Ok, get ready! You will need some padded gloves, a bionic shoulder and your roller skates. We are just about to take your 'leash sensitive' dog for a walk! Following on from my last blog on ‘WHY is my dog aggressive on lead’, this blog will explain some techniques you can use to help manage your dog's behaviours and keep your dog under threshold. The following information is of a general nature and not specific to your dog’s situation. If you need further help, please go to our Dog-to-Dog Reactivity page and contact us for a tailored behaviour modification plan. MANAGEMENT Management is the first step in helping a dog who has ‘reactive’ or ‘aggressive’ behaviours on lead. The reason for this is that we don’t want your dog to practice these behaviours any longer. We want to avoid situations where your dog displays these behaviours so that your dog feels safe and we control the dog’s exposure to the triggers.
Here are 10 management TIPS: 1. Don't walk your dog Sometimes, I will recommend a dog not to be walked at all because it causes so much distress for the dog. Many times it is better to put into place other things to keep the dog physically and mentally active whilst working on a behaviour change program. Remember, it is very important to give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise because a satisfied and tired dog will be less reactive. If you do want to walk your dog, do it very early in the morning when no other dogs are around and/or at night when everyone has gone to bed! 2. Reward all behaviours inconsistent with reactivity If you do decide to keep walking your dog, (and I would strongly recommend you find areas where you can walk your dog where the trigger is not likely to appear), reinforce all behaviours that are inconsistent with the one’s you are trying to change. For example, if your dog is walking nicely with no reactivity, reward your dog. If your dog hears or sees something and does not react, reinforce your dog. 3. U-Turns If you are out walking, practice doing U-Turns with no-one around. Of course, you would have already practiced U-Turns in the home first, backyard, then out in the environment when you know you are not going to run into any other dogs or people so that you have got your U-Turn down pat! Then, when you do see a dog and/or person it is important to try and see them before your dog sees them. Remember we want to prevent the behaviour from happening so don’t let your dog react before you do a U-Turn. The more your dog can practice the behaviour the more certain they are that this behaviour makes the dog and/or person go away. 4. Back it up Baby! If the dogs or people suddenly appear and are too close use the backup method. This is where you are walking in the same direction together but then you run backwards and your dog runs towards you. Like a recall but you are both running. This allows you to see the person/dog in front of you and keep assessing the situation instead of turning your back. Again, practice this regularly and make a fun game out of it! 5. Get Aways Pretend you have just robbed a bank! But this time you are not trying to get away from the police, it’s the dog and/or person coming your way. What is your ‘Get Away’ strategy? Do you cross the road, hide behind a moving car or go down an alley way? Remember to train this with your dog before you actually need to perform it. It can become a great game to play with you and your dog when out on walks. Your dog might think you are crazy ‘why are we hiding when there is no-one around!’ but make it fun and they will love doing it! 6. Don't walk on the footpaths Footpaths are narrow and it forces dogs to approach head on which is considered ‘rude’ behaviour in the dog world. Drive your dog to an industrial estate, bush area, oval, deserted park, office complex. This will give you more space to get away if needed and probably see another dog and/or person more quickly. 7. Keep calm and pretend everything is ok Try to keep calm and relaxed when out for a walk. Your dog can smell the chemical reactions in your body changing and your stress and anxiety increasing. This may also cause your dog to become worried and stressed. So keep the lead nice and loose. Secondly if something happens like an off lead dog appears in front of you from nowhere, don’t panic. Think quickly to try and find a way out. 8. Sit and look at me Some people are taught to get your dog to sit and look at you whilst another dog walks past. I personally do not recommend this and whilst it can work for some dogs, it leaves no escape or exit route for the already worried dog and the dog is physically trapped by the lead. I also don’t like dogs having their backs to other dogs whilst they walk by. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to see the scary thing coming my way rather than having my back to it. 9. Be the crazy person When you are out walking, mix things up a bit. Jump over logs, walk really fast, slow right down, change directions, weave around poles or trees, jump off benches. Your dog will think you are so much fun and will have to concentrate on you and not the dog or person approaching! 10. Learn about dog body language This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your dog. Learn about dog body language so that you will know when your dog is becoming stressed and aroused and you can immediately understand the clear signals your dog will be giving you to let you know they are uncomfortable. Remember to practice these techniques regularly, not just when your dog sees another dog/person. If you only practice these techniques when a dog/person approaches you will be telling your dog that another dog/person is coming. If you have a leash sensitive dog, please feel free to contact us for a behaviour consultation. Stay tuned for my next blog, ‘How to help a dog with reactive behaviours on lead'. Dogaholics Dog Training and Behaviour Services (Dogaholics is a dog training and behaviour service located in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie area of NSW.)