I was in Woodstock last week visiting one of our Home Dog Training clients and his Boxer, Bear. He can called us out for a second lesson and everything was going great. Many of the problems exhibited during the first training lesson had been corrected, except for one. It seemed that Bear would just go nuts with excitement when people came to the house. I asked my client if he had been practicing having people come over so that he could use his redirection and focus training techniques to see how Bear was responding with him. He responded that, unfortunately, he doesn’t have a great deal of guests and was wondering if I had any other suggestions to help train his crazy boxer to be calm and properly focused with people.
I thought about my client’s request for a moment and, after ruling out ordering Domino’s Pizza three times a day, came up with a plan. My client lives in a community in Woodstock where the neighbors always like to take evening walks and there are a lot of kids being dropped off by school buses. This means that there is the possibility of having a good amount of people walking, people walking their dogs, and kids on bikes in front of his house at specific times during the day. He also had a wide front yard with a very clear view of the street from his front door. I think that I have found the people, now I just need to create a training situation where we can join the people and the house. Here is the suggestion I gave my client.
- Pick a quiet time during the day when people normally aren’t passing up and down in front of your house. Put Bear on a leash, open the door, and sit with him about six feet back from the open door.
- About every thirty seconds give the leash a slight tug and demand his focus. If he doesn’t give it to you, stand up and walk him away from the front door until he is now looking at you and giving you focus. Praise him with a “Good Boy”.
- Walk back to your chair by the front door and continue your little exercise.
- Perform this for about five to ten minutes twice a day.
- After a few days, Bear should always focus on you as soon as you request. Now is the time to move on to the next step.
- Pick a new time when people will normally be passing in front of your house. Sit in your chair with Bear. Correct Bear if he starts to focus or bark at the people that he sees out the front door. Walk him around, if necessary.
- Repeat this process until Bear no longer focuses on the people passing in front of the house. Remember that he only has a small field of vision to see these people because you are still six feet inside your house.
- Now, move to the edge of the door, sit down with Bear, and wait for people to pass. You have now slightly increased his field of vision so that there will be a longer time of seeing the people as they pass by. Correct him if he starts to give the people passing by too much focus (i.e. jumping, barking, pulling on the leash).
- Once Bear can calmly watch the people pass the front of the house while he is at the front doorway, move about six feet outside the front door to your porch or the front of your walkway.
- Sit with Bear again and repeat the focus exercise. As before, if he gets too agitated when people pass by, correct and guide him away until he calms and provides you with his focus.
- Continue the above steps, moving closer and closer to the front walkway. Eventually, ask a neighbor (preferably one you know) to stop and talk for a moment. Direct Bear away, if needed, and then return.
What we have done here is to slowly introduce Bear to people. We started with providing Bear with a distant, limited perspective of the “people distraction” and allowed him to slowly socialize. Once he felt safe with that situation, we slowly increased the perspective and decreased the distance to allow him to build on his prior acceptable behavior.
Many times you can socialize your dog by setting the scene based on the end result you are trying to achieve. The situation you set doesn’t necessarily need to be the exact scenario you need to correct. We can always give you a hand in this area.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.