January is National Walk Your Dog month—the perfect time to teach your overly excited pup to focus on you while out walking. Follow these tips to make your walks more enjoyable for both of you.
#1: Teach your dog focus behaviors at home
On walks, you may give your dog the freedom to sniff and check out the neighborhood, but you also need to quickly gain their attention when a person or another dog approaches. Teach your dog these focus behaviors developed by Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinary behaviorist renowned for her low-stress handling and behavior modification methods. Begin training your dog in the comfort of your own home with no distractions, and then move outside, still staying far enough away from your dog’s triggers to remain under their reactivity threshold. Slowly build up to closer distances and more distractions as you continue to use the focus behaviors.
#2: Use a head collar when walking your dog
Headcollars for dogs are similar to halters in horses—where the head goes, the body follows. If an unexpected distraction sneaks up, and your dog is well over its reactivity threshold, a flat collar won’t help guide them to a safe distance. Instead, fit your dog with a head collar like the Gentle Leader, so you have better head control when they become hyper-focused on their reactivity trigger, and use the collar to redirect their focus to you.
If your efforts to help your pup don’t seem to be working, anxiety may be the cause. Give us a call to schedule an appointment with our veterinarian to see if a medication can help calm your dog, especially when walking.