Sit and Watch: For Dogs Who Lunge on Leash

In the official Canine Good Citizen book, "CITIZEN CANINE," I described a procedure that I called "Sit and Watch." This is for dogs who lunge on leash when they see other dogs, or for dogs who become overly excited when other dogs pass by.

It works like this:

  1. Teach your dog to sit-stay in a non-distracting setting with no dogs.
  2. When the sit-stay is reliable, you’re ready to try this with distractions. Go to a place where there are other dogs on leash.
  3. As another dog approaches, tell your dog to sit and "watch me."
  4. Reward the dog for sitting (with a praise and treat).
  5. When the other dog has passed by, you and your dog can begin walking again.

This past weekend, as Wyn and I approached a dog owner with a hound-mix, I saw the dog start to pull and get out of control. The dog's owner reached in her pocket, pulled out a treat, and in a sweet voice, after telling the dog to sit, said, "mind your own business, Charlie."

"Sit and Watch" worked beautifully for her. When we passed by, she and her dog resumed their walk.

The behavioral principle behind "Sit and Watch" is called DRI; this means DifferentialReinforcement of an Incompatible Behavior. If the dog is sitting and watching the owner, it can't be lunging.

For other behavioral tips such as Sit and Watch, check out the official CGC book, CITIZEN CANINE, or the official CGC puppy book, AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy: A Positive, Behavioral Approach to Training. Find a dog trainer near your location and take the Canine Good Citizen test for your dog.