We were in Acworth last Tuesday at an initial Home Dog Training session with our new client and his Alaskan Malamute named Frankie.  Frankie was a beautiful dog.  For the most part, we observed that he was well behaved. After we finished our initial part of the training and began to enter the interactive part of the lesson, Frankie demonstrated that he would easily provide our client with immediate and respectful focus as soon as he was directed.  This is always very important when you are working with any large dog.

Keep your dog safe when in public

As we continued through our behavioral and obedience exercises, Frankie continued to quickly respond in an excellent manner.  Things were going so well that we decided to continue our lesson outside, even though that was not on our client’s list of “things to do”. We went outside and performed a “let’s walk around the block” to determine if our client still had complete control. Frankie continued to perform flawlessly, and our client was very pleased with the results we were able to achieve.

We completed all the items on her “to do list” and started to finish the lesson.  As always, we asked her if there was anything else she could think of that we could address that day. She thought for a moment and then remembered “one more thing”.  Even though Frankie was great on the walk today, none of her neighbors were out as we strolled through the neighborhood.  She told us that when she takes Frankie to public places where there are a lot of people and more immediate distractions, it becomes very difficult to control him. He would pay attention to anything and anyone but her. 

We said that we would be more than happy to come out another time and meet at a “public place” where she has experienced Frankie’s misbehavior.  Then, we could work on the issue at “the scene of the crime”. She thought that was a great idea.  In the meantime, she wondered if there were any tips we could immediately provide her in the event she and Frankie needed to go to a busy, public place before we could return. We provided her with some tips that we often provide our clients in similar situations.  We would like to share them with you now:

First, and probably most important, you should constantly be aware of your immediate surroundings and determine if your dog is relaxed and focused on you. If your dog is showing signs of heightened tension and is constantly focused on “things around you”, these are possible precursors of your dog starting to inappropriately bark, jump on people, lunge at things, and possibly nip or bite people in the immediate vicinity. I am positive that you do not want to place yourself in such a situation.

Robin and I often give the following suggestions to clients who have dogs that are showing issues when placed in a crowded, public area:

  • Always be watching your dog’s body language. If you observe that your dog is beginning to “intently stare at other animals or people”, has their tail tucked under their body and up towards their belly, or is beginning to verbalize a low but continual growl, things are probably going to “get bad” soon.
  • As soon as you observe the above body language triggers, calmly, but firmly direct your dog towards the nearest exit with the least number of animals or people.  Continue to give the leash small tugs to keep his focus on you.  You must remain calm the entire time.
  • Once you get outside the location and into a clear area, you can now pause.  Have your dog focus on you as you remain calm and stand tall.  This will allow your dog to focus on your assertive and reassuring body language.  If it is going to remain crowded and crazy inside the location you just exited, you probably don’t want to go back.  If the crowd dissipates and/or the inappropriate triggers are removed from the prior location, you may consider reentering while remaining vigilant of your dog’s body language.
  • You may think that leaving the inappropriately crowded location is simply “avoiding the issue”.  On the contrary, your actions clearly showed your dog that your highest priority is to keep him safe.

Once you understand what to do when an inappropriate public event takes place, you must figure out what you can do to resolve this problem with your dog. To do this, you need to create appropriate “life experiences” where your dog will be introduced to these “crowded events”, and he can learn that all is fine.  Like most things in life, this is accomplished through a process of small steps:

  • Go to a mall with your dog (or any similar venue that normally has a lot of people) when it is relatively quiet, and it is somewhat devoid of people. Find a location at the edge of the area and sit there with your dog. (If you can’t find a place to sit, standing is fine too.) Have toys and treats with you so that you can keep your dog entertained and providing you with somewhat continual focus.
  • Once your dog has no problem in the area when there is only a minimal number of people, modify your visit time so that you start coming when the area is busier and there are more people around. If he starts to become agitated and you are having difficulty in maintaining his calm and respectful focus, slow the process down.
  • Continue this process until your dog appears calm and content with “a normal amount” of people in the area.  Remember that you are still “not in the middle of things” by “sitting off to the side”.  At this point, start to get up and slowly walk around the area.  Never get too close to the other people in the area. Always keep some space (I suggest you start by never getting closer than twenty-five feet from other people/dogs).
  • Once your dog shows that he is comfortable walking around with a specific number of people in the area at a specific distance, start to walk a little closer to the people in the area.  Take this very slowly and always be aware of your exit point, if needed.
  • Slowly continue this process until you can walk your dog past other people at a distance of about five feet.  (I always suggest that you remain a distance of about five feet between you and your dog and other people/dogs while in public. I define this as your “personal space”.)
  • Once you and your dog can pass people/dogs at a distance of five feet, start to come at times where there are more people.

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 nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.