Category Archives: Top Training Tips

Forks in the road

It has long been touted that a dog’s walk, The Walk, was an important event, allowing the dog’s owner to assert their ‘dominance’ and implement all-important control. But, really, there is no social significance to exerting such control on walks and outings.

For most dogs, while walks and outings are certainly significant events, getting out of the house or garden is limited. Most pet dogs have very limited access to the outside world – their humans work long hours, weather is so often unpleasant, their dog’s behaviour might be difficult, and so on.

Earlier this year, a survey from Forthglade dog food revealed that over half of the pet dogs, whose owners had responded, didn’t get a daily outing. While I don’t believe traditional dog walks to be the be-all-and-end-all, and in some cases they are not appropriate for individual dogs, my concern is that it is terribly unlikely, unfortunately, that these dogs have sufficient appropriate enrichment in place to make up for the lack of outings. And in addition to outings, which is also important.

In my experience, and that of many of my colleagues, the bottom line is that most pet dogs don’t get sufficient appropriate enrichment and entertainment. (This impending pet dog welfare crisis is the subject for another post, and a topic I discuss often.)

This is why #100daysofenrichment came to be.

The dog’s nose knows

Choice and choosing features big throughout #100daysofenrichment. In the modern study of captive animal behaviour, it is recognised that opportunities to choose what happens to them allows animals to feel more confident and reduces the stress of captive living.

At the very heart of what makes an activity enriching or not, is how the animal chooses to interact, how they choose to engage, and the behaviours they choose to use. Without choice, enrichment isn’t enriching.

Here’s some clips of recent outings with Decker. There are lots of trails established in the long grass, some mechanically but most just by human and animal activity, as we meander about.

Clip here

About a month ago, Decker seriously injured his foot and as part of recovery, we’ve been gradually building his exercise back up after almost 3 weeks of next to no activity. This includes walks/trots on lead so that he takes it somewhat easy. We are in the Phoenix Park, which is the most wonderful facility, and there are lots of these crosses eeked out in the long, summer grass.

I have no idea what criteria he uses to choose but you can see him actively consider the best route to take. But it doesn’t matter. How or why he chooses isn’t my business.
Case in point, here he is choosing a specific tennis ball from his collection. 11 identical balls but one is special…

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It is not possible to give dogs unlimited choice and often times, if dogs were left to choose in some contexts, they would not make appropriate, safe choices because dogs.

But there are lots of significant ways that we can add choice to their lives, so that they can get a little say in their day, in what happens to them, in their enjoyment.

What can you do to add choice to your dog’s outings?
Can they choose the direction, the location, the activities, the twists and turns, how long they stay..? What else?
After all, there’s no point following my nose…that would not be a fun dog-outing at all! The dog’s nose knows so let them choose what to do with it, every day. 

Where will your dog’s nose bring you today?

Make dog walks more dog

Dog walks don’t have to be elaborate or even lengthy. We just need to make sure they are more dog!

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#100daysofenrichment emphasises making sure that sniffing and other doggie pursuits are central so that outings are more about quality than quantity…time spent sniffing is never a waste so go for a SNIFF instead of a walk:

There are even lots of options for when you can’t get your dog out and about and even more options if you check out the entire program.

Bring your dog places that allows them freedom to choose (safely), to truly follow their nose. Get ready, leash up and tag along for the ride!

Where will your dog’s nose take you today?

When playing footsie ain’t funny any more

Almost consistently, puppy owners will want help with puppy biting & nipping behaviour (including foot chasing) and toilet training. Although they will understandably have lots of concerns and questions, those top the polls.

Most puppies, by the time I see them, will show well established foot biting/chasing behaviour. But, this behaviour didn’t start in their new home; swinging out of conspecifics is a normal part of puppy-puppy and puppy-dog interactions. When they go home, that comes to an end so human feet become a clear favourite.

While this behaviour isn’t terribly concerning in terms of the dog becoming ‘aggressive’ as an adult, it’s irritating and possibly dangerous (in tripping someone up), plus might indicate puppy needs help with managing internal conflict and arousal.

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Your Toolbox

No one tool alone is going to resolve this, or any other unwanted behaviour, but, rather, a variety of tools that are best applied in different contexts.

  • STOP making it fun!
    When you move, squeal and pull your foot back, this is likely to add to the fun puppy is having…you are basically acting like a dog toy…
    Puppy is getting lots of jollies out of this – getting to bite, chew and rag your feet, shoes, slippers or trousers gives puppy an outlet for their excitement, providing relief from stress (feeling wound up) and soon this game becomes the source of fun in and of itself.
    When puppy approaches, stop moving. Be boring.
    While this might be most effective for puppies whose behaviour isn’t really well established, it also stops a seasoned-foot-biter getting any further pay off.

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  • Redirect their focus.
    You’ve stopped moving. The little monkey is swinging out of your trouser leg or dressing gown strap. Now what?
    Puppies are pretty easy to distract so make a fuss about something else.
    Pretend to be embroiled in a very interesting imaginary task, complete with lots of ooohs and aaaahs, rustling of packaging, moving of items, tapping of surfaces.
    Very often puppy will be enticed and wonder what you are up to.
    Now you will be able to redirect puppy to a different activity by, for example, tossing some kibble onto the floor for searching, toss a treat or chew into another room, throw or wiggle their toy. Once they have moved away and forgotten about foot chasing, you can engage them in another activity that will keep them busy a little longer while also helping them calm such as a stuffed toy, a sniffing game or chewing.

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  •  Provide them with an alternative outlet.
    All behaviour serves a purpose, meaning the dog is doing behaviour to get something they need. A puppy biting, chewing and ragging on something, especially in a greeting or exciting situation, is seeking an outlet for their excitement.
    They might not be quite sure how to cope with a greeting or the associated excitement so may be experience some internal conflict, not sure how to proceed.
    Have a long toy, ready to wriggly on the floor, as soon as you come in the door so that puppy has something to rag on and tug. (Clip below)

Spend lots of time playing with puppies in short two minute sessions, practicing tug & thank you. A typical tug session should look like this (clip link):

This not only encourages play between human and puppy, but you are also teaching puppy to respond even when excited and helping puppy learn to regulate their own excitement, before things become too crazy and bitey.

  • Change puppy’s expectations
    Instead of expecting a big greeting and lots of foot chasing, help puppy’s expectations change to some other activity.
    Practice coming in and out of confinement, in through a door or baby gate for example, presenting a different activity straight away. Puppy doesn’t even get to think about foot chasing. Toss food to move puppy away as soon as you enter and keep them sniffing and moving away as you move about. (Clip below)

  • Play FOLLOW ME! games, a lot
    Follow Me! teaches puppy to walk close to you for food rewards. It’s a simple game that must be practiced often, even outside foot-chasing contexts. Puppy learns that there are other ways to get and keep your attention.
    It’s simple. Stroll about and each time puppy catches up with you or walks beside you, stop and feed a small food reward. Puppy can earn an entire meal during practice for this one.
    Puppy learns that you moving about doesn’t need to involve chasing or biting your feet and by rewarding very regularly initially, puppy is prevented from even thinking about it. (Clip below)

This simple and fun exercise quickly establishes a really nice walking position for awesome loose leash walking and builds an excellent level of engagement. Lots of benefits to this one!

In this clip we practice Follow-Me! with Klaus. He happens to offer a sit behaviour that is rewarded and from then on, he offers an auto-sit each time the human stops moving. While this isn’t required, it’s a nice side-effect of puppy learning to human train. From Klaus’ point of view, he’s learning to get the human to produce food rewards – he just sits (and looks cute) – irresistible! (Clip below)

  • teach LEAVE-IT! for feet or moving things
    Help puppy learn that “leave it” means to reorient to their person, away from the moving thing, for a big pay-off.
    Start by practicing in non-chasing scenarios and don’t make the moving thing too enticing to begin with. As soon as puppy looks toward it, say “leave it” and immediately offer a great reward. (Clip below)

You can work on mop chasing in the same way too, and apply ‘leave it’ with a toy to foot chasing. (Clip below)

Foot chasing and biting isn’t confined just to puppies; lots of adolescent dogs will do it too, often when greeting or going out for a walk. The excitement is more than their teenage brains are able for and biting is a neat way for them to channel that.

This usually is an initial response to getting out into the world, and soon dies down as the dog finds other forms of entertainment.
Use sniffing stations to get out the door – drop a few food rewards every couple of steps until you can get to an area where you can encourage your dog to sniff or engage in other activities.

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Similarly, you could use a tug toy or other toy that the dog can carry or bite on. This can also help to redirect them from leash biting, which might be seen at the beginning of walks too.

Play the Go Find It! game on walks or in areas where the dog might redirect their excitement to biting or mouthing. This simple game can help to improve loose leash walking and engagement, while changing their motivations and helping to provide them with an outlet for their excitement.

Lots of tools and tricks to help!
If you would like more help or advice with puppy training or adolescent training, please get in touch!

To the extreme

Reading my social media feeds this week, you would think that the only way to train a dog is NEVER with this tool or ONLY with this tool, to ONLY feed this diet because this diet KILLS dogs, to NEVER allow your dog carry out this behaviour, ONLY get dogs from this source…and so on and on.

I understand that social media, as a communication tool, facilitates this polarisation, but as professionals, surely we have responsibilities in recognising and understanding the nuances in human-dog interactions.

We espouse “science” and “evidence” bases but yet commit science- sins of absolutism and declarations of ‘fact’ and ‘proof’ based in anecdote and bias.

The bottom line is that dogs and humans have been together, in one way or another, for many tens of thousands of years (if not longer). Both humans and dogs are complex social creatures, who bring lots of variability and flexibility to the table. Dogs are super-dooper adaptable, which is a feature that has probably allowed them to develop such close and intense relationships with us.

My clients are, for the most part, regular pet owners. They have busy lives, to which their dog is an addition, and their pet must slot in. My job is to help them help their dog to do that.
In essence, what I am doing is helping them meet their pet dog’s needs, improving its welfare, so that their relationship blossoms.

Sharing extremes is likely not helpful. My responses to queries about trying or avoiding such recommendations tend to range from “maybe that’ll work” to “that might not work in this situation”.

Behaviour is such a loose and flexible phenomenon that binding it in absolutes is not helpful. Many, many factors contribute, some within our control and some without.
What works for this person, this dog, this context, on this day, may be very different for another person or dog, or another context or day.

I am not at all suggesting that rules and laws don’t apply to behaviour, but rather the application of same, in every day life, may be a greyer area altogether.

My clients need help fitting their dog and its needs into their lives. That requires compromise and discussion, rather than dictating and self-righteousness.
Social media is powerful, but can be a dangerous place for novices, who may be impressionable or naive.

Yes, lots of training-cultural norms need to be challenged and re-challenged, and I enjoy that and the accompanying learning curve, but not at the expense of discussion, preference and appreciation for variation in approach.

By opening up, rather than shutting down arguments for or against, we can debate and discuss, and learn and adapt. Absolutes and definites shut that down, scare away newbies and make dog training a dictatorship, rather than an applied science that can be molded and shaped to help pet owners and their pets.

Got Puppy. Now what?

Regardless of whether getting a puppy or new dog around Christmas is actually a bad thing (for that puppy or new dog), is up for debate; arguing the point is not relevant now.

If new puppies are in new homes, which they undoubtedly are, we want to keep them there by supporting new puppy owners, giving them the best advice and helping them avail of the best resources on puppy care.

We have a FREE trouble-shooting seminar for all puppy owners in January to help, and make sure everyone gets off on the right paw.

When – Saturday 6th January, 2018
What time – 2pm-4pm
Where – at the AniEd centre in Glasnevin, Dublin 11; just off J5 M50

What will we cover?

It will be two hours of puppy-people’s questions. All those niggling, puppy problems and behaviour mysteries will be discussed, so that puppies and their families can stay together in peace and harmony.

We will cover topics such as:

  • what puppies need to know
  • social experience – puppy and people
  • social experience  – puppy and other dogs
  • social experience – puppy and other animals
  • environmental experience – growing puppy brains and building confident, resilient puppies
  • puppy’s first walks
  • travelling in the car
  • importance of mental exercise
  • care with physical exercise
  • puppy nipping, biting and bite inhibition
  • puppies & children
  • management – prevent unwanted puppy behaviour
  • crate and confinement training – benefits and pitfalls
  • alone training
  • night-time training
  • passive training – catch your puppy doing the right thing!
  • Park your Pup – teach your puppy to relax and settle, and be ignored
  • preventing resource guarding
  • handling and grooming comfort
  • toilet training
  • playing with your puppy

We have lots to cover, and no doubt there will be more to discuss.

Who should attend?

This is vital for new puppy owners, if even if they have had puppies before. There’s nothing like going from an adult dog to a new, young puppy!!

We will be discussing puppy training & behaviour relating to puppies five months and younger.

This will also be great for those thinking of getting a puppy so that they can be prepared.

Pet professionals and veterinary personnel are welcome to come along too, as they will often be in positions to advise puppy owners.

Please book!

This is a people-only event, and requires booking so we know how many to expect.

You can book by emailing info@anied.ie, messaging our Facebook page, or calling and leaving your details (01 8308380 or 086 044 9275).
We are closed for Christmas and New Year’s but will make sure to respond to all bookings for this event as soon as possible. Rest assured, that if you have contacted us and left your details, you have a spot on this seminar!

Please share, far & wide so we can get the best support to new puppy people, and prevent an onslaught of unwanted, difficult puppies in 2018.

SNIFFING STATIONS!

This will not be news to you, at all, that dogs love sniffing. Sniffing isn’t just a fun past-time for dogs, it’s essential behaviour that they MUST do for behavioural health.

Not only that, sniffing can be a great training tool.

Sniffing for training

Dogs pull on lead for lots of reasons:

  • they’re excited to be out and about
  • the world is an exciting place
  • they have twice the number of legs we do
  • they want to get sniffing and sniffing and sniffing
  • they want to get to things
  • they want to get away from things
  • we have trained them to pull

Pet owners spend lots of money on all sorts of, often times, scary equipment and lots of time on training exercises, to improve their dogs’ loose leash walking skills.

Changing the dog’s motivation for behaviour, and reducing his expectation (that crazy behaviour is required) will help to prevent pulling behaviour, making walks more enjoyable for all.

SNIFFING STATIONS

Is there a time or area in which your dog really, really pulls?

Do you find it difficult to get your dog from point A to point B, on lead?

Are there particular distractions that you find difficult to manage?

Establishing Sniffing Stations will help:

  • to get your dog out the door, without too much craziness
  • to get your dog from the house to the car, or from the car to the park or from one spot to a very exciting place
  • your dog get passed, toward or through particularly distracting situations
  • your dog get to another person or dog in a calmer fashion
  • to get a dog from a kennel to an exercise area
  • to get a dog to an exit (or entrance)
  • the dog to associate good things with potentially distracting or worrying triggers
  • your dog’s focus on you to increase

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Start with your dog on lead, and use really yummy food rewards.

  • say “Go Sniff!”
  • drop a couple of treats to the ground, across your dog’s eyeline if possible but just point them out if he misses them
  • let your dog eat the treats
  • repeat approx. every two metres

We start out with Sniffing Stations close to one another, and can move them further apart as the dog improves, or closer together for really tricky distractions.

If you know that you need to move the dog over the same short route, make more permanent Sniffing Stations.
Use double-sided tape to secure little bowls or even lids to each spot. Pre-load with treats for each trip.
For more temporary but pre-loaded Sniffing Stations, use little pieces of double-sided tape at each station and place treats on each one. This will also take the dog a little longer to eat, so is great to get dog past tricky distractions.
(Securely stick tape so that the dog doesn’t take that too!)

Teach sniffing on cue

Put sniffing on cue:

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Sniffing is a handy training exercise because:

  • your dog loves to sniff (and is already really good at it)!
  • sniffing is a polite dog behaviour and can be used to diffuse the tension between two dogs at a distance
  • sniffing is a calming behaviour for your dog
  • sniffing can help to divert your dog’s attention away from a trigger
  • sniffing can be used as a release cue, to let your dog know they they can go be a dog again
  • sniffing can be used to keep your dog busy or entertained when you are otherwise engaged
  • sniffing can be used to help your dog calm after excitement
  • sniffing can be used as a reward, after recalling for example
  • sniffing can be used to help your dog form more pleasant associations toward some trigger

Sniffing as a past-time

Make sure your dog has lots of opportunities to sniff. Forget about taking your dog for walks, instead make outings about sniffing.

Take your dog on a sniff, rather than on a walk. Who’s walk is it anyway!?

No, your dog is not just being “friendly”

Set the scene…you are walking your dog, interacting or playing, your dog might even be on lead, or at the very least is engaged with you and not looking to meet and greet…in the distance a loose dog approaches, directly, attempting to interact with your dog, who is not really in to it…

Regardless of how this interaction goes, it’s not appropriate behaviour.
You are, I am sure, a ‘socialised’ person. This means that you can pass other people without having to approach them, attempt to interact or touch them. Strangers running up to strangers, attempting contact, especially if one person is clearly not looking to interact, would be weird and concerning human behaviour.

Same goes for dogs. A socialised dog doesn’t need to greet every dog, doesn’t get excited by the presence of other dogs, and can read another dog’s signalling without having to get right up in their face.
This negatively impacts a dog’s comfort levels and behaviour, and is probably not great for either dog involved.

Dealing with Uninvited Approaches

Safety first

Not only does this behaviour present risks for your dog’s safety, but also yours. Lots of your first reactions may be borne out of panic, and that may not be helpful.

Picking up your dog, trying to move them with the lead, or even putting your body between them and the interloper, may increase the tension or arousal in the situation leading to an escalation in their behaviour.

When your dog is at risk, you might be tempted to put yourself in harm’s way, to attempt to prevent your dog being injured or scared.

I get that. As much as I might advise you don’t do that, to be honest, I am going to do whatever I need to do to protect my dog from inappropriate contact with another dog who may potentially cause injury or stress.

  • picking up your dog may cause the other dog’s arousal to increase, pursuing your dog up into your arms. This may lead to a more persistent ‘attack’, with the dog frustrated and trying to reach your dog, and may lead to injury to you as the other dog attempts to get to your dog, or re-directs onto you.
    In a panicked state and being lifted and losing control, it’s also possible that your own dog will re-direct on you or catch you with his teeth or claws.

If you must pick your dog up, try to tuck him inside your jacket and turn your back on the other dog immediately.

It might be possible to put your own dog up on to something high such as a log, a rock or even on a vehicle.

Regardless, keep your balance, and possibly implement some of our other recommendations to reduce the impact on you, and your dog.

  • restraining your dog on lead may offer some protection in that your dog doesn’t have the opportunity to go after another dog, but dogs on lead are more likely to react and aggress when they feel under pressure.
    But when another dog comes close, we can feel the temptation to tighten the lead, and even use it to move our dog out of harm’s way.
    Doing so may cause your dog’s reaction to escalate faster and increase in intensity.
    If your dog is in an interaction with the other dog, them being moved suddenly and stiffly may cause the interaction to go south fast.
    Moving them by the lead, may even cause greater damage and injury should there be a bite.

Your dog being on lead may very well contribute to an interaction becoming more tense, more serious, leading to more harm.

Dropping the lead and allowing your dog to move and escape may well offer greater protection as your dog can move faster without you, but may put your dog at greater risk in other ways. Your dog running may even increase another dog’s interest, leading to intense chasing behaviour.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, loosening the lead, may be your best bet, especially if the other dog’s intentions are social, albeit obnoxious.
Keep the lead loose, stay at your dog’s shoulder, and move with your dog as he moves or circles may help. Stay calm, hum or sing softly to yourself (“Happy Birthday” is a great one to sing as it’s hard to be tense during that one!), and be ready to move.

  • you moving between your dog and the approaching dog is often a go-to move…indeed I have done it myself. Sometimes this can be enough to deter an overly-exuberant greeter, but sometimes it may just draw the other dog’s attention to you, making you the focus.
    Where an interaction has begun or where there is tension, you moving may certainly cause fireworks.

Although we are tempted to try and intimidate the other dog so that they move away, this doesn’t always work as intended, instead leading to an increase in arousal and a lowering of already impaired inhibitions, possibly in both dogs.

We can teach a dog to move behind us on cue which might help to diffuse tension, and paired with some of our other recommendations, may help to cool the situation.

Diffuse

Being proactive, and looking to keep interactions low key is probably going to be safest and most comfortable for everyone, but this requires time and space, which you might not always have.

  • assess the situation – how is your dog feeling, how is the other dog responding – how direct, tense and intense are they, how much control does the other owner have, how responsive is your dog, how well will you be able to escape?
  • scan your environment for signs that loose dogs may be present, such as people who look like dog walkers and other dogs in the distance, listen for dog tags and paws on concrete.
  • walk in places that require dogs to be on lead, that offer you good vantage points with lots of places that you and your dog can escape to that provide visual barriers
  • remain alert close to blind corners or concealed entrances, which might reveal loose dogs suddenly
  • keep your dog’s attention on you with trained cues for simple behaviours such as hand targeting, and high value motivators such as food rewards and toys.
    It’s best to avoid stationary behaviours such as stay, sit or down, as this can cause your dog to feel less well able to control the goings-on.
    Remember, the introduction or availability of high value motivators may cause your dog’s discomfort to increase as he attempts to keep the other dog away from his prized possessions. It may also make you more attractive to rude dogs looking to score a treat from a stranger, or take another dog’s ball (someone else’s is always better, right?!).
  • get your dog sniffing – head down and sniffing can communicate a desire for a calmer, slower interaction among dogs which may be heeded. Your dog staring and making eye contact with another dog, may encourage it to approach.
  • walking away calmly and/or taking sudden direction change can help to keep your dog focused on you and less likely to interact with another dog, and may cause the other dog to give up in its pursuit
  • this is the opportunity for you to have your dog behind you, and you between your dog and the other dog, before tensions rise and direct approach is imminent. It may also give you time to call to the other dog owner, asking them to get their dog.

The other owner

While some of you will scoff at this, sometimes another owner may not be aware of the distress their dog potentially causes.

Culturally, among dog owners, it’s presumed that their dog running directly up to another dog or person is just an expression of their dog’s friendliness and joie do vivre. This interaction may be a teaching moment, if there’s enough time and everyone is open to discussion.

 

  • call to the other dog owner and ask them to get their dog, to leash their dog, to remove their dog
    There’s no point asking them to call their dog as doing so doesn’t necessarily mean that their dog will return to them.
  • as frustrating as it is when they say their dog is “just being friendly”, (we, of course know different), it’s best to stay as calm as possible so as not to increase the tension, or possibly get their back up, making them less cooperative
  • if your requests are not successful, tell them that your dog is not friendly, is sick or old, or is “contagious”
  • muzzle training your own dog, and having them wear a muzzle is a sure-fire way to get other dog owners to avoid you…
  • taking out your phone and really or mock filming them will often cause them to remove their dog and move away quickly
  • informing them that you will do what you need to do to protect your own dog, should they be unable to remove their dog immediately, is a last resort but threats may be necessary

React

Sometimes you won’t have time for any of the above, and are left with no choice but to react and to hope that you can minimise emotional and physical damage to all involved.

Repellents & Shields

Some you might be able to carry with you, but you may also be able to use things you find around you.

Repellents might include:

  • compressed air (Pet Corrector)
  • small aerosol can, citronella spray
  • water gun or spray
  • a Dog Stop alarm (very loud!)

The problem with these is that they will only be effective when the other dog is quite close. Outdoors the wind may blow a spray back into your or your dog’s face.

If something is designed to scare away another dog, it may also have that effect on your dog possibly leading to a greater level of distress in association with that context.

Shields might include:

  • an umbrella with a button pop
  • a length of cardboard, like a flattened box
  • a clipboard, sheet of Styrofoam, chopping board
  • your bag

Shields might act to intimidate a dog sufficiently that they move away, or may give you a few seconds to redirect and escape.

Again, anything intended to startle an oncoming dog might also distress your own dog.

Carrying a small back pack is a good idea, not only to carry things safely and out of reach, but also to use as a shield or as something to redirect a persistent interloper.

Other deterrents

Carrying a walking stick, or even an umbrella folded up may be enough to deter other dogs. Swinging it or cracking it on the ground can help to move them away.

Swinging a lead or line, or even the heavy handled end of a retractable leash may also help. Cracking the line in the air or on the ground may also cause sufficient startle to halt an approaching dog.

Try:

  • turn your attention to your dog immediately and keep them engaged
  • move away briskly, keeping your dog moving away, rather than directly
  • keep yourself between your dog and the other dog as you move
  • toss treats or something (such as pebbles) into the dog’s path (not at them), across their eyeline
    Tossing something bigger like a stick, or even your bag or jacket.
  • using a shield or repellent, and then using the couple of seconds it buys and get out of there
  • stepping forward and shouting “NO!”, “STAY!”, “SIT!”, “GO HOME!” or growling – might just buy you a couple of seconds of redirection so you can get out of there
  • get something between you and the other dog

Although the temptation is to ‘go big’, try calm and cool first and attempt to diffuse. Up the ante as needed.

Don’t:

  • grab collars
  • put your hands in the middle, or near mouths
  • pick up a dog
  • hit, kick, or punch
  • put your body or body parts in the middle

No magic wand

There is no one solution that is going to work every time. One of these may work in one context, but may be ineffective in another. The key is to have plenty of tools at the ready, and to practice when there’s no panic, so that you are ready when the shi1t hits the fan.

Sadly, loose dogs, under poor control, are an every day occurrence for the majority of my clients (and my friends, and me!), many having dogs who have been injured and are seriously distressed by other irresponsible owners’ actions (or lack thereof). Not only that, but a number of friends and clients have been hurt, frightened and injured by these dogs themselves, as they try to do their best to deal with the onslaught.

Understand that it’s not appropriate for dogs to behave like this (just as it wouldn’t be OK for people to behave this way), and that your dog is allowed to say they don’t want another dog in their face by ignoring them or even snarking. In that context, that’s appropriate behaviour. Do your dog a favour, and get them out of there quickly and calmly.

In my day…

We all long for our hazy days of youth, when we can look back, through rose-tinted spectacles, at the dogs we spent our days with.

Our expectations of modern day dogs are probably, in part, derived from our skewed memories of childhood encounters with dogs.

Did our parents need to worry about Kong toys? Did our childhood dogs attend training classes and undergo elaborate socialisation programs?

They probably didn’t, or at least we as owners didn’t implement this stuff, nor was it recommended or discussed much

Things have changed and times move on, and modern dogs face challenges their ancestors didn’t. And, as such, modern dog owners face challenges keeping modern dogs in the modern world.

What’s changed?

Modern pet ownership certainly seems more complicated…

  • dog control legislation enacted (in Ireland) in the 1990’s has meant that dogs are largely confined to an owner’s property.
    This limits the dog’s access to the outside world, and to more naturally paced and exposure based socialisation and experience-building for puppies and young dogs.
    Not only is it more difficult for puppies and young dogs to gain vital experience and exposure, dogs confined to their human’s properties have even further diminished choice in their lives; this is detrimental to welfare.

  • dogs live more isolated lives due to increased confinement, increased incidence of living in packed suburban and urban areas, and because their families work outside of the home. Cultural trends in women returning to work and the confinement of dogs, means that dogs may spend many hours each day alone and isolated from appropriate social contact.
    For social animals, this is detrimental to welfare.

  • supply & demand
    Supply – most pet dogs are bred accidentally, or, with an emphasis on phenotypic characteristics – either way, lots of dogs destined for the pet market are produced without adequate attention and preparation.
    Placing dogs in inappropriate homes relative to the dogs’ behavioural needs, its history, environmental requirements and behaviour issues, is a worrying trend, affecting the welfare of both people and pets.
    All dogs require work and commitment from their families, but dogs that bring behaviour baggage are going to require even more work and access to resources to support and help the dog in its new home.
    Demand – attraction and access to a wider range of dog breeds and types, that are not necessarily suited to their owner’s lifestyle, living conditions, or location.
    We cannot deny the role of selection  in the behaviour a dog breed or type will tend toward. If we have selected for certain behavioural characteristics for countless generations, we cannot expect that dog to just suppress that behaviour because he now lives in a city, or housing estate, or because his owner’s work…
    Bringing home a dog that is not appropriate for your lifestyle, time and resources makes it unlikely that that dog’s needs will be met, presenting a range of welfare and safety concerns.

  • as society becomes less and less tolerant of dogs, the expectations thrust upon dogs become higher and higher.
    Dogs are expected to be safe members of the community, friendly to all, cope with all environments, be tolerant and gentle with children, love us unconditionally, literally save lives, and improve our quality of life…
    Our rose-tinted-spectacled view is informed by nostalgia for childhood pets and movie dogs. It’s a long way down from that pedestal – there is no ‘real’ dog on the planet who can live up this.

  • when you know better, you do better.
    We have a well-established and growing science of behaviour – this means our understanding of behaviour, learning and cognition is improving week by week, based on more than just anecdotes.
    Science is self-correcting, so as we gather more information, it allows us to develop better and more effective tools.
    We are learning more and more about dogs, about how they learn, and about how best to help pet owners, now more than ever.

We’re not being needlessly complicated or conservative in our approach when we make recommendations for your dog’s training and care. Dogs have it harder than ever before, and it’s become harder to provide for their needs. We can make it easier by accounting for these modern challenges, and helping pets and their people succeed in the modern world.