In our last blog we looked at how to manage your dogs behavior while out on your walks, specifically what techniques to use to prevent pulling and jumping towards strangers or other dogs. Once you are managing your walks, it’s time to start training. You are going to begin at home, with no distractions and gradually move to harder and harder situations.
You are going to work on 3 concepts: keeping focus on you, loose leash walking, and sit to greet or leave it.
If your dog can master these 3 training skills, she will be a polite walker regardless of where you go.
Focusing on You
There are many ways to teach this. Some people teach their dog with a “watch me,” or simply their name as a cue for their dog to give them eye contact. Others, especially those competing in obedience, teach their dog to offer (meaning no cue needed) eye contact almost all the time.
Whatever you choose is up to you and your goals for your dog. The point is to have your dog be able to focus on you – whether on cue or not – whatever situation he is in.
Start somewhere easy, like in your home and use a tasty treat such as pieces of Peppy Pooch Venison Sticks to get their attention, plus plenty of praise.
Once you can get your dog to offer you eye contact at home, then move to the backyard or front porch – somewhere with distractions at a distance.
You will gradually build up distractions until your dog will look at you even if someone is walking right by them.
Loose Leash Walking
If your dog has been rewarded enough for walking nicely on the leash, lunging forward to greet people will not seem as fun anymore.
Like with focus, there are a few ways to teach this. You can work on a formal heel – dog right at your side on the left – or allow your dog to move a bit, as long as the leash stays loose.
However, you need to choose your criteria and stick with it. Later, you can use a cue and have two types of walking - a heel and a more relaxed walk if you wish, but at the beginning you may confuse your dog if you go back and forth.
Also, at each session, choose a side and stay with it. You don’t want your dog to switch back and forth, they can trip you doing that.
Again, practice this, at first, in quiet places and slowly build up distractions. Having your dog’s focus will help make this easier. You can use smaller pieces of Peppy Pooch Bully Bites as a way of ensuring your dog keeps their focus on you while you are out on your walk.
Sit to Greet
If your dog is lunging out of friendliness, then you are going to work on a sit-to-greet protocol. This teaches him that an approaching human means “sit.” An auto-behavior like this makes it impossible for him to do his old behavior, because they are at odds with each other.
Start by putting him on a tie-down (immovable object) and practice with just you (you are the least “exciting” person in his life). If he sits – he gets pets. If he lunges, barks, pulls, etc. stand silently and ignore him until he sits.
Once he is sitting every time you approach, start practicing on friends and family members.
Teaching your dog something like a paw shake as a way of greeting can also help squash the need to jump - your dog will offer a paw instead.
Gradually move up to strangers (who are usually more exciting)
If your dog is lunging out of fear, do not expect him to sit to greet. This will be way out of his comfort zone and he may bite someone. Instead, teach him to ‘Leave People’ or to play ‘Look at That’ (see something scary, get a reward) when he passes by people.
Of course, all of this takes a great deal of time and patience but the rewards are well worth the effort. Give it a go, and good luck!