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.
Please remember to remain calm at all times, and utilize jackpots (more treats or better treats) when your dog accomplishes something that was difficult for him; i.e. not pulling you toward the neighbor dog! Jackpot for any eye contact or focus on you! Keep leash training sessions short and FUN! You can train several times a day, but you don’t want to push you or your dog past the point of fun! Puppies, especially, have short attention spans and if you insist on puppy training past the point of fun, usually around 5 to 15 minutes, your pup may start to dislike, and even dread training!
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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