I was in Johns Creek last weekend working with a Home Dog Training client and Comet, her Labradoodle. Comet was responding excellently to the training and my client easily understood the concept of calm and respectful focus. We were able to work through most of Comet’s main issues of jumping, stealing, running out the door, not listening, and basic obedience in about two and a half hours. By then, both Comet and my client were pretty tired. We decided to finish up for the day and pick up in a week or two. As I was getting ready to leave, she had one quick question. She liked to take Comet to the school bus stop every day to pick up the kids. Comet always goes nuts and it is next to impossible to contain her.
As a kid, it is always fun to have your dog greet you at the bus stop as you get home from school. When the dog is completely nuts and seventy pounds (Comet) that can be a problem at many levels. In order to answer my client’s question, I needed to know the exact events that took place in the bus stop scenario.
My client explained that she would put Comet in the back seat of their Suburban and drive to the bus stop about five minutes away. She normally ran late and there were already many parents there walking around or in their cars. All these people walking around would get Comet barking and running from window to window. The bus would then pull up and the kids would pour out. She would then get out of the car and take Comet out on a leash. Comet would pull and bark and would want to jump on all the kids now surrounding her. It took everything possible just to control Comet. Her kids would then get in the car and Comet would jump in after them, jumping on them, barking, and licking them. This would last all the way home and for ten minutes even after they got inside.
The problem that I quickly saw was that my client was placing Comet in an adrenalized situation where she did not maintain control. Instead of trying to redirect and gain focus, the only thing that happened was that the situation became more adrenalized and out of control. She needed to take charge of the situation before any adrenalized distractions became introduced. I provided the following suggestions:
- She needed to place Comet in the back seat with a leash that is firmly attached to a seat belt. This is to keep her contained and easily controllable.
- She must leave earlier for the bus stop so that she can get there before everybody else. This allows her to begin the “bus stop process” in a calm environment where she is in complete control of all the distractions.
- She should get Comet out of the car (remember, they are the first ones there) and walk her calmly around the area. Comet should be allowed to smell the plants and check everything out.
- As people and cars start to arrive, she and Comet should stay removed from the rest of the group. If Comet starts to give the other people and cars too much focus and starts to inappropriately adrenalize, she needs to correct and redirect her away. If needed, she should step farther away from the crowd.
- Wherever she is standing, she should make sure that it is not in the direct line of the school bus or in the direct area where all the kids will be released. This would cause a huge safety issue due to the immediate spike in Comet’s adrenaline.
- As the school bus approaches, she should continue to slowly walk Comet and keep her focused on other things. As the kids get off the bus, redirect Comet.
- She should instruct her kids to go and get in the car without giving much attention to her or Comet. They should stay calm.
- Once they are in the car and the rest of the parents and kids have started to disburse, she should calmly walk Comet back to the car.
- She should allow Comet to get in the back seat (make sure there is a nice big space for her). Do not have the kids focus on her. Clip Comet back into the seat belt.
- Once she closes the door, now the kids can calmly pet Comet and give her a treat.
- Keep everything calm on the drive home. Have Comet get out of the car first and walk her inside on the leash. Put her in a sit/stay on the leash.
- Now, have the kids come inside, but have them ignore Comet. Have them put their books down and then slowly approach Comet.
- If she starts to adrenalize, walk Comet around for a moment and place her back in a sit/stay.
- Have the kids re-approach Comet and calmly pet her.
Addressing a situation in small, incremental pieces is the best way to successfully complete your task. The same is true of you and your dog picking your kids up at the bus stop.
Robin and I hope you will give us a call at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help. We have many great dog safety and dog training articles at Best Dog Trainers Johns Creek Georgia. Locate all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Johns Creek Georgia.