or a personality disorder. 

To some extent, this behavior can be appreciated as it might indicate danger, but excessive barking must be taken under consideration. 

This makes it necessary to acknowledge the issue and use training techniques to control your dog’s barking.

Written by Brian Rucker

Brian Rucker has been a dog lover since childhood. He has had his Lab Mix with Hound for over 10+ years now! They enjoy playing outdoors together. Brian loves sharing his knowledge about all things dog on this website. Read more of Brian's articles.