Our two dogs in some manner have got a 6th sense. I can be seated on the couch simply completing my supper and starting to watch a favorite TV show… and there they are, looking at me longingly, four huge brown eyes! They’re betting that whether I want to or not, we’re going for a walk and I guess I know it as well deep down. So I hit the record button and off we go. Once more, whether I want to or not!
We all make our way out the door with all the usual ceremonies of me saying “sit” and “come” and then working our way down the street in a very mannerly way. Now, my two girls are extremely well behaved, and that has taken some work. Many hours of “Breaking the Spell” you could say… walks with them have become easier and easier and extremely predicable. I no longer have to worry about them not focusing, apart from on the unexpected rabbit or squirrel, they will stay fairly focused.
Mostly our strolls encompass walking on loose leashes, although my youngest could very easily be a sled dog…She truly will try to remain beside me, but in her enthusiasm she always manages to lead the walk, and she’ll always look back to see if we’re keeping up….even when she has to understand she is only able to go 6′ in any direction.
Okay, so now we’re walking… and this is the thing. Through the years I have had the opportunity to fix conduct that i do not want. Tugging, jumping, not heeling… all extremely correctable. My greatest problem however has been what I call, “Breaking the Spell”. Dogs, and my dogs aren’t any exception, get off track very quickly when they see a thing that interests them. As I pointed out before insects, gophers, rabbits, squirrels all present a test for the owner…some less than others, but confronting another owner with a dog or dogs is much more interesting and much less predictable.
It has been my experience lately with rare exception, that dog owners during their walks rarely maintain their pets focus on the walk. My girls and I have approached many dogs and owners and you can view the approaching dog fixate on my dogs. Then typically comes growling or even the unexpected lunge and what you end up getting is the owner jerking on the dogs collar, and yelling “NO”, and rather forcefully attempting to correct them after the damage has been done.
So here’s the deal. Correct the behavior when you see it coming, not after.
When you see your dog begin to fixate or stare at something, “Break the Spell”. A sharp jerk on the lead to correct them is generally sufficient…Be sure to watch them and make the correction as many times as needed to keep their focus on the walk and not the distraction…. just be very consistent or this will not work… but be selective. I let them fixate on things that are natural and instinctive to their breed. Bugs, squirrels, rabbits etc.
Some dogs will become possessive and protective when they are on a lead… we have to keep them calm as masters, and diverting to a calmer state is a sure way for doing that.
You should divert the dogs focus back to the walk. Keep the growling and the barking and the lunging for when and intruder comes through your doorway, not on a leisurely walk. This should help you and your dog be at peace with the walk and the anxiety that used to be there will disappear. More escapades to come! Best of luck to all with your training adventures!