I was just in Dawsonville finishing up a Home Dog Training Session with a client and his Shih Tzu, Amigo. We had been working on puppy training and potty training for the last several sessions and things were getting a lot better. My client then had a “different dog” dog training problem. By “different dog”, he meant that the problem wasn’t with Amigo. It seemed that he liked to take a brisk bicycle ride around his neighborhood every evening. Without fail, the neighborhood dogs loved to chase after him and nip at his heals. He tried peddling faster, but the dogs still kept coming. He would waive his hands and shout to try and discourage them, but that seemed to make them want to chase him even more. He loved to ride his bike, but he was out of ideas on how to stop the neighbor dogs from chasing him.
I love to ride my bicycle and I used to have this same problem before I started training dogs. Although I had taught my client all the aspects of how dogs think and learn, he simply had not made the connection with his bike riding. The explanation of what was happening was really quite simple. In the “Dog Society”, all dogs need to understand who the leader is and who the follower is. There is only one leader (dominant) and everyone else is the follower (submissive). A natural way that they practice understanding this is through the use of simple games. They play these games as soon as they are puppies and continue to play them the rest of their lives.
One game they play is “follow the leader”. The rules of this game are very simple. If you are running ahead of everyone else, you are the leader. If you are chasing someone in front of you, you are the follower. The followers want to catch the leader and the leader wants to stay in front.
My client liked to ride past the neighborhood dogs very quickly. At that speed, his bicycle made a sound that the dogs easily focused on. He created a “follow the leader” scenario and he was the leader. The dogs saw him and naturally placed themselves into the follower position. They would chase him with the only goal of catching him. As he went faster, they would speed up. As he became more animated (flapping hands, “shoo-ing away”), he escalated the game.
I told him that he needed to remove the “follow the leader” from his bicycle ride. In order to accomplish this, I suggested the same method that was very successful for me many years ago:
- The first thing that I do is to mentally “map out the doggie houses” on my bicycle ride route. This isn’t very difficult because I am used to having the dogs chase me.
- I make sure that my bike is properly oiled and all the parts are tightened so that it doesn’t squeak and groan as I am riding it.
- As I approach a “doggie house”, I slow down to a speed that emulates a slow walk. I ride my bike down the middle of the road. If the dog is out, I give him a slight look from the corner of my eye, but try to minimize direct eye contact.
- I continue to slowly peddle or coast past the house. Once I pass out of eyesight of the dog, I slowly pick up speed and return to the side of the road (I don’t want to be hit by a car!)
- I repeat this by every house.
- I slowly increase the speed (slightly!!!) on every daily bicycle ride. If I see the dog start to overly focus on me, I slow back down.
- As I increase my speed, I also slowly move back to the side of the road and decrease the distance between me and the dog. Again, if I see any increase of the dog’s focus, I will slow down and move back into the middle of the road.
- I repeat this process on every bicycle ride until I can ride past all my doggie friends and they no longer see me as their “follow the leader”.
Now, let’s discuss if I mess up and the dog starts to chase me. The one thing I don’t do is to speed up. I stop and get off my bicycle. I calmly stand so that the bicycle is between me and the dog. This ends the “follow the leader game” and deadrenalizes the situation. The dog will quickly determine that “I am no fun” and will head off to his house. I will let him return to his front yard and then I will calmly walk the bicycle a house-length or two down the road and then continue my ride.
As you can see, we really encourage the neighbor dogs to chase us on our bicycles. Once we understand what we are really telling them, we can easily reverse the process and fix the problem.
Robin and I are always here to help you and we encourage you to call us at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help. If you like reading, check out the hundreds of dog training articles on our blog at Best Dog Trainers Dawsonville Georgia. Having a hard time finding our contact options? Go to Dog Training Help Center Dawsonville Georgia.