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.
There are also bicycle dog leashes, especially designed for people who enjoy taking their pet in a ride with the bike. The leash is an aluminum tube with a plastic coated cable which runs down through the tube. It extends out of the tube end a couple of feet to allow for ease of movement for the dog. One end connects to the bike and the other to the dog's collar. This keeps them safely away the bike.
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.
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.
In a critical situation, don’t try to reason with the unreasonable human who allowed their dog to come into your dog’s space. By allowing their dog to be unleashed where leashes are required, that owner has by default demonstrated a lack of concern for his own dog and yours. You may feel like screaming obscenities for their lack of care, but that wastes both emotion and time. It can also ramp the dogs up even more.
Make the puppy come to you. While he’s on his way to you, still wearing the leash and collar, back up a few paces and then reward him when he gets to you. Continue the progression until your puppy, upon hearing the cue noise, comes to you and walks with you a few paces. Remember that puppies have a short attention span, so keep your sessions short, and end them when your puppy is still eager to do more, not when he’s mentally exhausted.
Now, you may begin allowing your pooch to wear them around the house, increasing the wear time. Keep your pup inside with you, during the beginning of training to help him be successful (training outside can be distracting), and click and reward every time he chooses to be near you while he wears the collar and leash, and remember, consistency is key here. Also click and reward if he looks up at you, this is the foundation to getting his focus-You want his attention to be on you!
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