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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On-leash Doggy Manners

Summertime brings a great deal of congestion to our favorite doggy spots (walks, parks, and beaches).  They are more crowded with other dogs and people, especially children.  That is why when walking your dog - and especially when letting him off-leash - manners and control are essential.

 

By far the best control command for a dog is a Sit or Down.  A simple Sit prevents or resolves the majority of behavior issues.  If your dog sits quickly and consistently when directed, there are numerous annoying or inappropriate things that the dog cannot do.  If your dog does not sit instantly when directed, you need to train him to do so before letting him off-leash.

 

Here are a few examples of the simple effectiveness of a Sit: when sitting, your dog cannot dart out the front door and scamper off, jump on people, mount or be mounted by other dogs, or chase cats, dogs, cyclists, or skateboarders.  This makes Sit useful in ordinary situations every day.  

 

In emergencies, it could save your dog’s life.  If your dog darts across the street without getting hit by a car, you do not want it to attempt to return to you.  An emergency Sit or Down is usually much safer than an emergency recall because a Sit is absolute - either your dog is sitting, or he's not.  A recall is more complicated for a dog to comply with and sometimes it is difficult to know whether the dog is really coming.  "Sit" and "Down" are easier to train and are typically much more reliable.

 

During emergencies, people have a tendency to shout commands.  Shouting "Sit" or "Down" may increase the reliability of the dog's response and he'll obey instantly.  Conversely, when owners shout "Come here!" dogs tend to respond warily because history has taught them that shouting people tend to be less stable and predictable which is a scary proposition.

 

Many dogs are hyper or reactive because their owners innocently and ignorantly train them to be out of control. For example, when you say, "Go for a walk!?" in a high pitched tone, your Rover may start spinning, barking, and doing back flips.  You reinforce this behavior by putting on the leash.  Then, out the door you go, and as you walk along without stopping, the dog becomes even more excited and begins to tug on the leash.  You soon arrive at the dog park and set the dog free, thus reinforcing Rover's leash-pulling and reactivity.  Then comes the coup de grâce: you call the dog to you and when he happily and willingly approaches, you put on his leash and take him home.  Unfortunately, you have now unwittingly trained your dog that when he comes, play ends.  Where is the incentive in that?   

 

So, practice emergency Sits by integrating training into walks and play.  Ask your dog to sit before putting on his leash.  Do not open doors to buildings or cars before your dog sits.  When walking your dog, direct him to sit every 25 yards or so.  Stop, look at your dog, and wait until he sits and looks at you before continuing.  Ask your dog to sit before releasing him, and while he is off-leash, ask him to sit every minute or so.  Each time you interrupt a walk or off-leash play session with the Sit command you can use the continuance of the walk or play as a reward for sitting.

 

Believe it or not all of this practice is actually fun for your dog because he loves the positive attention he receives from you.  Keep this up and in no time Rover will make you proud by being good-mannered and reliable in all situations.

1:29 pm edt          Comments


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