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My dog wants to be everyone's friend! 5 Ways to make walks easier

Edited and reprinted from positively.com with permission. This post hit the spot with thousands of readers when first published, so I thought you might enjoy it.

My Dog wants to be everyone’s friend! 5 ways to reduce frustration on walks | FREE EMAIL COURSE | Reactive dog, problem dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | #dogtraining, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com


I’ve come across a few instances lately of people actually being pulled off their feet - and in one case rendered unconscious! - when their dog saw another dog approaching and decided he either wanted to play with it, or to dive forwards barking to make it go away.

Whether this poor behaviour is from a fear reaction or an over-friendly one, the upshot is much the same. Broken noses are no fun. So, unsurprisingly, the treatment is also similar.

I have given you some techniques in It's Not the Dog, It's You to help specifically with fearful dogs. A lot of that information is useful for absolutely any dog, including those who don’t appear fearful. 

So, keeping those methods in mind, let’s focus here on the super-friendly, over-ebullient dog who is determined to have a party with every dog or person he sees.

Picture the scene: owner is happily walking along the road, with dog on lead. Dog spots another dog! Hallelujah! Dog stands up on hind legs squealing with excitement before plunging forward with shrieks and barks towards the other dog.

It’s no use waiting till this is happening to try and change things. A knee-jerk response is not likely to do anything at all to help. Everything that needs to be changed has to be done beforehand, at home, in your kitchen, just you and your dog.

So let’s have a look now at what we can do to change this, before any more bones are broken.

1. What the Well-Dressed Dog is Wearing

If your dog is wearing a collar, then this is giving him terrific power to haul you along. Think where the collar goes on a horse in harness - right over the shoulders. Using the strongest part of a quadruped’s body - the rear legs and haunches - the horse or the dog can get great traction, to shift that heavy cart, or to pull you face down on the road.

Does your dog want to play with every dog he sees? Find out 5 ways to change this, for happier walks all round | FREE EMAIL COURSE | Reactive dog, problem dog, fearful dog, dog behavior | #dogtraining, #reactivedog, #dogtraining, #growlydog | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

When a dog is straining into a collar and tight lead, his body language is distorted. His eagerness can appear aggressive - this sends the wrong message to the object of his attentions.

The stress on the throat can also cause physical damage - and in the first place it'll serve only to wind your dog up more!

Pulling backwards against this power is fruitless. At best you’ll have an undignified retreat with you hauling your dog backwards, screaming. The dog will be screaming - but you may be too by this stage!

You need to teach your dog to respond to the lead, and turn of his own volition. Instead of a ten-ton block of frantic barking and scrabbling paws, you get a quizzical look from your dog as he turns and trots towards you. Really!

So the first move would be to investigate a no-pull harness. This is the one that I recommend.**  

One that attaches front and back will be the most effective. Good ones have an almost magical effect on even the most determined pullers. The harness needs to be comfortable to wear.

I would not use a headcollar for a “frustrated greeter” which is who we’re talking about here. If your dog is fighting to get the thing off his nose (most dogs hate them, unless slowly and carefully acclimatised) this is going to increase his level of frustration till he may possibly lash out (“redirect”) onto the nearest leg or hand. That would be your leg or hand. Ouch.

2. Loose Lead Walking, if taught well, is a trick

For your dog to walk close to you, keeping his nose level with your leg, he has to focus and concentrate. It’s not something that your dog will learn overnight - it runs counter to his natural desire to weave and run all over the place. 

The best force-free trainers make this exercise a game which the dog enjoys playing. Trying to frogmarch your dog along on a tight lead while yapping commands at him is not fun at all, for either of you!

The key is to have the lead loose, so that your dog can make a free choice where to walk. This may seem counter-intuitive to you, but it really does work very well when you’re in partnership with your dog as opposed to being his prison guard.

Once you have this skill, you can ask for this circus trick of trotting beside you, looking at you, when you need to distract your dog. If your history of rewarding him is great enough, he’ll be happy to oblige.

3. Impulse Control

We all have to learn impulse control. As children we have to learn to fit into society by containing our impulses and being able to wait patiently. This ability to delay gratification has been proven to be an indicator of a high achiever.

Your dog can be a high achiever too!

See Leave It! How to teach Amazing Impulse Control to your Brilliant Family Dog for a teaching method. Once he understands this skill, waiting politely should become his default behaviour - there’s no need to keep telling him to “leave it”.

And though the quickest way to teach this is with food, it isn’t just about leaving food. It’s about exercising self-control in the face of any temptation - bolting through the door, leaping out of the car, snatching something he wants ....

4. You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours

If you do this for me, then I’ll do that for you, aka the Premack Principle. If, as a child, I demanded something I wanted, The Adult would say “What’s the magic word?” Asking for it again, but adding “please” this time, had the desired effect.

Your dog’s equivalent of the magic word can be a Sit, or Eye Contact, or just plain Silence! So when he starts agitating about something he wants, you can ask him “What do you think you should do now?” Wait for him to stop belly-aching and give you a sit, or look at you, or stop whingeing, then you can give him what he wants.

Don’t tell him what to do - let him work it out!

You probably already do this when you offer a treat - your dog may only get it if he sits. So extend it now - to everything your dog wants!

  • Your dog pulls towards the verge: “You want to sniff that grass?” Wait for a polite response then you can say, “Go sniff!”

  • He scrabbles at your knee: “You want to sit on my lap?” When he sits and gazes meaningfully at you, you can say “Hup!”

  • He wails with excitement when he sees a friend: “You want to say hello to this person?” When he gives you his attention for a moment you can say, “Go say hi!”

Before long, seeing the person or dog in the street will be a cue to your dog to focus on you to ask for permission to greet. You may or may not give this permission, of course, but you can certainly reward his polite asking.

5. Distance is Your Friend

Never forget Distance! If he’s unable to stop squealing and diving, get further away and ask him again: “You want to say hello to that person?”

How much further away? 20 yards? 40 yards? 100 yards? Whatever it takes! When he’s able to focus and engage in rational conversation with you, then maybe - just maybe - he’ll be able to hold it all together while he gets closer to the object of his desire.

He can’t? Then he doesn’t get any closer.

Get Frustration out of the Picture

You can see that these five suggestions have a common thread: giving control back to your dog.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my days trying to control my dogs (or my children): I want them to control themselves!

Nothing is as frustrating as feeling you are a helpless victim who is not heard or heeded. 

Empowering your dog by giving him strategies to get what he wants leads to a happy co-existence which you can both enjoy.

 

 

 

If your dog is fearful - and appears aggressive - rather than frustrated,

come along to our free 5-Day Video Mini-Course and blow your mind!
 

 

 

 


Resources

** Harnesses: 
www.goodfordogs.co.uk/products I supply the Wiggles Wags and Whiskers Freedom Harness in the UK and Europe. If you buy from me I will benefit, but you won’t pay any more!

2houndsdesign.com for the rest of the world.

Leave It! How to teach Amazing Impulse Control to your Brilliant Family Dog

Let’s Go! Enjoy Companionable Walks with your Brilliant Family Dog

It’s Not the Dog, It’s You!

Compliance depends upon consistency, not just marshmallows!

 

 


 

Why is my dog barking and lunging at other dogs?

“She’s such a lovely dog at home!”

And that’s normally the case. Just because a dog has an issue with other dogs does not mean she’s a bad dog in every way.

You know what a smashing dog she is at home - a Brilliant Family Dog! - and you’d like others to see what you see.

Instead of what they see: A fury of teeth, claws, and noise, who looks as though she wants to kill them, their children, and their dog.

I know just how you feel, because I’ve been there! And changing the way Lacy views the world has been a fascinating journey that has resulted in being able to help lots of other Lacys and their ragged owners.

Lacy is deeply suspicious of everyone and everything on the planet. Her response? To shriek at it to go away; to look her most ferocious; to keep things out of her space by leaping and lunging at them. The most adorable and affectionate (and intelligent) dog at home - with a great sense of humour - she was viewed by everyone else as some kind of deranged monster. But she's come on so much that she is now able to help me working with other reactive and fearful dogs.

It will help you to know from the outset that this type of behaviour is normally the result of fear. Not nastiness, aggression, “dominance”, or any of those other labels. Just plain tail-wetting fear.

Your dog is afraid of the oncoming dog. She needs to keep it away!

So she bares her teeth, makes herself look bigger, and shouts at him.

It’s likely that you get upset and try and rein her in or drag her away. It’s likely that the oncoming dog’s owner is alarmed (and probably looking down their nose at you). And it’s quite likely that the other dog will say “Who’re you lookin’ at?” and join the barking party.

The whole episode is upsetting and exhausting.

You start to walk your dog at the Hour of the Difficult Dog, late in the evening, when everyone is trying to avoid everyone else.

Is this why you got a companion dog?

Let’s have a look at what you can do to change things.

1. First thing is to stop walking your dog

What??? Let me explain.

Can you imagine that you had to walk along a narrow and uneven cliff path with a 200 foot drop. There is nothing to hold on to. The ground is crumbly and sometimes you skid and dislodge a lump of rock that bounces down the cliff and splashes silently into the sea below.

For most people this would be a living nightmare, a “terror run”. You would be desperate to get out of the situation. Your hormones would be racing through your body.

You eventually get home and begin to calm down.

The next day you have to walk the path again.

And the next day …

Quite soon you’re in a state of permanent panic. You dread the cliff path.

You need a break from this terror. Your hormones need to settle so you can see the world clearly. As does your dog.

You won’t stop walking your dog for ever. Just give her a few days’ break so that she can get back to normal. You can play great games at home to give her some exercise.

As neither of you is enjoying the walk, nobody will miss it.

After that, this bit is easy:

2. Teach her that she never has to meet another dog ever again (until she wants to)

And by this I don’t mean you are sentenced to the Hour of the Difficult Dog for ever.

Back to you and your terror run again: rather than staying at home for ever, you have a companion who can guide you. As you approach the cliff path, he turns you away from it and says, “Let’s go this way,” and heads right away from the edge.

Can you imagine the relief you feel? No need to plead with him and say, “Please don’t make me go on the path!” He guides you away to safer ground every time he sees a dangerous path. Your trust in him grows. You begin to enjoy your seaside walks.

So it is with your dog. The moment you see another dog or person heading your way, you give a cheery “Let’s go!” and head in the opposite direction. Your dog will enjoy the fact that she doesn’t have to get upset and go through the shouting routine.

You want to avoid narrow lanes where there’s no escape, so you may have to take a longer route to get where you want to go - or even drive till you are at an open space.

But you don’t want to avoid dogs.

She won’t learn what you want her to learn unless you do it, so eschew the Hour of the Difficult Dog and go out where you will see dogs - but at a safe distance.

These two things alone will make a huge difference to your dog, your walks, your relationship with your dog, and your enjoyment of life with her. If you did nothing else, this will improve the situation dramatically.

But this is just a start: naturally there are lots more things you will be able to do! There are techniques which I’ll show you. But the first thing you need to do to a wound is to stop it bleeding. Only then can you start the healing process.

First, realise that your dog is afraid, and is as uncomfortable as you are. Reasoning with her will not work. Until you can get help from a force-free professional, avoidance is the short-term answer.

Second, remember that you are her guardian and protector - give her the help she needs to cope with our world.

 

No idea how to start? 

This free e-course will get you going: 

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