We want our dogs to be polite, well-behaved citizens when we take them out. We don’t want them to be pulling on the leash, lunging at people or other animals, or practicing any other unpleasant behaviors that take the joy out of spending time with our beloved companions. So, how do we achieve what we want? We start by not allowing those unwanted behaviors in the first place.
Think of it this way: There are specific things you would and wouldn’t let your children do, right? The same principles applies to your dog. Reward the behaviors you want; use corrections and consequences with the behaviors you don’t want. Regardless of whether you get your dog as a puppy, a teenager, or an adult, molding him or her into a calm, balanced, well-behaved dog starts with you.
Don’t allow your dog to do or have anything without your permission. This includes everything from laying on the furniture to sniffing on walks. You need to put clear boundaries in place, set rules – and reinforce them every single time – and be very clear about your expectations.
Advocate for your dog at all times, especially if you have dog that’s nervous around strangers or other animals. Be a leader and a protector; don’t let your dog be in front of you on the walk. Dogs who walk in front of their humans are leading, not following; they are making all the decisions about everything, including whether or not something or someone is a potential threat. Don’t be a follower. Be a leader.
Be aware of your energy and your state of mind. If, for example, you see someone walking their dog and you get nervous, that energy will be immediately transmitted to your dog through the leash. He’ll become nervous in turn, and it may trigger him to lunge, growl, and bark. Prevent potential reactivity by remaining calm and passing by as if nothing is out of the ordinary. If you remain calm, your dog will do the same.
A calm, balanced, well-behaved dog starts with you. Every decision you make in the home and out on the walk will have a positive or negative effect on your dog’s behavior. If you want your dog to trust you and follow you, you have to deal with yourself. It all starts with you.
Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.