Thursday, September 20

Keeping Your Dog's Focus On You

A common problem I address in almost every one of my trainings is keeping your dog's focus on you while you walk, rather than all the other people and dogs.  It is my belief that when your dog is on leash, unless you cue them otherwise, their focus should be on you, the handler, not everything around them.  The leash acts as a telephone wire between you and your dog, you are in constant communication with them, they feel your emotions and reactions and you feel theirs... or at least you should. 

The leash is not just to keep your dog in tune with you and you with them, it is also for control, you have a way to direct them left or right, faster or slower and to keep them at your side at the times they may want to do something you do not wish for them to do.

One of the most common issues for Downtown dogs owners, are dogs greeting other dogs.  Many dog owners will allow their dog to rush into the face of other dogs no matter if it is really the best thing for their dog or the other dog. 

Just last night I was working with an aggressive dog.  We were working at a restaurant patio, and the intent was to see other dogs and work on his reaction and recovery time.  The owners would like to be able to enjoy a meal out with their dog.  Many dogs went by and he was doing great, then came one little white dog.  I could tell from his approach, this was not a well socialized dog.  The dog I was working with had a citronella collar on, it was going off as he barked at the approaching dog and the owner and myself were clearly working with him and keeping him away from this dog.  The owner was not satisfied that her dog was not able to greet my client, so she purposefully let out the leash and let the dog get in my client's face.  After some sniffing and some snapping from BOTH dogs, her dog was not as friendly as she believed, she moved on.  

This is the most frustrating thing for my clients.  Of the dog mentioned above and many others that have dogs with dog issues.  They get set up in unfair situations because other owners think it is fine to let their dogs just go into other dog's faces.  But the truth is, it is very dangerous. 

If you don't know the dog you are approaching, you should at the very least ask the owner if it is okay to meet.  Maybe your dog is perfect and has no issues, that is not a guarantee that the other dog is the same way.  Also, maybe the owner or handler is doing some training on focus and want their dog to just pay attention to them, letting your dog rush into their dog's face is such a distracting, and in my opinion, rude behavior.

There is another benefit to teaching your dog to focus on you during walks.  Have you passed a really excitable dog or puppy on the street or maybe that is your dog?  When you allow your dog to greet every single dog, they will consider it their right to do so.  This means every dog you pass they will jump and play bow and do all sorts of "out of control" or "hyper" behaviors.  Where as if you just teach them that they are not allowed to say hello until you give the signal, you will have a dog that is well mannered in front of humans and dogs.

My goal is to see dogs able to pass each other on the street without a commotion, greet each other politely and pay attention to their owners.  On the flip side, I dream of the day when owners pay attention to their dogs, control who their dogs greet and have respect for fellow dog owners that may be dealing with some pretty difficult issues.

If you have a dog that needs help with anything mentioned above, please give me a BARK!  I would love to help!  Downtown is so close to having an amazing dog community, I am dedicated to making certain it happens.