By Joan Hunter Mayer
Summertime in Santa Barbara! It’s glorious – and for some, a time when our thoughts turn to unleashing outdoor adventures and harnessing fun with our BFFs, that’s Best Fur Friends! But wait. Before you lace up those shoes and leash up your dog to embark on all our beautiful county has to offer, take a minute to check out some of our dog training pro tips. Whether you’re working on Come When Called, Loose Leash Walking or Leave It, our love-of-dog training approach will help you keep your dog safe while having tons of fun-in-the-sun this summer!
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Pro Tips for Helping Your Dog Learn to Come When Called
In dog training, like comedy, timing is everything. Think about it. When you call your pup to you, especially in stimulating outdoor environments, you’re asking him to stop what he’s doing and leave all sorts of scents, adventures and possible new friendships; fun time is finished. He’s probably looking at it like a punishment. So, rather than waiting until you need to leave the park to ask your pup to come to you, periodically practice calling him to you and then releasing him back to resume the fun! Then, when you actually need to leave, just go get your dog so you don’t end up ruining your recall cue.
Another important note on timing: When you’d like your dog to respond, call him only if you’re willing to bet one hundred bucks he’ll respond. Then give the cue once. Calling repeatedly only teaches him that it’s okay to ignore you the first few times.
Paws and reflect. Take a moment to look at things from a doggo’s point of view. After all, exploring and scavenging are normal canine behaviors! It’s an awful lot to ask of them to consistently maintain self-control and bulletproof training around exciting or unfamiliar things. Help your buddy out by setting the stage so that he’s likely to want to come to you no matter what else is going on. When you call him, entice him to you by offering a much more attractive alternative to what he’s doing. More on that below.
Be the life of the party! Make your body language and tone of voice joyful and enthusiastic.
Send the message that he’s the most wonderful pup in the whole world and that you’re his number one cheerleader! This way, he’ll associate running to you as being tons-o-fun, as opposed to a signal that playtime is over. Stick with the cute little nicknames and happy voice so your dog loves returning to you when you call him.
Remember, you could be competing against “Doggy Disneyland.” Be creative in thinking about how to be the best motivator for your best friend. Food is a powerful motivator. And so is play! What games does your pooch absolutely love? Fetch? Chase? Tug? A combo of these? Playing games that he finds entertaining can help motivate him to stop what he’s doing and join you. Plus, games help expend his energy while enhancing the bond you share. Kind of perfect, right?
By following a few Come When Called (or Recall) guidelines and performing lots and lots of practice sessions, you’re sure to encourage your dog to “take your call.” Just remember to stay pawsitive, inquisitive and enjoy this time with your canine pal!
A Walk in the Park – Pro Tips for Loose Leash Walking
Walk a mile in his paws. Be sure the leash is used as a safety line, not for controlling your dog. Try not to pull or tug at your dog. Would you like it if someone did that to you? Along those same lines, avoid using equipment such as choke, prong, or electronic collars. These tools use pain and punishment to decrease behaviors, but do not tell dogs what you want them to do, only what you don’t want them to do. The techniques employed there can result in increased fear, behavior problems and a wounded human-dog bond. Basically, the opposite of everything we’re working towards when we’re out adventuring together. Be your dog’s hero and opt for proven, humane, force-free techniques that are rewarding to both pet and guardian.
Strengthen your bond. To get the most enjoyment and connection out of your walks together, keep up the treats, petting, and praise! If your dog knows a “watch me” cue (making eye contact with you), you can cue and reward it intermittently when walking, teaching your pup to check in with you. Frequent rewards motivate your dog to stay interested rather than wander to the end of the leash, looking for something else to do. Novelty is key, so vary what you offer (and even what you ask for) to help keep her curious and engaged with you.
Be proactive to curb reactive behaviors. Try your best to address any underlying issues if you and your canine buddy are struggling with leash manners. It’s helpful to think about why your dog might be pulling or lunging. Is Fido frustrated, frightened, anxious, experiencing overarousal or releasing pent-up energy? Is Fido getting enough mental and physical exercise between walks? How can you help him out?
Lastly, A Couple of Notes on the Leave It cue
The key here is a heaping helping of praise with a side order of environmental management. According to the laws of learning, animals repeat behaviors that are reinforced. So, make a habit of rewarding Fido for ignoring temptations such as summer BBQ morsels and drippings, furry critters and things with wheels. Say you see your dog walk by a ‘forbidden item’ and he decides to stay away from it. Whether you’ve asked him to stay away or not, say “thank you” with anything he finds motivating – an extra special treat, some engaging playtime or tummy rubs galore. You know what your fur kid finds reinforcing. Don’t hold back. Be generous!
Set yourself and your dog up for success. While a strong mastery of the Leave It cue can be a literal lifesaver, a focus on prevention and management are essential first steps. When possible, arrange your dog’s environment for optimal safety and keep a close eye on your pet. Depending on your plans, you might ask yourself, “Is the kindest, safest option to make other arrangements, such as doggy daycare or a puppy playdate?”
However, if your pup will be joining you this summer as you’re heading out to the beach, hitting the trails or visiting friends, remember to keep up the enthusiasm, praise and love. We hope these tips help you enjoy many wonderful adventures together!
The Inquisitive Canine was founded by Santa Barbara canine behavior consultant and certified professional dog trainer Joan Hunter Mayer. Joan and her team are devoted to offering humane, pawsitive, practical solutions that work for the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Here’s to barking with the dogs, cheering for the humans, and having fun!