We were in Miami Gardens on Thursday finishing up a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® installation for a new client and his Boxer, Shadow. Shadow loved to run into the lake in their back yard and swim after all the ducks. Well, Shadow never caught any of the ducks, but he always came back wet and stinky. We placed a “banana loop” style perimeter fence across the back of the property to block Shadow’s entry into the lake and then taught him about the perimeter and his new rule of “no swimming”. Shadow learned quite quickly. As we were finishing up, my client mentioned that they also had a crazy Golden Retriever, Riley, (no problem with the lake) that constantly pulled when they went for walks. Whenever they got ready for a walk, they became nervous that he might pull them over, run after the neighbors, or get hit by a car. Knowing that Robin and I were also professional dog trainers, he asked if we had any suggestions.
After listening to my client’s explanation of the problem, it became quite clear that the “walking problem” had evolved from a simple obedience lesson with Riley into a behavioral issue for the entire family. He stated that they were nervous as soon as they prepared and started the walk. Riley always picked up on this and reacted because of it.
I told my client that all dogs, including Riley, look to a leader for protection and direction. As they leave the “safety of their home” to the “uncertainty of the neighborhood”, they need to know that they are with someone who will constantly protect and appropriately direct them towards safety. His apprehension in anticipation of the walk and Riley’s possible actions simply told their Golden that he probably couldn’t supply the appropriate safety.
It was imperative that he showed confidence and leadership to Riley even before the walk began. This would allow him to take charge at the very beginning and have a far better chance of keeping his dog’s focus and respect during the walk and the distractions that would probably take place while they were out and about in the neighborhood.
I tried to provide a “human example” of what Riley was probably experiencing for my client. I told him to think of taking a plane flight. He was using his frequent flyer miles and got upgraded to first class. He was sitting there and, all of a sudden, the pilot came in. The pilot was disheveled and dropping things on the ground. He seemed nervous and was sweating. He went into the cockpit for a moment and then came running out into the bathroom. He finally came out at the coaxing of the flight crew and went back into the cockpit. How did that make him feel about the upcoming flight?
I needed to build up my client’s confidence in his ability to walk Riley and keep control of him. The first thing I told him was that he needed to build up a consistent experience with Riley.
- Put the leash on his dog at different times and don’t take him for a walk. Sit down and watch TV or go into the other room and work on the computer. This will remove Riley’s adrenaline over the sight of the leash.
- Pick up the leash and walk his Golden Retriever around the house. If he begins to jump or pull, correct with a quick tug of the leash and correction verbalization. Stop and have him sit.
- Repeat the “inside walking” until Riley is calm every time you walk him.
- Now, walk to the back door and have Riley sit. Slowly open the back door, making sure that he stays in a sit and does not start to adrenalize. If he does, walk around again and repeat the process.
- When the back door is open and Riley is calmly sitting, step outside and invite him to follow.
- Have Riley sit and calmly walk in the back yard. If it becomes difficult to correct and maintain his focus, go back inside and work on walking inside for a little bit longer.
- When ready, begin the back yard (outside) walking again.
The above exercise does not get Riley walking in the neighborhood, but starts to build up a level of confidence within my client. It allows him and his family to practice the walking exercise with the ability to always return to a position where they are in control. It also creates a consistent experience with their dog where they are his master and they are in control.
When my client and his family are confident that they can properly walk Riley in the house and back yard, it is now time to extend the exercise.
- I tell my client to walk their Golden as usual. This time, I want to him to bring Riley to the door leading into the front yard and the neighborhood.
- He is to repeat the “open the door while Riley sits” process until the dog is calm and can sit, watch my client step out, and then calmly follow him out; sitting when outside.
- I emphasize that he should not walk just yet. They are to stay at the front of the door for two or three minutes and then go back inside. He should repeat this for several days until there are no signs of adrenaline from Riley when the door is opened and they step outside.
- Now, I want them to walk to the end of the driveway. Have Riley sit and let him look around. If the dog becomes too focused on any object or person, he needs to tug the leash quickly and get Riley’s focus. It is important that Riley understands that my client always needs his focus and attention.
- After repeating this for several days, he can start to extend the walk, first for a house or two, and then around the block.
- He needs to always be aware of any distractions and have Riley focus back to him before the dog starts to adrenalize.
I also explained to my client that this is not a race; it is a learning experience. If he can’t maintain Riley’s focus at any point on any day, go home and simply walk inside for a few minutes. Emphasis on success is key; not reinforcement of failure. The more he can maintain a confident presence with Riley, the faster the walking will become successful.
Dogs focus on body language far more than humans. When we act confidently and in a forthright manner, they respond far more than we do. When we act like the “Little Engine that could”, our dogs will naturally hop on our train. We encourage you to contact us if you have any questions about underground dog fence training or behavioral dog training. Please go to our communication site at Dog Fence Training Help Miami Gardens South Florida or call us directly at (954) 472-4724. You can gain more dog training and Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® tips at Best Out of Sight Dog Fence Trainers Miami Gardens South Florida. We have provided dog training to over 3,500 dogs and families in Miami Gardens and South Florida. If your dog doesn’t bolt from the yard, but is not an obedient dog, we are also your best dog trainers. Please check out our Obedience and Behavior Dog Training Programs by going to Home Dog Training Miami Gardens South Florida.