I had just left from a Home Dog Training client in Johns Creek last week when I noticed two people running down a residential street waving their hands at something ahead of them. As I approached, I saw that they were trying to catch an elusive Irish Water Spaniel that seemed to be having the time of his life checking out trees, houses, and anything else in his path. The more the couple ran and waved their hands, the more the dog would run and dodge them. He definitely knew that they were chasing him, he just didn’t stop running from them. Instead of letting them spend the next forty five minutes running all over the neighborhood while their neighbors laughed, I decided to give a hand.
What they were doing was encouraging their dog to continue to run and elude them. All dogs focus on dominance and submission; who is the leader and who is the follower. This is a natural instinct that was ingrained in them from birth. One of the ways that they hone this instinct and practice their socialization is through games. “Follow-the-leader” is one of those leader-follower games that all dogs learn when they are puppies. The leader is the one that everyone else is following.
The two hapless dog owners have simply fallen into the follower role of the game. The more they chase their dog, the more they are playing the followers and the more their dog is playing the leader. The more they are waving their arms in the air, the more they are building adrenaline among all of them and encouraging “the game” to continue. Under this scenario, the only way that they will ever catch their dog is when he gets tired or finds something else to do.
What we must do is to redirect their dog away from the game and into a situation that we can control and retrieve him. Here is what I did:
- I pulled up to the running couple and told them that I was a dog trainer and wanted to help them catch their dog.
- I told them that they need to stop running and calmly start to move towards their dog in a slow walk. Don’t go directly towards him, but in slight angles. They should still be moving in his direction, but slow their pace and level of engagement.
- I now asked one of them to get in the car with me and that we were going to drive down the next street and come out on the same street ahead of their Irish Water Spaniel.
- The wife got in the car and we drove down to get ahead of the dog while the husband continued (now calmly) to direct him in our direction.
- I asked the wife to get out of the car and open the back door. I now asked her to get down low, call her dog’s name in a high voice and clap her hands.
- This got her dog’s attention and gave him a new focus on a car with an open door. Many dogs love car rides and I assumed that their dog was no exception.
- The Spaniel ran towards her and jumped in the car. We closed the door.
To recap, what we accomplished was to first disengage in the direct “follow-the-leader” game by no longer running after their dog and becoming calm and collected. Our actions still had the dog moving down the street. The difference was that we lowered his adrenaline. This gave us a chance to put an alternative distraction in his path. The car’s open door provided an association of “car ride” and the wife’s presence right next to the door provided the needed “security” for the car. The dog simply responded to “something better to do”.
If you don’t have a friend with a car, your “Plan C” is to engage the help of a neighbor holding a goodie such as a piece of balcony, cheese, etc. They can go down low and call your dog. This is based on the same principle as the car ride except the distraction you are using is different. You are also assuming that your dog likes your neighbor.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help. We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Johns Creek Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Johns Creek Georgia.