Let’s face it, there are some dogs out there that are social butterflies! These are the dogs that love being around every other dog and would do almost anything to go say “hello” to another pup. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it can make creative training more of a necessity.
The problem arises when you are out walking your social pup and another dog comes into his sight. At that moment you notice your dog get excited at the possibility of making a new friend. Then the pulling starts! You do all you can to get your dog’s attention and control of the situation but ultimately your dog pulls you over to the other pup. Once there you are just relieved that the pulling has stopped and that the other dog is friendly, hopefully. However there is an issue. Your dog just rewarded himself and learned in the process that the best way to get to a new potential friend is by digging in and pulling with all his strength. The only way to stop this from happening again and/or getting worse is by teaching your pup to walk properly on a leash.
Teaching your dog to walk on a leash using treats as a reward is a great place to start, but for some dogs the treats don’t quite compare to the fun the other dog offers. When this happens, typically your dog will either ignore the treats and focus on the other dog or will eat the treats and still focus on the other dog. Regardless of which path your dog takes it won’t get you very far with walking nicely past the other dog.
Even if in your home your dog will do back flips for certain treats, those same treats may lose their impact when a more appealing reward becomes apparent, in this case the other dog. Every dog on some level or another operates on a competing motivation basis. This means that your dog when faced with a decision will do whatever option gets him the highest value reward.
An example of competing motivation that I hear often from potential clients, “..my dog will come back to me most the time when I hold up a treat (or shake the treat bag, food bowl, etc.)”. In this example the dog is deciding whether or not that treat is worth having to go inside and end whatever fun he was getting into (chasing squirrels, barking at people, playing with other dogs, just running around, etc.). And if you noticed those potential clients said “most” of the time their dog will come back when they hold up a treat. The other times, their dog’s motivation to continue playing, chasing, or whatever it might be, was much higher and more rewarding than a food reward.
If this sounds like your dog, then don’t worry, he/she is still very trainable. In fact, with a little bit of creative thinking you can make your dog’s training very solid using life rewards, such as other dogs. Take a look at the post about using life rewards to help train your dog.
The idea here is going to be the same as with treats, reward your dog for the behavior you would like to see again. The only difference is instead of using treats you will be using the other dog as a reward. The first step is to find a helper with a friendly dog. We have found strangers don’t appreciate being volunteered for such things! If you don’t have a helper this exercise can still be done just be sure not to get too close to the unsuspecting stranger.
Once you have your helper and his/her dog, have your helper start a good distance down the street at a point in which your dog doesn’t flip out. Start walking towards the other dog and continue to move forward as long as your dog is walking by your side. As soon as your dog starts to pull ahead or get out of control, turn around and go back a few steps, have your dog sit, and then start again. Continue this process until you are able to walk past the other dog in a controlled manner. At first you may have to have a distance of 15 ft or so in between dogs (opposite sides of a street or path works great) as you walk by but as your dog progresses the distance between can shrink.
Once your dog is able to walk past the other dog without pulling and/or flipping out, then say “okay” and let your dog run up to the other dog. After a few moments of play take your dog back to where you started and begin again. Repeat this process several times gradually decreasing the distance as long as your dog is improving.
Depending on your dog this may take several practice sessions but eventually your pup will learn that the only way to get to the other dog is to walk nicely past him/her. Once your dog has the hang of it, be sure to practice with your helper dog every once in a while in different locations to keep your pup sharp.
Need more help with your friendly dog?
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