You and Your Dog Waiting for the School Bus
Last week I was fixing the wire of a Dog Guard Out of Sight Dog Fence in Boca Raton. They were planting some new landscape and the gardener had put his pick through the perimeter wire while he was digging a hole for one of their new trees. Luckily, the rest of the wire was just fine and fixing the copper wire only required a quick, water-proof splice. As I was finishing up, my client asked me a dog training question. School was starting soon and she really wanted to take Rocky, their 10 month old Boxer to the school bus stop when they drop off and pick up the kids. Rocky is kind of crazy and she wasn’t sure if he would jump and nip all the kids.
A 10 month old Boxer is one, solid adrenaline generating machine. Rocky has almost unlimited energy and the site of active, crazy, yelling kids all jumping off or on the bus could be a recipe for disaster. I told my client that having a calm, yet playful Rocky should be her goal. Like all goals, she needs to understand that the starting point on the path to attaining this goal is not jumping right into it.
We need to start slow with peripheral activities that she can more effectively manage and successfully accomplish. Things such as leash manners, focus, walking, greeting strangers on the street, playtime in the back yard or park, etc.; are all peripheral and more manageable activities that will eventually lead up to the crazy bus scene. Here are the instructions I provided:
- LEASH MANNERS: Since Rocky will be on a leash while they are at the bus stop, she must be sure that he responds to commands on the leash. I wanted her to practice come, sit, drop it, and walk with the leash. She needed to start in a quiet location in the house, proceed to the back yard, and finally perform the exercises in the front yard. Her goal was to always gain Rocky’s full focus and attention as soon as she gave a slight tug on the leash while implementing an obedience activity.
- WALKING: She, the kids, and Rocky will have to walk to the bus stop and return every day. I instructed her to take Rock on walks to and from the bus stop during the middle of the day or evening when the kids and bus will not be there. She is to have Rocky right next to her side and he cannot pull the leash. If he pulls the leash or is not giving her focus, she is to stop walking and immediately have him sit. If he continues to pull, she is to turn around and walk him in the opposite direction for about twenty feet. She is to then turn around and continue walking.
- GREETING STRANGERS: After Rocky gets the “walking nicely” accomplished, I wanted her to ramp up the process by adding people. I instructed her to walk Rocky on routes and at times where other people will be on the street. As people approach, she is to stop and have Rocky sit. The person should be able to approach and pass by without Rocky going nuts. If he does, I told her that the next time someone approaches, remove Rocky about ten feet away from the direct line of the other person’s path. Put him in a sit and keep his attention on her. Once Rocky is giving her calm focus as people pass while they are “off the path”, repeat the process on the sidewalk.
- PLAYTIME IN THE BACK YARD AND PARK: Now, we need to get Rocky used to “crazy, adrenalized” kids. I wanted her to have her kids “play crazy” in the back yard. Next, I wanted her to bring Rocky outside on a leash. She should have Rocky sit and calmly focus on her. Next, slowly walk Rocky around the peripheral of the kids playing; always keeping his focus on her. Once he can accomplish this, repeat it at a park with “stranger kids” (always make sure that dogs on leashes are allowed at the park and to bring “poopie bags”).
- SCHOOL BUS TIME: I told my client that after she had successfully accomplished these initial tasks, she was ready to attempt a visit to the school bus with Rocky. Get to the bus early and stand off to one side. Ask the kids to initially not approach Rocky so that his adrenaline will remain low and his line of sight will be focused on more distant distractions. She should keep Rocky focused on her as the bus pulls up and the kids get on board. Once they are all on board and the bus pulls away, praise him. I told her to repeat the same process when the bus returns with the kids in the afternoon. After a week of “calm departures and returns”, she can start to get closer to the kids and the bus in the same manner that she did with when she and Rocky were greeting the stranger on the walk.
When you take it slow and understand that teaching your dog any behavior is a process of additional and more “real-world” distractions, you can always succeed. We are always here to help with that process. You can reach us through Dog Fence Training Help. We offer more dog training help located on our blog at Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers Boca Raton South Florida. Our Home Dog Training web site explains our dog training business and you can find it at Home Dog Training South Florida.