[Noozhawk’s note: Second in a two-part series. Click here for the first part.]
In our recent column “Tips for Keeping ‘Ruff’ Housing From Getting Too Rough, Part I,” we addressed behavioral concerns from an Inquisitive Canine guardian regarding her 4-month-old puppy, Tucker, and her 3-year-old dog, Polo, both border collie Labrador mixes. We shared our management and dog training tips for dog-play and counter-surfing.
Inquisitive Canine reader Lauren Pascoa also had concerns about dog-dog on-leash reactivity. She wrote about Tucker: “He also gets very defensive and vicious when passing by other dogs during a walk.” We will be addressing this concern as well as providing resources to help this family find a local certified professional dog trainer such as myself to continue raising a healthy and happy dog.
We hope that you all have been having success since our last column, rewarding behaviors you like, managing your environment, and creating a harmonious environment between humans and canines. Behavior modification takes time, so having realistic expectations will help ensure you set yourselves up for success!
Now that you’ve had some time to work with Tucker at home, we’d like to help you move out into the world of loose-leash walking. We will also provide information to help you find local dog-training services. Local classes would be an ideal choice not only to help establish a baseline of good behaviors, but to maintain them over the years. Plus, it’s just something fun to do! It could be a good-manners course (aka “obedience”) or something more sporty such as canine agility.
When considering on-leash reactivity toward other dogs, keep in mind that leashes are “the ties that bind.” Imagine being an exuberant social puppy who wants to say hello to every other dog, person, cat, cyclist and leaf that passes by. Now imagine not being able to do so. Can you even begin to consider the amount of frustration that can build up? I equate leashes for dogs creating an emotional response similar for humans being stuck in a traffic jam — wanting to get to something you aren’t able to get to and that you have little or no control over. What does this mean for you? How do you help the situation you’re having? Simple. You’ll want to make leash-walking experiences fun for Tucker. A few training exercises would consist of:
» Reward Tucker for walking next to you. I can never emphasize enough how important it is to express gratitude to any human and non-human animal when he or she is doing what you want — even when you didn’t ask. Often times, we ignore the nice behaviors and only pay attention when the bad ones pop up. Not only does this place focus on what we don’t want, it also results in inadvertently reinforcing these unwanted behavior. So again, reward what you want!
» Redirect Tucker’s focus to something more enticing. You can enjoy playing the “Watch me” or “Find it” game. Looking at you gets rewarded, or using his canine scent skill to search for treats you’ve tossed on the ground. Plus, if these activities only happen when other dogs are around, he’ll start to associate other dogs with feelings of pleasure vs. irritation.
» Change up the pace. If you are both medically cleared to do so, try altering the pace of your walk. When other dogs are around, you can pick up the pace and walk more quickly or even trot while maintaining a cheerful attitude.
» Practice training exercises: Sit, down, stay, “Watch me,” shake, high-five, rollover and any other trick or behavior Tucker knows would all be good to practice when you’re out and about. These types of behavior training episodes not only help strengthen his skills, but they will keep his mind occupied on more productive activities, as opposed to barking and lunging toward other dogs.
For more information, check out these simple tips for leash walking Tucker on my dog training blog.
» Finding local dog training resources: There are many organizations that list dog training professionals. You can check out our Inquisitive Canine resources page for a few of these listings, along with links to their Web sites. You can also complete your own search, but we highly recommend you work with those who practice humane, reward-based training methods. Many of the dog training services might include classes and workshops, as well as private training. “Boot Camps” can be beneficial, but remember it will be up to you and other family members to maintain the behaviors once Tucker is living back at home.
» Additionally, you can also look through our Dear Inquisitive Canine archived columns on Noozhawk, as well as training tips and resources on our Inquisitive Canine blog.
We commend you for reaching out and wanting to resolve these issues. Remember, as I state in my Top 10 Tips for Successful Training, it’s important to know your animal, have realistic expectations and reward what you want. With providing alternate outlets for Tucker to help relieve all of his energy, along with teaching and a side order of patience and understanding, I’m sure you, your family and Polo will be able to help Tucker and his playful personality conform to your lifestyle.