One of the biggest complaints I receive from pet owners besides barking and jumping is that their dogs simply will not pay attention to them in public. They are so distracted. Here are some simple tips to teach your dog to acknowledge and check in with you. Remember the more that you reinforce a behavior, the more likely it is to increase.
- Have your dog earn all of their rewards. For me this is the most important foundation to all training. It is simple, easy and once made a part of your everyday routine establishes your position as leader. Waiting for the food bowl, having your dog wait and then on permission follow you outside, waiting when crossing the street and asking permission before being allowed on the sofa by offering a behavior are all a part of the plan.
- Teach your dog to look at you. Start in a quiet place like your home, then move outdoors and try different venues like pet stores and banks. One way to do this is to praise your dog every time they look at you. Another is to actually teach this behavior by taking a treat and placing it up by your nose so that as your dog looks at you they look into your eyes. A quick ‘Yes” to confirm their success. Then once they understand see if you can move the treat to the side of your face, say their name and get eye contact. Say your dog’s name and then WAIT for them to look at you. Say it once. And when they do big praise and a nice treat.
- Be interesting! Besides using your voice you can pat your leg, change your pace and your voice, use a sound that catches their attention, master silly walks. The goal is to be far more interesting than anything else in the environment. Squeak a toy, whistle or prance and when you get that look praise and treat.
- Take your training on the road. In the photo above Krista and I are practicing at Porcelanosa in Ramsey, NJ. Ask permission from local store owners. Pet stores are a good place to start, moving up to local banks which for the most part are dog-friendly. Remember to bring a treat pouch so you can work hands-free, wear comfortable shoes, and have your dog go to the bathroom BEFORE you even think of entering the store. When training outside the home I make sure that my dog will WAIT until I give her permission to leave the car and before entering any building. Most pet-friendly shop owners will be thrilled to see that you have practiced this skill. And once your dog has begun getting in the habit of working for you it just gets better and better!
What treats do I use for training in public? Cooked chicken, beef and cheese cut up into very small pieces. When the weather is warmer I bring a small lunch tote with ice to keep things fresh.
My next article is dining with your dog in public.
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Copyright Canines Can Do, llc® Dorice Stancher 2016, all rights reserved.
Get your walking started off right!
- Teach your dog to pay attention. Before you even put the leash on make sure that you train your dog to look at you. Say their name and treat when they turn to make eye contact with you. Practice in a variety of places and use high value rewards and praise. All dogs should learn the “touch” command where you present a flat palm and they touch with their noses. This will help your dog to learn to follow your hands and to help you get them in the right position.
- Choose your equipment wisely. I like the use of a 6ft. leash preferably made of leather, and either a flat collar, martingale or the Easy Walk harness. I do not recommend the use of a slip or prong collar especially on a puppy. This is because of the damage that can happen to the trachea if the collar is not positioned properly, and the fact that in the very beginning your dog will pull and be strung up in a very uncomfortable walk. And they may equate the choking and pain with the approaching child or dog that they just can’t wait to greet.
- Take the time to practice heeling patterns. This teaches your dog when to move and how to follow closely by your side. When teaching heeling we often face our dogs firs treating them for coming and then turning forward in the heel position. Another popular method is heeling around cones at different paces in a figure-eight. The main thing is to be creative and do the opposite of what your dog wants to do. In order to engage your dog you should change your pace to make things interesting. And you can bring a small toy with a squeaker to engage their interest. Don’t forget to bring some tasty treats and praise for good behavior. Practice makes perfect!
- Shape heeling behavior by using walls. One of the easiest methods to teach heeling is to find a long building in a safe area where you can practice with your dog on your left side against the wall creating a narrow space so they are focused on proceeding ahead by your side.
- Be patient and have fun! On your first experiences teaching your dog to walk you may not get very far but with patience your dog will be a willing companion.
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Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA , Master Trainer Canines Can Do, llc ®
It’s loud, embarrassing and drives many dog owners to just give up walking. Lunging and growling at other dogs and people can be a challenge, but with the help of a professional trainer and a few changes in the way you handle your dog, you can get this behavior under control.
- Have your dog earn all of his rewards including meeting another dog. When dogs are not given limits they simply try to take what they want. When you have your dog earn his food and treats, wait politely as you go through doorways first, and in general respect you he is more likely to listen to you. Have your dog learn to do something like touch your hand or sit in order to earn the opportunity to meet a friend.
- Teach your dog to look at you. So many dogs will just ignore their owners when in pubic. Start training in a quiet place using high value treats and then gradually add distractions.
- Learn and practice heeling in a circle. Heeling in a circle and adding U-turns helps you control what your dog sees and has access to. It puts you back in charge and allows you to move away from the other dog under control and with confidence.
- Use an Easy Walk harness, Gentle Leader or similar product. Sometimes dogs will lunge out of fear and adding the pain of a prong or choke collar not only can harm your dog but actually increase anxiety. This is because your dog may actually begin to associate the discomfort with the approach of the dog or human.
- Use a marker sound or word to indicate success. When teaching a new behavior your dog will need to know he is on the right track. I use the word YES or a clicker to isolate and reward good behavior.
- Be patient and practice often. Change does not happen right away and takes multiple reinforcement.
- Consult a force-free trainer. Since anyone can say they are a dog trainer make sure that your prospective candidates have the CPDT-KA designation and discuss and observe their training style.
Put on your walking shoes, bring your soft and high value treats and get started training your dog to be a pleasure walking!
©Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA Canines Can Do, llc