The first thing most dog owners think about before they walk their dogs is “do they have doggie bags with them”. That’s great but there are other things you should be prepared for on a walk.
What if you come into contact with another dog owner with an aggressive dog?
What if your dog is startled by the sound of a siren from an ambulance or fire truck?
These are just two situations that most people are not prepared for and, as a result, they may not know how to react to control their dogs.
Here are some typical situations that you might come across while you are walking your dog and some suggestions to help you deal with them. Be as observant as you can and be aware of your surroundings. Focus on your dog and avoid distractions like cell phones.
Joggers – You may encounter joggers on the sidewalk or on a jogging trail. Whenever possible, step back from the sidewalk or path (e.g. onto a driveway), put your dog in a sit-stay, distract him with a small treat or toy and allow the jogger to pass by. Then when the jogger is gone, praise your dog for not reacting. This also reduces the chances that your dog will jump up or bark at the jogger.
Bicycles – Normally bicycles would be on the road and would not be an issue when you are walking your dog. However, if your dog gets excited when he sees a bicycle nearby, talk to your dog and then use a small treat or toy to get him to focus on you. If the bicycle is on the sidewalk, use the technique from Point 1 above and step back from the sidewalk onto a driveway until the bicycle has passed by and remember to praise your dog for not reacting.
Aggressive Dogs – Dealing with aggressive dogs can be frightening and intimidating. When you encounter someone walking with an aggressive dog and they are on the same side of the street as you are, your first option is to cross the street and remove yourself and your dog from close contact with the other dog. This is one situation where you do not want to stop and have your dog sit. Just the opposite, talk to your dog, use a treat or toy to distract him and keep him moving and remember to praise him when he stays focused on you.
Stop to talk to a friend – Teaching your dog how to behave when he meets your friends is a routine that we cover in our first basic obedience class. Whether you are indoors or outdoors, the process is the same. As your friend approaches you and your dog, have your dog sit and give him the stay command. Then your friend should make eye contact and speak to you first and give attention to your dog second. Next your friend offers their hand for your dog to sniff. If your dog gets up, your friend should remove their hand (and the attention) while you place your dog back in a sit stay. Then your friend can come forward again and give your dog the attention he wants. This will teach your dog that if he wants the attention, he has to sit and stay and not try to jump up on people.
The same rules apply if you are meeting a stranger.
Emergency Sirens – Loud noises can be a challenge for your dog because they can be irritating to their ears. In this type of situation, you have two options. If your dog does not immediately react to the sound, use it as an opportunity for distraction proofing. Walk toward the sound and, if possible, get as close to it as you can. Stay for a few minutes, praise your dog for not reacting, and then leave. If your dog reacts (barks or jumps) as soon as he hears the sound, turn around and leave. Talk to your dog to keep him focused, review some other obedience commands and, if necessary, use a small treat or toy to distract him. You can also expose your dog to other sounds at home, like a vacuum cleaner, to desensitize them.
We should not automatically assume that our dogs are prepared for these types of distractions. Most of the time they will be startled and you won’t know how to react.
That’s why it’s important to socialize your dog from a young age and not only to other dogs and people, but to as many situations as you can think of. In other words, distraction proof your dog. These types of issues should be dealt with as they arise. If you don’t, they can lead to more serious issues in the future.
Obedience training can help you with this task by building your dog’s confidence since the more control you have the more places you can take your dog.
At Integrated K9, our Basic Obedience Program focuses on practical routines that you can use every day with your dog. Remember, a well behaved dog takes work and a dog is only as good as its handler.
For more information about our Basic Obedience Classes, check out the Training Services page on our website or contact us for more information.
Have you had any similar experiences when walking your dog? Please share them with us by commenting below.