“Don’t stop” I shared with my client. I’d already explained why you should not stop when working with walking issues. But it’s hard for humans to not stop and address. The other day Elsa and I were out and about very early. I enjoy getting our walk in as the sun just starts to rise. It’s quiet, peaceful and just what we both need to start our day. Also as we are now into spring and nearing summer; early walks are an essential part of living in Southern California.
So we were out walking when I saw a man and his small, white fluffy dog far off. I’m a scanner, something I think is also essential when you are a canine guardian. I saw him as soon as he stepped out onto the path. Like I said, he was far off. He quickly kicked into his training mode when he spotted us. He told his dog to sit and continued to tell the white fluff that there was nothing to worry about. Clearly the dog had leash aggression. Where the leash aggression came from I do not know but this is how he was dealing with it.
He was addressing the issue wrong (in my opinion). Our dogs are master readers, meaning that they see everything that we do. Each and every movement or request we give is a cue to them. So what may seem like a reasonable control request can soon become a cue for an issue.
Let’s take leash aggression like the man mentioned above was dealing with. His dog may not have seen Elsa and I but as soon as the man stopped, the dog would have begun to scan. It is a cue that the dog takes when another dog is approaching. This man not only asked his dog to sit; cuing the dog of some impending danger but he did so from far, far away. They sat there for the longest time…like the Austin Powers steam roller segment in the movie.
What he should have done in lieu of stopping and waiting…forever, was to keep moving. Keep moving and show his dog that we were a non issue. When a dog has behavior issues with something; be it an inanimate object, other dogs, people with big hats or little kids; it is our job to show them that these things are non issues and keep moving. Of course this means that you must learn to reward on the fly.
Counter conditioning implementation on the fly can take some practice but it is well worth it.
Counter - contrary; in opposition
Conditioning - a process of changing behavior by rewarding or punishing a subject each time an action is performed until the subject associates the action with pleasure or distress.
So if every time you see the trigger for your dogs reaction, you stop; then it only fuels that reactive behavior. When you keep moving you instill a “who care” attitude so that your dog can learn that it means nothing to you. Then by adding something good, a tug toy, treats or a ball to the situation; it then goes from a bad thing to a good thing. Make sense?
Love to hear from you. Leash issues are the biggest and most common thing that people deal with.