Keep moving on a walk instead of stopping and chatting with others. While you and the other person are smiling and looking at each other, your dogs may be sending signals to one another that they are uncomfortable. Keep moving and stay focused on your dog’s body language. If your dog stiffens, growls, starts randomly sniffing or scratching, or you can see his hackles (among other warning signs that your dog is getting uncomfortable), do a U-turn and put something visual between you and the trigger upsetting your dog.
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.
If your pup barks: Some dogs have the habit of barking at other dogs while on a walk. Oftentimes, this behavior comes as a result of lack of exercise. Make sure your dog gets the proper amount of mental and physical stimulation for his age and breed. If this is still a problem, use the same process as you would if your dog is lunging, as described above — create distance and offer treats before he starts to bark, so every time he sees a dog he gets used to turning his attention to you.
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Teach a cue. Introduce your puppy to a sound cue that means, “food is coming.” Some people like to click and treat, some people use a word like “yes,” and some people cluck their tongue. Whichever you use, the method is the same: In a quiet, distraction-free area, with the puppy on a leash and collar, make the sound. The second your puppy turns toward you and/or looks at you, reward him with a treat. After a few repetitions, you’ll notice your puppy not only looking at you, but also coming over to you for the treat.
Leash walking outside may be more frustrating because there are numerous distractions for you to compete with for your puppy’s attention. Understand, from his point of view, how much more difficult this task has now become, and whatever you do, don’t lose your patience; don’t drag him or allow him to drag you! Walk slowly and click and treat if he stays at your side. If he begins to pull, stop or change your direction, then click and treat when he reaches your side again!
You want to reinforce behavior you like, such as when your dog looks at but does not react to another dog a good distance away. If you have to stop an incoming assault from an off-leash dog, you can yell “SIT!” at the oncoming dog (sometimes it works) and then throw your meat treat on the ground near that dog and do a quick, calm U-turn and move away. Could the dog have some sort of meat allergy? Possibly. That’s just one more reason the dog’s owner should obey the leash laws.
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