Things to remember when using the park.
Take off the leash. What’s the point of going to the dog park if you’re going to put a leash on your dog? If you're not comfortable with your dog off-leash at the park because they are too fearful or too aroused or aggressive around other dogs, then take your dog for a leash walk at a neighborhood park, instead. No dog should be subjected to terror at the dog park by other dogs wanting to play. If you're thinking, "this is socialization,” you're wrong. It's only socialization for dogs who are comfortable in the park. Leashes interfere with the natural body language of the dog. Dogs can get tangled up in them. Dogs who become stressed by constant pulling against a leash can act in undesirable ways. Lastly, most parks require that your dog be off-leash.
Puppies younger than 4 months are not safe in a dog park. This is an impressionable age. Being there is not about whether your puppy is friendly. It’s about whether he/she will experience inappropriate play from other dogs, or worse, an aggressive attack from a dog whose owner doesn’t know they shouldn’t be there.
Dog parks are not for timid or fearful dogs. This is not how to help your timid or fearful dog. Dog parks are completely unpredictable. Flooding your timid dog with a social experience out of their comfort zone only proves to the dog that they are right about not trusting other dogs or other people. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Small dogs need special consideration. Try to find a dog park with a small dog section, or specific small-dog playtimes. It’s so easy for a little guy to get overwhelmed—not to mention bowled over—by larger dogs. If you feel you have to carry your dog to keep them safe, leave the dog park. Being elevated can either give a dog a false sense of control because of the elevated position and close human backup, or entice other dogs to jump up at the dog being held to get a closer sniff.
Stay only as long as your dog is having fun. Visits to the dog park need to be fluid. If your dog isn’t enjoying the experience, or other dogs are getting out of control, you need to leave, whether or not you’re ready to go. On the other hand, if your dog is having a spectacularly good time, you might want to stay a little longer.
Be vigilant. Keep your focus on your dog no matter how enjoyable your human companions are. Don’t allow yourself to be part of stationary human clumps, because that will result in too many dogs gathering in one place. It is the humans’ responsibility to keep the park a safe and fun experience.
Save treats (and toys) for later. There’s just too much potential for dogs to engage in guarding or stealing behavior that can lead to aggression and fights.
Walk Around. Dogs who are moving with you are less likely to get into tiffs. If you want to talk with people, do it while you’re walking.
Always pick up after your dog, and use friendly reminders for others to do the same. “Oh, your dog left you a surprise!” for example. Pick up the occasional extra pile, if needed.
Relax and enjoy the experience. If for some reason you can’t relax—if you’re too concerned about your dog’s behavior, then the dog park isn’t for you and this dog. Hire a behaviorist or behavior oriented dog trainer and ask for help and advice about how your dog interacts with others.
Leave if you start to feel concerned about anything going on. Help to resolve the situation if you can, but your first responsibility is to keep your dog safe.
Don't let your dog jump out of the car without being released. Teach and practice getting out of the car safely using Sit, Stay and Come. Watch how this works in the video below.
I have seen a very disturbing trend in the past 20 years of subdivisions utilizing covenants regarding fencing that are clearly "un-dog-friendly". The fences must not be over 36" high and require field fencing wire mesh that never blocks the view. The situation is intensified when the yard backs up to an open space walking path.Read More
Biologists and veteran wolf behaviorists have gone public with proof that the way humans have interpreted wolf/dog dominance theory is inaccurate.
“The main characteristic of an alpha male wolf,” the veteran wolf researcher Rick McIntyre reports, “is a quiet confidence…quiet self-assurance. You know what you need to do; you know what’s best for your pack. You lead by example. You’re very comfortable with that. You have a calming effect.”
The point is, alpha males are not aggressive. They don’t need to be. “Think of an emotionally secure man or a great champion. Whatever he needed to prove is already proven,” McIntyre adds.
Here are tips on how to be a kind, purposeful teacher to your dog.
Good Leadership is...
Good Leadership is Creating Deference, Not Submission.
Being confident without being harsh
If you say it, you must be prepared to calmly, patiently make it happen without bullying the dog.
Being Consistent. The rules can't keep changing.
Being Calm and Neutral. Patience is a training strategy.
Being fair. Set your dog up to succeed. "Catch them doing it right and reward".
Control valuable resources. That means requiring your dog to
do something polite for you before they get what they want.
Being a good detective. Everything the dog does isn’t centered around their owners. Finding out what the dog gains from unwanted behaviors is the first step to replacing them.
So be kind and purposeful. Lead by example with stable emotions. Set boundaries and behave like the best teacher or boss you ever had. Your dog's behavior will be reward enough.
I got married on January 8, 1978. My husband and I have been married 39 years, today. Woooo! Here we are that winter of 1978 with our two dogs, Oreo and Obi!
You may ask, "Why is that fact in a dog training blog?" Good question. Even better answer coming.
The behavior with the strongest rate of reinforcement is the one that will be maintained.
My husband makes the bed...without being asked. That's because he is rewarded (by me) on an intermittent schedule with something he values. He never knows which time I'm going to reward him and I'm not going to tell you what I reward him with (TMI), but, let's just say, it works.
What also works is that we tell each other we love each other, often. Not several times a day, but, many times a week. Why, after 39 years, do we have to declare our love for each other? After all, we said it to each other at the beginning of our marriage. Because that's one of the ways we maintain our relationship. We don't take each other for granted.
Here are some valuable tips on how to maintain your dog’s good behavior.
Prioritize which behaviors are the most important and reward these often. Use food, use games, use really sincere play and praise, but, it has to be something the dog can't live without! For me the prioritized behavior is a fluent response to "Come".
Every time you want to give your dog a treat, a scrap of last night's chicken, figure out a way to make it a training game. Don't just give it to the dog because they are sitting next to the kitchen counter staring at you.
Each month teach your dog a new trick. It doesn't have to be over the top, simple is fine, too. And when you train, reward the dog with food treats. This reinforces that the dog can win valuable rewards for "getting it right". Maintain the new trick by rewarding intermittently. That’s how the casinos do it in Vegas and as far as I know, it works for them!
Welcoming a Rescue Dog to Your Home.
Adopting a dog can be a wonderful and challenging experience. The dog will be confused, excited, anxious, worried, fearful or elated. Here are a 9 tips to help you through the first month:
All Aboard! Everyone in the family should be happy and willing to take on this new addition, complete with all his/her doggie baggage. And, there's likely to be at least a "carry-on".
Adding Another Dog If you already have a family dog, ask if the adoption can be based on this dog getting along with your current dog...at your home. Having the dogs meet first in a neutral territory is good, but, you may get a totally different and inhospitable response at your home. Pick up all toys, chew items and food bowls before the new dog enters. You never know what will spark resource guarding between dogs.
In Transition Treat the new dog like a guest. Give them several weeks to acclimate to your house and your habits and YOU! Try to be home as much as possible.
You Said She Was House Trained! Pretend you just got a puppy and take them outside where you want them to relieve themselves, every few hours. You are building a new habit. Don't assume the dog will communicate in a recognizable fashion that they "gotta go!" They might not recognize where your doors and outdoor toilets are.
“Oh, That Was Your Favorite Shoe?" Use Good Management. Example: Tether the dog to you via a long leash or use gates to other areas of the house. Don't allow them to wander your home without you, but do allow them to explore!
Protect the "escape artist" You don't know anything about this dog. If there's a hole in your backyard fence, fix it. If there's a door that doesn't shut properly, fix it. Always have them on a leash or long line when you leave the house.Write your phone number on your new dog's collar with a permanent Sharpie pen in case she escapes.
I Don't Need to Meet the Whole Neighborhood! Keep things quiet for the first week. Don't invite several guests over and don't drag your dog around town introducing them to everyone. Give them a chance to feel secure in their new home.
I Bite When I'm Scared Be very careful with strangers and children. You don't know for sure how comfortable this dog is with other people...no matter how friendly they are with you.
Cut Them Some Slack! Don't dive right into a strict obedience regimen. Spend as much time as you can with your new family member, getting to know who they are and what they know. This dog has her own personality. Don't expect her to be a carbon copy of your last dog. Wait a month before you enroll in a training class.
Fearful or Timid dogs require patience while training. Teach confidence first and obedience later.
Have you noticed that there are times when your dog can't respond to a cue that is normally easy? Have you considered that it may be you?
I've seen this phenomenon multiple times in my training classes. If the sound of the owner's voice is strident, as though the dog has already failed, the dog tries to appease the owner and that appeasement behavior isn't the sit, down, stay, etc... I recognize the dog’s body language, ears against the head, shoulders hunched, licking of the lips, squinting of the eyes, sidling up to the owner. But, sometimes, it doesn't look like this at all. Some dogs jump on you when they’re confused.
Some dogs will use a common “calming signal”, turning the head away and avoiding eye contact. It’s as if the dog is saying, "Hey, you’re making me nervous. You get a hold of yourself and I'll make eye contact when you're calm."
My Golden Retriever is, let's just say, not your typical Golden. When she feels that I am stressed or frustrated she doesn't respond to simple cues, like "sit" or "stay". Instead she slinks over to me, tucks her body close to mine or looks away. If I don’t recognize how I’m affecting her, we get stuck in that appeasement cycle with me slowly eroding her confidence. Then I take a deep breath, smile, relax and change the tone of my voice from "impatient" to "friendly" and she can cooperate normally.
We know that dogs are experts at reading body language, but, they are also masters at noticing when we are emotionally unstable. I love that she helps me recognize when I need to chill out. She reminds me that anxiety and disobedience or two completely different things.
Let's be honest. Everyone lies. We lie because telling the truth would hurt someone's feelings. We lie about why we don't want to visit that relative we don't like. We lie about why we are returning an item to Amazon so we don’t have to pay the shipping. We lie because we learned at a young age that one way or another, it's to our advantage. Humans lie. Dogs don't. In fact dogs are incapable of lying. If they don't trust something or someone, they let us know with clear body language and emotionally based behaviors. And yet, humans try to train their dogs to lie everyday.
If our dogs exhibit fear aggression toward other dogs, people, the vet, children and so on owners respond with harsh words or leash corrections. We love our dogs, but, that's how desperate we are to teach our dogs to lie about their feelings.
Use good management to support and protect your dog. If your dog is exhibiting strong emotions and you'd like to improve them, call a professional for help.
And one more thing, believe the dog. Dogs don't lie.
Group obedience classes are a phenomenon in our culture that started back in the 60's The format rooted itself in our minds as the way to train our rookie dogs. But, is a group class the best context for your dog to learn what you want them to know?
The template for group classes started as a way for breed and obedience clubs to practice together to prepare for obedience trials. Punishment based training was the order of the day. All dogs wore choke chains to administer corrections for emotional outbursts or inability to respond to cues. It was a bleak time for dog training.
Should young or untrained dogs be trained in groups and in unfamiliar environments?
For some dogs, this distracting format is a valuable opportunity to learn impulse control and for the owners to learn techniques to get and keep their dog's attention. A large percentage of dogs have good to acceptable amounts of success in group classes. There are trainers well versed in helping a classroom full of owners integrate what they have learned into their specific home environments.
But, what about dogs who are leash reactive, fearful, timid or aggressive? Dogs with these emotionally based issues do not belong in a group environment. They simply cannot learn when their brains are operating in a fight or flight mode.
Imagine your worst phobia, let's say, fear of spiders. You are put into a room with several dozen large and small spiders crawling about the space and towards you. A teacher enters the room and says, "Open your algebra books to page 17..." Can you honestly say you would be able to concentrate on anything but keeping the spiders away?
Some owners believe that the group class format will include corrections for the dog's "bad" behavior. What the human fails to recognize is that emotions drive behavior. Punishing reactivity, aggression, or fear will suppress, not, eliminate the problem. Tossing the dog into the "deep end of the pool" and then expecting them to swim will produce a few survivors and many drownings.
There are wonderful group class trainers for dogs with mild to no reactivity and fear. And there are equally good and more appropriate options in private training for dogs who need to start their education in a comfortable state of mind. Most owners choose private training because it fits into a busy schedule. Many owners would benefit from recognizing dogs who need a stress free environment to learn new behaviors and skills.
Of all the commands we give our dogs, "no" is probably the most frequent and least productive. In human terms, imagine going to work in an office where your supervisor introduces you to your job in this manner: "Here's the office. I'm not going to tell you what your job is, but, every time you do something that's not part of your job description, I'll yell out, "NO!". How long would you be willing to work under those conditions?
"No" is simply not enough information, because it keeps the dog guessing about what is a legal behavior.
I like to call no a "place holder". A "place holder" cue should be something we can use to interrupt a behavior...until we gather our wits and give the dog a cue that replaces the behavior with something better or at least something incompatible. Before your head starts spinning, let me give you an example:
You dog may jump for joy when you get home. An incompatible behavior cue would be "sit" because if he's sitting he can't be jumping. Now you can calmly and quietly scratch your dog under the chin (if they are capable of sitting still) or you can grab a toy and toss it away from your body and say, "go get it". Again, he can't be jumping on you if he's chasing a ball. If you do this everyday for a month, the dog might start sitting instead of jumping or arriving expectantly with his ball, backing up slowly as he positions himself for a flying catch! But, you have to establish the habit.
Let's say your dog is barking at a squirrel in the yard. If you go out and say "no bark" (I still can't understand how that term became so popular), the dog doesn't understand that you mean for the next hour...or forever. So, they stop momentarily and you think you've got it all under control. Then the dog starts to bark again. He's done everything you've asked him to do, but now you're mad. The incompatible behavior cue I use for barking is "come" (which you need to work on daily with any dog). When the dog gets to me I reward them and then...and here's the big reveal, I take them inside the house and offer them something more productive to do, like a bully stick or a dog puzzle.
You have to remember that "no" isn't enough information. The dog has to do something, so ask yourself, what is a reasonable behavior for each undesirable situation . You can't say "no" and expect the dog to know what it is you actually want him to do.
The word "correction" has such a negative implication to me that when I hear it used by an owner, I get a little....well, negative. So, I looked the word up in the dictionary.
correction |kəˈrekSHən| Noun the action or process of correcting something • a change that rectifies an error or inaccuracy • used to introduce an amended version of something one has just said • punishment, esp. that of criminals in prison intended to rectify their behavior.
The last definition is the one that most people have in mind when they use this word to describe correcting their dog's behavior. The doing of physical harm to teach a dog what not to do.
But, looking at the origin of the word I find something that makes more sense:
ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin correctio(n-), from corrigere ‘make straight, bring into order’
I like the original intent of this word. There is no mention of physical punishment, merely the act of bringing order. This true definition fits so nicely with my training philosophy:
Discover what need the unwanted behavior fills for the dog.
Find a new way to fill that need.
Figure out what you want the dog to do in it's place and teach them to do it on cue.
Reward the new behavior with something the dog values, thus conditioning the new behavior to replace the old one.
Bring order to the dog's behavior.
So, how do I respond to owners who want to know how to correct their dog's behavior? I ask them the million dollar question:
What would you like them to do instead?
Six months ago I traveled to a small town in Belize. Over a week’s time I had several opportunities to observe the “village dogs”. These are free-roaming dogs that may or may not have owners. My first response to them was sympathy. As a rule they are thin and lack the robust look and activity level of the typical European or American pet dog. But the more I watched them, the more I started to feel sympathy for my own dogs back at home instead. The Village dogs were free to come and go. They slept in yards and outside the doors of local shops. Some approached people for attention or food, others played with each other without incident. Their body language was loose and relaxed.
After six days of observation, I had not seen one fight between dogs or any aggression towards people. What do these dogs know that the average dog in the United States doesn’t know? Are domestic dogs in “developed” countries losing the ability to get along with each other?
Based on the number of phone calls to trainers about dog-dog aggression, I’d say the answer is, YES. So, with all the advantages money can buy, why are our pet dogs becoming more and more aggressive with each other? The answer:
Lack of regular, frequent interaction with a variety of stable dogs of varying ages
Ignorance of dog culture and social communication skills
Expectations that all dogs must get along with each other
Typical pet dogs start their socially isolated lives when they leave their litter mates and move in with humans, often as an only dog. Isolation during puppyhood prevents them from learning critical social skills and body language from stable adult dogs and other puppies.
But, socialization is a buzz word that is poorly understood and often dispensed without specific techniques for success. By the time I met her, Emma had become a statistic; she was the Grand Slam of socialization mistakes. A new client had adopted Emma from a local rescue at 4 month of age. They were told, “This dog needs plenty of socialization”. They were sent on their way to guess what “plenty of socialization” means. The dog spent the next 4 months being flooded with trips to the dog park, leash walks through the crowded streets of the local farmers market, being led right up the noses of other dogs, and a week long stay at a boarding kennel.
As it turns out, Emma’s natural temperament was extremely cautious and she had learned some disastrous lessons about the world. Her owners, like many others, had only good intentions, but no reliable information. They believed what most people believe, “all dogs must get along with each other and with every person they meet“. By 8 months, Emma had become fear aggressive towards other dogs and extremely timid meeting new people.
The village dogs in Belize have so many advantages over dogs like Emma. They are never leashed so they always have the ability to move a safe distance from potential threats. Compared to our dogs, who are tied to us and set out like the goat in Jurassic Park, with no way to escape, the Village dogs learn to use innate body language signals to work out social contact peacefully. When a pet dog is presented to another dog on leash the result will normally be one of two responses:
Over-exuberance (brought on by a lack of education about social skills)
Avoidance and fear
The first scenario may cause the other dog to “correct” the dog with growling or snapping. The second situation may result in the fearful dog learning to skip all the lower level warning signals and go straight to the bark, snap or bite to protect themselves because it’s the only thing that works.
According to Dr. Ian Dunbar, veterinarian, dog behaviorist, speaker and author, “Free-Roaming Village puppies enter a functional social group. They are low man on the totem pole and they learn pretty quickly who to avoid and when to avoid them. Dr. Dunbar shares that village puppies are taught the following lessons without overt aggression by stable adult members of the group.
Be polite. It’s not okay to run up to an adult dog’s face
Avert your gaze
Acknowledge your lower rank
Ask for permission to approach, investigate or play
Our puppies and dogs, in order to live safely in our culture, are fenced, crated, confined inside the house and leashed. In general, they have no social group to teach them how to get along with other dogs. So we take them to puppy class to give them at least a few weeks of social exposure. If the owners are lucky, they find an instructor who has an extensive education about puppy behavior from which to learn. But many owners don’t continue the dog’s education into adolescence.
More and more young dogs become unruly and socially awkward. Some become bullies and others are just downright dangerous. A few of these dogs end up being “socialized” in our dog parks. It’s a dog’s natural instinct to avoid dogs that are threatening, but how can a frightened dog avoid an out of control “canine missile” that is barreling towards them across an enclosed park? It is rare for either of the owners to intervene when this happens.
Animal ethologist, Marc Bekoff, Phd, writes in The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint “Animals at play are constantly working to understand and follow the rules and to communicate their intentions to play fairly. They fine-tune their behavior on the run, carefully monitoring the behavior of their play partners and paying close attention to infractions of the agreed-upon rules. Four basic aspects of fair play in animals are: Ask first, be honest, follow the rules, and admit you're wrong. When the rules of play are violated, and when fairness breaks down, so does play.”
What Needs To Change to Keep Our Dogs Productively Social?
Operation Socialization: Follow the common sense rules set out by Operation Socialization, an online resource for creating an emotionally and behaviorally healthy puppy
Never force: Take it slow with your dog or puppy. Don’t force him to face something he finds scary or unpleasant. Instead, gradually create a positive association with the scary situation until your puppy confidently and willingly meets the challenge.
Help Them Create Appropriate Distance: Because our dogs need to walk safely on a leash, create distance for them by moving away from other dogs and then evaluating that dog’s behavior. Read Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas to learn how to “arc” around other dogs to simulate natural calming behavior.
Educate Yourself: Take classes where the dogs are treated with respect. Use positive methods that will instill trust in the dog and create safe and favorable associations with other dogs (and other people). Get help from a professional.
Safe Socialization Scenarios: In addition to puppy socialization, consider Day care for adolescent dogs. Many dog day care facilities offer play groups that respect each dog’s play style so that rambunctious players don’t mix with shy or quiet dogs. Your dog should be evaluated by a knowledgable staff member for play “fitness”. Or find a neighbor who’s dog has appropriate play skills that match that of your own dog and get these dogs together for play regularly.
Dogs need fences: Based on laws governing property rights and for the safety of our canine family members, we do need fences. If your dog can see other dogs through windows or fences and their response is to bark, fence fight or become overly aroused, create a visual obstruction so the dog can’t rehearse this frustrated or territorial aggression. Many owners want their dogs to “see” the world go by because it’s the dog’s only boredom busting activity. Give your dog safe chew toys or problem solving “puzzle” activities. Take them for long runs in the park to work off excess energy. Interrupt fence running or window barking and take away the dog’s access to this scenario.
Dog Park? If your dog has a history of aggression or fear, do not take them to dog parks. Dog Parks are for the safe play of socially healthy dogs who have the right to play without being set up as “bait” for other aggressive dogs. If your dog is fearful, it is a short ride to aggression if even other friendly players approach them. Contact a behavior specialist or trainer who will help you to find appropriate activities for your dog and who will teach you how to safely and compassionately improve your dog’s responses to other dogs.
Dogs discriminate. It is to their advantage to be able to decide who is safe to have contact with and who isn’t. Nobody’s dog needs to be friends with every dog they meet and if your dog “corrects” another dog for inappropriately dangerous social behavior, don’t punish the corrector. A dog who growls or snaps at an unruly adolescent is well within their rights to teach the other dog what they are doing wrong. The unruly dog actually needs this kind of response to learn the rules of social interaction. Move the dogs away from each other. Don’t let the “correction” escalate to self-defense.
Sharing is not a survival strategy. Don’t expect your dog to share valuable food or chew items. If your dog covers his filled Kong with his head, freezes and lifts his lip at an approaching dog, understand that this is normal dog behavior and a productive communication to the other dog. The higher the value of the resource, especially food resources, the more likely a dog will actively guard them. If necessary, separate dogs when offering high value chew items.
Be your dog’s advocate. Respect who they are and keep them safe.
There are still many dogs in North America and Europe that are dog friendly, but, the scales are starting to tip towards a new “norm” where dogs have no practical social skills when it comes to getting along with other dogs. We are our dog’s guardians. We take on the responsibility to create lives for them that are safe, happy and productive. We need to become the facilitators of a good social education. We owe them at least that much.
This is for dog lovers who think all dogs value petting as a training or social reward, I challenge you to go out to any rural area where there are feral dogs and find one that willingly approaches you and stands underneath your hand to be petted on the head. This photo is from a study done in Italy about people's reactions to having a stranger approach them and pet them on the head. The results are in...nobody wanted a stranger to make contact with them in this way.
The truth is that dogs need to learn to value petting. It's not hard wired like their innate merit of food. A dog can live their whole life without being petted, and be quite happy by doggy standards.
When we factor in dogs who are cautious, suspicious, under-socialized, fearful, etc...head petting, or any physical contact, is the last thing timid or fearful dogs want.
Be your dog's advocate. If she is cautious around new people or downright scared of them, put your dog's needs first. Tell the approaching invader to stand quietly and wait for the dog to come to them. In some circumstances, it better just to say that your dog will take a rain check on being petted today.
I often speak with owners who want to train their dogs to respond in extraordinary ways.
They want Border Collies that don't herd the kids
Shelties that never bark at people jogging past the yard.
German Shepherds who have rarely stepped off their property and have had almost no productive socialization to welcome strangers in their home or yard.
Siberian Huskies that will turn around on a dime and come back when they are running off in true bliss.
A Toy Poodle who has never trusted children to refrain from snapping at the grandchildren, no matter what the grandchildren do to them.
Dog owners now believe that no matter what breed of dog they have, there should be an easy, quick training plan that will eliminate natural breed or dog behaviors with no change to the human's behavior, no management and virtually no training at all.
I am well past the age of 60. I have been a good shape, but, never a professional athlete. I wish I could become a professional ballerina. But no matter what trainer/teacher/coach or magician I call, no one can turn me into a principle dancer in the New York City Ballet or any other company for that matter. Not gonna happen in this lifetime. What I can do is pay better attention to my diet, get more exercise, do yoga, and be the best I can be. No one could threaten or punish me into being a professional dancer.Dog owners would do well to understand this fact.
Here are some general problem solving tips to help people start thinking on the right track about hard-wired breed specific behavior:
• Is there a way you can redirect the dog’s behavior more productively? Example: Teach your Retriever how to carry objects to you since they are so “mouth-oriented”.
• What needs to change to set them up to succeed? Example: If your Giant Schnauzer runs out the doggie door to bark at everything they deem “dangerous”, block the doggie door and control the dog’s access to the yard. Or, create a visual barrier with the fencing using plants or landscaping fabric.
• Can you use your dog’s “super power” as a reward for interrupting their activity and focusing on you? Example: If your Shepherd is rewarded with a good tug and release game when they come when called, they will be happy to stop barking at people passing by and come when you call them.
• What kind of good management should you use to realistically minimize the behavior? Example: If your Sheltie chases the grandchildren when they are running in the backyard, keep the dog in the house and give her a bully stick or other safe chew item.
Leash Pulling has traditionally been "corrected" with sharp jerks of a leash connected to a choke chain. A leash correction can be very dangerous to your dog. There is a high risk of permanent tracheal collapse and spinal and nerve damage in the neck. They are painful to the dog. So why are we still using them? Why would humans want to hurt the dogs they love?
I offer as an alternative, patience. Breathe and count to ten or until the moment of leash pulling frustration passes. In moments of our arousal and tension, we need clear thinking to be in a problem solving mode. Here are some questions that you might as yourself:
What does the dog want when they pull or lunge and why do they do it?
What do you want the dog to do instead?
Are you letting the dog choose the speed and direction on a walk and then getting angry with them for their choices?
If dogs do what serves them, how do we reinforce the leash walking behaviors we want from the dog?
What in the environment is not helping solve the pulling problem?
What can the human do to change the dog’s state or keep them interested in us during a walk?
"Make sure the dog has had some exercise prior to a walk ....walks tend to take a lot of impulse control for dogs and are not as much about exercise as we think. "
“Another thing that works is to connect a very lightweight choke chain between the collar and the leash. When the dog puts the chain in their mouth, it doesn’t feel good and they usually drop it on their own.”
"Practice Leave It and Givein the front yard with the dog's leash on when you are not going anywhere. This training exercise is about the leash issue, not about walking. When you do go for a walk, give her something to carry and if she drops it and grabs and starts going for the leash, say, LEAVE IT. "
"The consequence of the dog trying to get you to play tug with the leash is much too rewarding. She grabs it and you try to pull it out of her mouth. If you stop tugging, she'll have no reason to repeat this behavior. She's probably really smart and really bored by leash walking. Put a long line (at least 10 feet)on your dog and their leash. Start to walk. When the dog grabs the leash in her mouth, drop it immediately and keep walking. Remember, you are also holding a long line. The dog isn't going anywhere. Repeat this exercise at least a couple of times a day for a few days. If she's a young dog, she will probably grow out of this behavior. "
"I find that waiting, marking and rewarding for releasing the lead and not being in a hurry works every time."
"I have had dogs do this in response to a tight leash. They grabbed the leash to release the pressure on the collar."
"My own dog did this like crazy when she was a puppy so I gave her her own leash to carry. Worked like a charm- and she grew out of it when she was about 9 months old. "
"Is she anxious? Does she not want to be on the end of the lead? Is she trying to dictate the direction of the walk? Is she over-aroused? If in class, is it all too much for her?"
Some trainers (or television personalities) will tell you that you can teach your dog that your 6 year old is a "Pack Leader". For the love of kibbles and bits! Your dog is too smart to believe that! It's good to help your child learn to give cues to the dog. Teaching a simple hand signal for sit is a great way for the child to tell the dog what to do before the dog jumps on them. You can teach children to give simple cues and commands to an already trained dog. However, all but a very small group of very mature children can be your dog’s “parent or trainer”.
The reason why it won't work is that most of the time the child spends in the dog's presence is spent being a child. They run, scream, flail arms and legs, jump, wrestle. All of these normal child behaviors tell your dog exactly who your child is: a juvenile litter mate. Dogs are very good at reading body language. They make judgements about almost everything based on the body language of other individuals, both dog and human.
The best way to handle kids and dogs is to realize that your child doesn't have the body awareness to communicate kind authority to the dog. Supervise. Teach children to be gentle with the dog. Teach them how to signal the dog to sit. Teach them to ask for help when a young dog becomes too excited.
When your dog is following your child as they race through the yard, jumping on them and mouthing, realize that the children are inviting them to play. When there's going to be a lot of running around, give the dog a chew bone and quiet place to enjoy it.