We were in Naples last week installing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® system for a new client and his Yellow Labrador, Sophie. Sophie and he spend much of the year on their farm in Kentucky and this is her first winter in South Florida. Because of that, Sophie needed a little “boundary containment” so that she wouldn’t chase every golfer heading to the 8th green behind my client’s home. It was a big property and we spent two days working on the system and training Sophie. Needless to say, Sophie is now content to stay on my client’s property. Since he knew we are dog trainers, he had an additional question for us. It seems that Sophie gets a little crazy every time he and his wife go to 5th Street for lunch and Sophie comes along. She just can’t contain her excitement with all the people and action. He asked if we, as dog trainers, had any suggestions.
Taking a crazy dog to a public place is never a good idea. It always ends with your leaving or being asked to leave. You normally get mad at your dog and punish them inappropriately. The issue with all of this is that you aren’t solving the problem. Taking your dog to a restaurant or other public establishment shows that you love your dog and want to share life experiences with him, but his reaction to the sights and sounds shows that he is over adrenalized and unsure.
What you, as your dog’s caregiver and protector, have omitted to do is to properly explain the situation to your dog. We normally call this process socialization. It is something that our mothers did with all of us as we were toddlers trying to understand the world around us. Our mothers would take us with them to the market, to the park, to the cleaners, and all other types of places she thought we would travel on a regular basis.
At first we were a little scared of all the new things, but since mommy was there, everything was fine. As time went on, we became accustomed to the different surroundings. This is the same type of activity that my client needed to perform with Sophie to get her used to being in public places like an outside restaurant on 5th Street in Naples.
Since he goes to Starbucks on 5th Street every day, I decided to use that as his “classroom” for Sophie. Here are the steps I discussed with my client:
- Think of a very quiet time when there are very few people in the street or around Starbucks. Take Sophie on a leash and walk up and down the street in front of Starbucks. As you pass by Starbucks, stop near some open tables and have Sophie sit for about a minute. Tell her she is a good dog and continue walking up the street. Turn around in about a block and repeat the process. If it starts to get crowded or Sophie starts to become distracted, leave. You can pick up the exercise later in the day or tomorrow.
- After Sophie can calmly walk up and down the street and stop in front of Starbucks with no issue, start the same process during a time when there are more people on the sidewalk and more cars in the street. Walk her up and down the street. If she starts to become distracted, have her sit and look at you. Once she is calm, continue your walk and sit/visit to Starbucks.
- Once Sophie is calm with this exercise, it shows that she is getting used to the environment, people, smells, and actions. It is now time to ramp up the “Starbucks experience”. First of all, I want you to perform this when it is quiet, again. This time, when you come up to Starbucks and she sits for a moment, don’t walk up the street. I want you to find an open table and sit down. Have Sophie sit next to you. Make sure she has plenty of room to look around and that you are between her and anybody else. Have a friend bring you some coffee. Make sure that you also bring Sophie a goodie or bowl of water so that she can also enjoy the experience. Have a friend near you in case anyone approaches. Your friend should politely ask them to turn away because you are training Sophie go be a good dog. Most people will understand.
- Continue the above step. As Sophie shows that she is completely calm with one level of people and activities change your time so that you come when there are more people and more activity on the street. If Sophie starts to become adrenalized or agitated, leave and pick up the exercise at a quieter time in the day or tomorrow.
- Pretty soon you will discover that Sophie is politely sitting with you at Starbucks and really doesn’t care about all the other things going on around her. You now have a well behaved dog in public.
- One thing that you should remember is that it is never advisable to have strangers approach Sophie without your permission. If little children want to pet her, you should stand up and have Sophie approach them. Have them stay still and let Sophie sniff them so that she confirms that everything is fine. If they want to pet her, have them pet her by slowly taking their hand below Sophie’s head and around her neck. Have them softly pet her on the back of her neck, slowly progressing to the top of her head behind her ears.
The biggest problem with “hoping” your dog is well behaved in public is that you are never sure what the people around you will do. A little preparation and practice with Sophie will help you and her be prepared for all those “crazy humans”. We are always happy to help you with any dog safety, dog fence, or dog training problems by contacting us at Dog Fence Training Help. Be sure to review our vast list of dog training and safety tips at Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers Naples South Florida. Did you know that we have been professional dog trainers in South Florida for the last eleven years and that we have successfully trained over 3,500 dogs? If you need dog training help, you can find out more information about us at Home Dog Training Naples South Florida.