Or maybe, you have an older dog that walks you instead of you walking him. He pulls you all over the place, chases the neighborhood cat into the thorn bush up the street that you are now well acquainted with, and it seems like any time you pull back on the leash, Fido increases his speed! You decide he’s getting too big or too strong for you and before you know it, you are in traction at the chiropractor and your beloved pup is getting fat on the couch!
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Since that article ran in June, three dogs who have graduated from my Growly Dog class have been attacked by off-leash dogs. My clients work hard to calm their dog’s anxiety when they see other dogs (which often stems from being attacked the very first time by a rude, off-leash dog!). We help these over-anxious dogs learn to trust their handler, and we rebuild their faith that they can walk safely in their own neighborhood. We make significant progress in keeping these dogs calm and focused on their owners instead of hyper-vigilantly scanning for dangers . . . such as an off-leash dog. In some of these cases, the unleashed dog owner was held responsible and now must pay fines in addition to medical bills; one of my clients ended up having an $8,000 hand surgery after breaking up a dog fight. I have enough stories like that to fill up a very long, pathetic book.
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Speaking of reward, positive reinforcement refers to operant conditioning, and I won’t bore you with the details right now, but suffice it to say B.F. Skinner, one of the leading researchers on reinforcement, found that positive reinforcement (to reward good behavior) is far more superior to punishment in altering undesirable behavior because positive reinforcement results in lasting behavioral modification, and punishment changes behavior only temporarily; and presents many detrimental side effects. If the problem behavior changes temporarily, it will reappear later, and it comes with even more problem behavior! Good Behavior = Reward and Bad Behavior = Punishment, does that sound familiar? Positive reinforcement training is what exotic animal trainers have used for years to teach dolphins, whales and large cats among other animals.  You cannot force a dolphin to do what it does not want to do!
If your pup lunges: If your dog is going after something while on a walk — another dog, a car, a skateboarder, for example, be proactive. Try to redirect his attention with a treat before he has a chance to lunge, and increase the space between your dog and the target. Stay alert and be prepared before the target of his frustration gets too close. This type of behavior may be more common in herding breeds, but any dog can be startled by something he’s not used to or finds exciting.
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