Of all the behavior problems people call me for help with, the top five complaints are leash pulling, excessive barking, little to no recall, jumping on people, and separation anxiety. Today I’m going to talk about two of these problems and offer some tips on how to resolve them.
Leash pulling: You’re getting ready to go for a walk, and your dog starts getting jumpy and excited. You manage to get the leash on, and out the door you go. The second you’re outside, he drags you to wherever he wants to go, while you try to stay on your feet. This isn’t fun or relaxing for either of you. So, give this a try – and don’t be afraid to use food treats or a toy to reward the behavior you want.
Before you even put the leash on, try to get him to sit nicely for you. This will take a lot of calmness and patience on your part, because he’s really excited and he really wants to get out. Stay calm, be patient, and wait for him to calm down. Be prepared to spend a lot of time with this, and don’t try to rush it. Once he’s calmed down, you can put the leash on.
When you get outside, the second he starts to pull, come to an immediate stop. This is where you want something of high value to him to lure him to you. A toy or food treats usually work. When he comes back to you, reward him, and then try going forward again. If he pulls, repeat the process. It may take you half an hour just to get from the door to the main sidewalk, but don’t get discouraged. Remember: He’s been calling the shots; he’s not going to take you seriously the first time out. So be prepared to work for his respect and thus, his willingness to follow you.
Excessive barking: Your dog hears or sees something and starts barking to alert you to it. But, once she starts, she can’t seem to stop herself. Your ears start ringing from the onslaught of sound, you can’t hear yourself think of have a conversation with anyone, the neighbors complain… It’s not fun; it’s embarrassing and frustrating. And what’s worse is that you’re stuck between a rock and hard place: You want her to let you know about things, but you don’t want her to keep telling you. So, try this – and make sure you have some kind of high-value reward to start off with. You’ll need it.
As soon as she starts barking, acknowledge the alert while you’re going to see what she’s barking at, and then ask her to stop – something like, “Thank you. Stop now.” – and then reward when she quiets down. If she continues to bark, try to stay calm and patiently wait her out. Be prepared to work in baby steps. Meaning: reward when the volume of the bark decreases. It will take time, patience, and consistency, but eventually, she’ll figure out that you’ve heard her, that you’ve got things under control, and that her job is done and she can now relax.
I hope these tips help. If you live in or around the Calgary, Alberta area, and you’re not getting the results you want, please feel free to contact me at 587-582- BARC (2272). I’ll be happy to come to you and help you get things on the right track. Meanwhile, stay tuned: In the next post, we’ll discuss jumping and how to stop it effectively and quickly.
Have a great day, and remember: stay calm and lead on.