Another Day, Another Off-Leash Dog

running dog

In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.
- Deepak Chopra

Let’s get something clear: your dog needs to stay on-leash in public spots. I don’t care how friendly Fido is, or how much Schutz you’ve put in your hund.  Training only takes you so far.  Your dog is still capable of ignoring your recall command.

You never know who may have a dog-reactive dog. Your dog may be bounding recklessly towards another dog who is more than willing to show them that your dog’s behavior is unsavory. It’s stressful to everyone involved.  And if you think it’s okay because your dog is friendly, and likes to meet other dogs, well guess what?  Not every other dog thinks your dog is adorable. You are blatantly wagering your ability to control your dog against the safety of not only the other dog, but the safety of the other person who is actually holding a leash. You know… the part you’re supposed to be holding as well?

See how easy it is to hold it?  There's even a nifty little loop for your hand!

See how easy it is to hold it? There’s even a nifty little loop for your hand!

Hell, at this point, I guarantee that not every human thinks your dog is cute.  I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  Not everyone wishes to get up close and personal with your beloved little Fifi.  You are proving nothing but your ability to be obtuse.

Now, for those of you subjected to off-leash dogs, here’s some hints:

- If someone calls out that, “It’s okay, their dog is friendly!” I like to call out that my dog is NOT friendly…and neither am I. Make sure your body language is speaking the same words your mouth is: confidence.

Confidence is key

Confidence is key

- Pilot  your own dog. It’s up to you to handle whatever comes at you, even if it means faking your way through self-confidence. Go ahead and be scared, but act confident.  The show must go on. Control yourself.

- Do whatever it takes to keep your dog safe.  I don’t care if it’s an old Lab, if you need to make them back off of you, and you feel safe doing so, make them move!

- Scream.  Yes, scream.  Loud as you can.  That will get the owner’s attention.  As well as anyone else’s, which may be important if things go badly with the other dog.  You may need help.

- Drop the leash. If you have a dog running at you who is definitely not part of the welcome wagon sometimes the safest thing to do is to let your dog try to run away without you getting tangled up in the mess.  Leashes can get wrapped around you very easily, ensnaring and trapping both you and your dog, subjecting you both to a vicious bite.

- Finally, report. Even if your dog responded well to the approaching dog, the next one may not.  All dogs respond differently to each other.  By you reporting the dog, you may have saved that dog’s life. Because the next time he goes charging at another dog could be his last.

In short, if a dog comes running at you hell bent for leath-ah, make sure you have a game plan in mind.

Yeah, I know you’re too young to know this song, but here ya go.

For more detailed information on how to make sure you are controlling your own dog on a walk, visit this link:

- Leash walking

How to deal with your dog-reactive dog on a leash, read this link:

- Dog Reactivity

Finally, step-by-step how to deal with an off-leash dog:

- When an off-leash dog attacks

What to do in a dog attack

Have you ever been subjected to an off-leash dog charging at you? What did you do?

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

 

 

Leash Walking Without The Drama

Freedom is not the absence of obligation or restraint, but the freedom of movement within healthy, chosen parameters.

Kristin Armstrong

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Last week I had a rather full schedule training, including a couple of dogs who were, for lack of a better term, “aggressive”.  And this is how my week ended.

image1-8I really wish I could say I got it doing something exciting. It didn’t happen while I was training dogs.  It happened while I was painting.

I’m officially middle aged.

Anyway, I’m supposed to rest it for at least a week, so as far as sprains go, it’s not too bad.  Now that brings to light a few questions, though:  how am I supposed to do this week’s training sessions, which includes one aggressive dog, as well as 3 super-hyper dogs, whom will undoubtedly need work on leash walking.

The answer is that if I can’t walk dogs with a mildly sprained wrist, then I can’t walk dogs.

The secret to working with dogs is to never make them feel restrained.  In other words, I shouldn’t need muscle to walk a dog.  If I am able to drive a car (which I am), then I am okay to walk a dog.

The biggest complaint I hear about people walking their dog is that the dog is pulling the whole time, causing the owner’s arms to become tired very quickly.  But let’s think about it  rationally:  the dog physically can not be pulling you unless you are pulling back.  In other words, you are pulling backwards just as much as they are pulling forward.  You are trying to muscle your way through the walk.  Even worse, the reason why your dog is pulling is because you’ve restrained them…no, not with the leash, but with the tension attached to the leash.  You’ve engaged their fight or flight response, causing them to pull forward, which in turn engaged your flight or fight response, causing you to automatically pull backwards.

Number5

But what if you didn’t fall into that vicious cycle?  What if you didn’t sink your feet into the ground, and pull back with all your force?  No, I’m not stating you should let your dog run amok while you follow meekly behind.  But rather than using brute force, have you tried answering your dog’s question instead?

Dogs ask a lot of question, all the time.   Answering your dog’s questions is called “Piloting” them.  Some questions you can ignore (“Is it okay if I scratch my ear now?” or “Mind if I take a nap?”).  Others you want to give a profound, hearty “yes” to, (“Should I potty outside?” or “Should I sit politely to get that treat?”).  But the most important ones sometimes require a “no”, such as, “Can I jump on your guest?”, or, in this case, “Can I lead our walk?”.  The answer must be “no“. So how do you “answer” your dog with a negative?

Easy.

Stand up as straight as you can, pretend your dog is a lot taller, and simply invade their personal space.  Keep your feel like a letter “V” so you don’t accidentally step on their paws.  The moment they are no longer “asking” the question, you are done.  So, for instance, if my Sparta were barking at something outside the window, I would simply stand up straight and get between her and the window she’s barking at, and back her off the window using strong, confident body language. I’m “claiming” the window, or, as we put it, answering her question, “Should I be worried about that dog outside?”.  The answer is “no”.

How can I tell when she’s accepted the answer?  She will stop barking for a moment, perhaps look at me, sit down, turn her head away, or even just walk away.  She is no longer actively engaged in the window, or what’s outside, therefore, I no longer have to answer her question.  I’m done.  No force involved.  I didn’t drag her away from the window, I merely crowded her out from it, using my body.

So how does this work on a walk?  Well, let’s start with the three most important steps:
1) Control yourself. No anger, no yelling. Good, confident body language. Fake it if you have to.

2) Control the situation.  Did you just walk out that door with the dog dragging you, and then continue walking? Control each and every moment.  If you lost control, that’s okay, just reboot to regain control.  Don’t just follow the momentum. Create calm.  It’s okay to stop and start over.

3) Answer questions as they come up, using the body language.

Okay, now you’re ready.

Go to the front door.  Put Fido’s leash on.  Now I want you to “claim” the door.  In other words, Fido’s first question is going to be, “Do you want me to lead you out the door?”  Your answer is “No”, so simply pivot on your foot that’s closest to your dog, and now you should be facing Fido, with your back to the door. You yourself should look like you are a door that just slammed in Fido’s face.  Using your body language, gently back him away from the door, using an occasional tug, tug, tug on the leash if necessary, but never holding him back physically. Now he’s calm?  Okay then, you’re ready to walk outside.

Take each step slowly.  If he tries to drag you down the front steps, stop, give a series of gentle tugs until he is close by you again.  His ears should never be past your knees – if they are, he’s leading you.  Simply answer his question; the moment his ears get past your leg, give a gentle tug on the leash, and/or pivot on your foot so you are now facing him, again, looking like you are a door that just closed on him.

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When Fido backs up to where he belongs, and/or looks away, you’re good to “unslam” the door and move on.  No pulling, no yanking, and now restraining.  Merely answering questions.

At first, Fido is going to have a lot of questions that need answering, because let’s face it, he’s always lead you on the walks before.  Stick with it.  Answer his question each and every time he asks if he should lead.  The first 10 minutes are going to be very frustrating for you.  The next 10 minutes will be less so.  The final 10 minutes are going to be like a whole new, positive experience.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio