Exercise is incredibly important for both the physical and mental health of your dog. Dogs need to get outside, and that doesn’t mean just going out into the yard. Taking your dog for a walk or playing ball at the park is an excellent way to make sure your pooch has the right amount of exercise he needs, and it will only help strengthen your bond. However, it’s not always as simple as it sounds.
Do you dread walking your dog because you end up apologizing to everyone you meet? As soon as your dog gets within reach, is she lunging, jumping, and pulling you over, while clobbering innocent passerby?
We feel your pain.
Leash lunging is not only embarrassing, it can be dangerous. Even if your dog is doing it out of over-friendly exuberance, they can injure a person. Worse still are the dogs that do it out of fear – they are the ones that might end up biting the person (or dog) they are lunging toward.
Regardless of why your dog is doing it, it needs to be stopped for the sake of others, and so you no longer have to dread walking your best friend.
We’ll cover training in the next article when plenty of patience and suitable dog treat rewards will be required. The first thing to do is manage the situation while you are working on training. Training will not fix the behavior overnight, so in the meantime, you need to figure out how to prevent the behavior from happening.
This is important! Why? Because the more your dog lunges, the harder it will be for you to get rid of the behavior. ESPECIALLY if your dog gets rewarded for it once in a while. For example, if every tenth person doesn’t seem to mind your dog clobbering them and then makes a big fuss petting him, your dog is being rewarded for the behavior and it will get stronger, even with training.
Here are some ways you can manage the behavior:
Take your walks during “quiet times” and in quiet areas that have fewer people.
Make sure your dog is on something you can control him with – a lot of bigger dogs actually have more leverage with a harness, you would be better off with a martingale collar (so they can’t slip out) and a Gentle Leader. For smaller dogs, a front clasp harness is a good choice.
Exercise him before the walk, so his “crazies” are out. Play fetch in the backyard etc.
Keep him on a short leash, by your side. Do not give him all the leash. DO NOT USE A FLEXI-LEAD!
If your dog starts to pull, keep a hold of the leash, but also step on it (as long as your dog can’t pull you off your feet).
Start walking the other direction as soon as your dog “engages” with a stranger – stares, starts to walk forward, hackles raised, etc.
Warn passerby’s that your dog may lunge at them so they can keep their distance. If people approach you wanting to say hi, tell them no and keep walking.
Bring a favorite toy with you and start to play with your dog when you walk by a person, thus distracting them from their usual routine. This only works with dogs that are highly toy driven and even then, the stranger may be higher value than the toy.
Alternatively, carry a favorite treat that can easily be used to keep their attention on you. We use Peppy Pooch Venison Sticks to great effect - they can be easily broken into small pieces and are usually much more interesting than strangers.
These are just a few tips for preventing the lunging while you are working with your dog. You may find one or maybe all of these is useful depending on your dog and the situation. Next time we’ll look at training to help your dog become a well mannered, polite and Peppy Pooch!