Hints of “Spring is in the Air” are wonderful! People – and their dogs – come out of hibernation and our neighborhoods and parks are active. We are out enjoying the natural world with our doggy friends. Here are tips to make our walks a shared, cooperative and connected experience at both ends of the leash.
- Train in a solid eye contact cue that becomes automatic for the dog
- Keep beginner outings short
- Identify your dog’s “reward in the moment” and use it!
- Assess the environment to set up for success
- Learn to read your dog’s signals to prevent breaching thresholds
- Avoid on leash greetings with other dogs (this is NOT socialization)
- Observe for fear responses. Counter condition instead of “flood”
Training in connected leash walking skills is a process. There is mutual benefit for the dog in that rewards like “browsing” are absolutely part of the outing. Puppies and fearful dogs require gradual and positive exposure to triggers that are encountered daily. Reactive dogs require additional strategies with a program working within thresholds. These programs involve other elements such as counter conditioning, effective reinforcement schedules, and thinking re-assessment.
Thankfully, over arousal pulling, leash biting, and reactive behaviors can be transformed into connected leash walking skills with the appropriate approach for your dog. The peaceful and pleasant outings you imagine can be achieved.