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Tips for Walking Your Distracted Dog

By AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Christie Canfield

Does your dog pull, lunge, and/or bark at passing cars, bicycles, people, or other dogs and wildlife on walks?

This often looks like aggression. It is more probable that your dog really wants to play or herd by instinct, and he is frustrated by being attached to the leash. Your instinct may be to jerk your dog back to you; however, jerking your dog and yelling at him may cause him to actually become fearful of that particular scenario and make him act out even more.

Instead, try these tips to help make walking your dog relaxing and enjoyable.

  • Do not expect your dog to pay attention to you if you are not paying attention to him. Focus on your dog and engage with your dog on walks by talking or even singing to him!
  • Use proper equipment. Flat collars and back clip harnesses allow your dog to maximize all of his strength to pull. The best solution is to use a front clip harness, where the leash attaches to the chest area. When your dog does pull, you are controlling his center of gravity, and he is turned back to face you. This enables you to have better control.
  • Teach “Look.” Take high-value treats on walks and reward your dog for looking at you instead of other things that make him bark. High-value treats are anything that your dog really likes and finds highly motivating (examples include hot dogs, cheese and chicken). Try to catch the behavior before it happens using “Look” to help your dog succeed in a distracting situation. Always praise your dog when he is correct.
  • Teach “Leave It” and “Let’s Go.” Practice “Leave It” in a non-distracting environment. On walks, say “Leave it” in an authoritative voice immediately followed by “Let's Go” in a happy voice then move away from what is causing your dog to react. Make sure your dog has a reason to want to pay attention to you more than anything else!For more training tips and individualized plans for your dog, enroll in the AKC GoodDog! Helpline, a seven-day-a-week telephone service staffed by experienced dog trainers: www.akcgooddoghelpline.org

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