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Want your dog to be good in public…it starts at home!

Group Dog Obedience Training

Want your dog to be good in public…it starts at home!

So many dog owners these days want their dog to go places and do things with them.  Go to any brewery, just about any day of the week, and you will see people and their dogs hanging out.  Sometimes you hear the dog long before you see them.  Unfortunately, it is that type of behavior in public places that has caused many businesses across the country to forbid dogs.  I am too grateful for so many opportunities and locations to have personal and client dogs out with us, to let that happen here. It is the responsibility of every dog owner to monitor their dog’s behaviors and ensure they are appropriate when in the public eye. 

Here are a few points to ponder if you want a pooch to accompany you.

Inappropriate behaviors in public reflect behavioral and leadership issues in the home.   Does your dog get away with a lot of barking, jumping, reactive or possessive behaviors at home, when meeting new people and on walks?  Are you unintentionally rewarding any of these behaviors or are you correcting them and guiding your dog to the behaviors you prefer?  Correcting your dog is not mean, it is simply giving them information and guidance on what behaviors are not acceptable.  Failure to give your dog consistent guidance to help them understand your expectations is mean.  Rewarding your dog, verbally, with a small treat or even with a gentle scratch under their chin, when they meet your expectation will encourage more consistent responses from your dog…at home, on walks and in public. 

As trainers, we are seeing more and more nervous and anxious dogs.  When we interview owners of these dogs there is a consistent theme in many that the dog has been given conflicting information and a lack of clear guidance.  This leads to confusion in the dog and sometimes this confused state is so bad the dog begins to shut down.  The owner sees their dog is nervous and stops taking them on walks or to public places, only further compounding the dog’s challenges.  In most cases, we see the dogs turn around pretty quickly by providing consistent, clear information on what is expected of them.  Concepts like sitting before they get fed, stopping at doorways rather than busting through them, no uncontrollable barking at windows and doors, getting petted when calm rather than when acting nutty, love and affection at appropriate times are all easily taught and help your dog understand they are not in charge and running the show.

Sometimes a rescue dog, or even a dog from a breeder is matched up with the wrong person, family or household.  Get to know breed characteristics before you bring a new dog into your home.  This can be difficult with a rescue dog, but knowing breed characteristics can help you better understand typical behaviors, exercise requirements, a dog’s needs and their adult size.  An older, frail couple may do better with a mature, smaller breed than with a young Labrador Retriever puppy.  Likewise a younger, outdoorsy person who enjoys hiking may want a younger, sturdy breed to accompany them on a hike rather than an older, smaller breed that overheats easily. Breed choices and individual characteristics are important to be matched to lifestyles.

Watch people who are out and about with their dog.  Make a mental note of what you see dogs doing well and what they struggle with or what is annoying to people around them.  Make a list of behaviors you need your dog to be successful at in order to accompany you…loading up and riding calmly and quietly in the car, entering a location confidently with a lot of commotion that may be loud with a lot of people, sitting calmly and quietly (yes, there should be a quiet theme!) next to you with distractions around, keeping all paws on the floor when meeting new people, not begging for food, etc., now you have your training list.  Training starts at home and on walks and then advances to public locations. We are all always teaching our dogs something…make sure it is what you want from them!

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