Some dogs can behave differently whilst on the lead. It can feel very embarrassing when your dog is barking and lunging at other dogs or people, but do not fear, we have put together this guide to help you teach your dog to relax whilst out on walks.
Always have your dog’s favourite treats so you can get their attention when you need it. If you see a trigger and the dog starts to react, walk in a different direction and keep moving this until they settle. Once the dog is calm, ask him to sit and repeat a training word, such as “wait” or “ stop” and give them the treat. Changing direction takes their attention away from what they’re reacting to, giving the treat helps the dog to understand what the desired behaviour is.
Each time there is a reaction do exactly the same thing; moving in a different direction, require a sit and reward. Gradually the reactivity should reduce, enabling you to decrease how far you move away whilst keeping attention on you.
Each time you do this extend the time between giving the sit/stop command and the treat so the dog doesn’t just stop barking to get the treat. Also try it every now and then without a treat so the dog again doesn’t expect a treat each time and shows the dog is listening to you.
With persistence and consistency, the end result should be that your dog will stop reacting on demand.
Once the reactions reduce, you can work on socialisation. Find someone willing to walk by who will trigger your dog, a male friend for example if that is what triggers your dogs reactions. If you can’t, wait until you find a situation on a walk and first ensure your dog is at a safe distance from the trigger. Then try to follow at a distance where your dog is not reacting, then gradually work on decreasing that distance.
The next step is to work on having your dog comfortable with passing the trigger walking in the other direction which initially can be done on opposite sides of the road. Where possible, when the trigger is a few meters away have them walk in a circle and gradually meet. Use treats to reward good behaviour. When they are close enough to meet shorten the lead to gain more control and allow your dog to sniff briefly before walking away and trying again.
REMEMBER: With all training, if you get to a point where your dog is uncomfortable go back to the beginning and start over to find a point your dog seems comfortable again.
Gradually extend the time your dog is close to the trigger, enabling the dog to be comfortable and realise that the trigger is not a threat.
Leads can make dogs feel restricted so try to reduce tension in the lead where possible. If you see a potential trigger, don’t panic, keep calm and start to use the direction techniques early. Try to get the preventative measure in before they react so you have their attention straight away and can maintain their focus as the trigger passes.
Working through the steps above can help your dog see that their triggers are not a threat and turn meeting people and dogs into a neutral if not positive experience. Try to be patient, this can take time.
REMEMBER: We are ALWAYS around to give advice, information and guidance. If you are struggling, please reach out and we will put you in touch with our Behaviour Advice Team.