I was in Roswell Georgia last Wednesday working with a new Home Dog Training Client and his Weimaraner named Betty. She was mostly a great dog and just had a few issues to resolve. As I tell all my clients, our dogs are great dogs for most of the day. We always focus on the few things that our dog does that really bug us and that often causes us to think the we have a really big problem. With that said, we worked on her obedience and bad behavior and quickly got Betty to start focusing and obeying on my client’s commands, wishes, and rules.
One of the things that we worked on that day was walking. My client said that Betty was just a super nutcase when they went on a walk. I quickly noticed that the “walkies issue” started long before he and Betty started down the driveway for the walk. This is a common problem with many dog owners, and I would like to share the situation and resolution with you.
It was quite clear that Betty was crazy when they went on a walk. She would pull, jump, and give very little focus to my client. These are all inappropriate behaviors that naturally need to be resolved. The problem is that they are not the root cause issues of the horrible walkies. As I observed, and have seen many times before, the ability to have a calm and happy walk was doomed long before he and Betty even got to the front door.
The first problem that I observed was that Betty went nuts as soon as she saw the leash. She went from calmly lying on the floor to running around the room, jumping on my client, and then dashing to the front door and jumping on the door. She repeated this over and over again. My client had to grab her to hook the leash on and then had a very hard time controlling her; even with the leash.
This was a situation where my client created a singular association between the introduction of the leash and going for a walk. He would only get the leash when he was preparing to go on a walk with Betty and she became very excited in anticipation of the walk. This turned into a singular learning process of leash equals walkies equals crazy. My client needed to disrupt this process.
He had to teach Betty that when she sees the leash many things can happen. Since dogs cannot comprehend the possibility of multiple outcomes based on a single event, she will not respond to that event. In this case, she will not respond to the leash. I gave my client the following instructions to make this happen and have Betty stop responding to the appearance of the leash:
- Calmly click the leash on Betty at random times during the day.
- Once he has attached the leash, calmly walk away and continue with his normal activities.
- Make sure that he does different things after he has attached the leash. He may watch TV, prepare a meal, read a book, get dressed, etc. The important thing is that he does as many different things after attaching the leash as possible.
- If Betty gets excited and engages with my client in a manner that breaks his rules (i.e. no jumping, no nipping, etc.), he should immediately correct Betty in a resolute manner and then continue with his activities.
- Every once in a while, pick up the leash and walk Betty around the room or through several rooms for a minute or two. After a minute or two, put Betty in a SIT, drop the leash, and calmly walk away.
- Repeat these actions until Betty has no reaction to having the leash attached to her collar and does not become adrenalated after it is attached. Once attached, she should continue on and act in the same manner as she was acting before the leash was attached.
This is the first issue that I needed to address with my client and Betty. The second issue focused on getting her to the start of the walk. Betty would bolt out the door the second he opened the door to get her outside. This still wasn’t the beginning of the walk because they were both inside. The problem is that, because of how he handled the “door situation”, the walk was doomed to failure even before he started. If you have ever been to a horse race, you will understand that if they don’t properly start the race, it will fail. All the horses had to be properly positioned and calm within the gate for the race to start.
When my client was allowing Betty to be nuts at the door, he had not properly prepared for the start of the walk. In order to correct this problem, we worked on the GOING THROUGH THE DOOR FIRST exercise. This exercise is based on the premise that “the leader always leads”. My client needed to go through the door ahead of Betty. More importantly, Betty had to actively acknowledge that he went through first while she passively stayed behind and waited for his direction. Here are the steps we worked on to have Betty passively submit to my client’s direction:
- I instructed my client to calmly bring Betty to the front of the door. She is wearing her leash.
- He should put her in a SIT at a location that will allow him to open the door without hitting her and have enough room to step through the door without pulling on her leash.
- Once she is calmly sitting, he should give her the STAY command.
- While always facing her, he will now slowly open the door.
- If she breaks the STAY, he must correct her, close the door, and return her to a STAY. Then, repeat slowly opening the door while facing her.
- Once the door is open, he will slowly step through the door (backwards) while always facing her.
- Once both feet are on the outside of the door, he should praise her successful STAY with a very quiet and high pitched “GOOD PUPPY”.
- Invite her out with a slight tug on the leash.
- Once she is outside, place her in a SIT. Praise her with a quiet and high pitched “GOOD PUPPY”.
- He should now make sure that he is ready to start the walk by making sure he is holding the leash properly, has a poopy bag (if needed), and look around the area to make sure that the environment is safe to start the walk.
I assure you that if you follow these hints, you will have a great “walkies experience” with your dog.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.