I was in Johns Creek last Wednesday working with a brand new Home Dog Training client and Wolfie, his beautiful German Shepherd. I adore Shepherds and live with two female Shepherds of our own. As you probably already have surmised, I found working with Wolfie a great experience. He responded quite quickly to my client’s new behavioral rules and was a “rapid learner” when it came to the classic obedience commands such as come, sit, and stay.
After we had accomplished those items, we were ready to move onto Wolfie’s lesson with outside leash walking. My client mentioned that Wolfie seemed to go nuts whenever they went for a walk. Wolfie was so crazy that it was nearly impossible to get the leash on him while they were still inside. He told me that he felt he had no control even before the walk started…
I began by assuring my client that this is not a unique situation, and many dogs seem to be “crazy walkers”. The first thing that we needed to do was to determine the root cause of the crazy walking problem. Once that has been established, the “crazy” can quickly be resolved and Wolfie will be a great and calm walker.
I went on to comment that the standard cause for “crazy walking” is our dog’s anticipation of the event. This is due to the predictability of the outcome from our consistent and repetitive actions. Our dog is always going to go nuts when we open the door and, of course, he is going to dash through the doorway and pull us down the street!
We must retake control of the situation by asserting our leadership and eliminating distractive events. We offered the following suggestions to our client and Wolfie:
Eliminate the correlation of “leash means walkies”. Dogs learn in a repetitive process. We have built up the correlation that tells our dog that whenever he sees the leash, it is time for a walk. Yippie ki-yay! He gets all excited and rushes around the house in adrenalized (and often inappropriate) anticipation of the excellent time that is about to happen. In response to his being nuts, we become crazy and mad and chase after him. This just takes the situation from bad to really bad.
We must eliminate the anticipated scenario. In order to do this, begin by putting the leash on your dog at different times during the day for no specific reason. Put it on and watch TV. Click it off and then put it on later. These uncorrelated events will take the “leash means walkies” association away. Your dog will no longer become inappropriately excited when he sees the leash because it really doesn’t have a clear meaning anymore.
You can now calmly prepare for the walk in a manner that keeps your dog focused on you. He is responding to your commands and acknowledging that you are his leader. Now that you have him “leashed up”, calm, and focused on you, you can continue teaching.
Always make sure that you are first through the doorway. Beginning a walk is not the start of a race. Your dog must remain focused, calm, and still at the doorway so you can slowly step through the front door while he politely waits on the inside of the doorway. Once you are outside, you can provide him with permission to proceed. These are the steps you must follow:
- Have your dog on his leash as you calmly approach the front door. Once you reach the door, place him in a “Sit”.
- Slowly open the door and command him to “Wait”.
- You must always be facing your dog. This is a body language “code” for leadership and focus.
- Slowly step back through the front doorway to the outside. Your dog must remain still until you are completely outside.
- Once you are outside and he has remained inside, issue your “Release” command allowing him to calmly step through the doorway and to your side.
- Once your dog is outside, have him Sit. Check the surroundings to make sure that it is safe to start your walk. You are now ready to start a calm and focused walk.
The purpose of this exercise is to assure that you and your dog can start your walk calmly and respectfully. There may be additional distractions and situations on the walk that could cause problems, but at least you are starting from a calm situation. This gives you a leg up in maintaining focus and leadership.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and excellent families and are ready to help you.