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There are various ways you can make walks calmer, starting with the right walking equipment. For dogs who are more excitable and less mannerly on walks, a head halter or a front clip harness that hooks to the dog’s chest will provide more control during training.
It’s also important that your dog has mastered a few basic commands before you head out on a walk. Teach your dog to heel on leash, walk on a loose leash and sit on command. Practice these behaviors in a calm environment, like your house or backyard, until your dog can perform them readily when asked.
Heeling is useful when you’re passing something your dog is especially excited about, such as another person or dog. Loose leash walking can be used during the times when there are fewer distractions; it allows for controlled sniffing and exploration, both of which are essential for your dog’s mental well-being. The automatic sit can be used to get your dog under control when you come across something that provokes a reaction. These behaviors give your dog something to focus on and to be rewarded for during his walk, which can replace his previous excitable walking and barking.
Your dog may sometimes bark because he wants to alert you to a change in the environment; this is a normal doggy behavior, and can be put under an owner’s control by teaching your dog to bark and be quiet on cue.
Start by teaching speak. Say “speak,” and then one second later follow with something that will get your dog barking, such as knocking on the door, ringing the doorbell or using a squeaky toy. As soon as your dog barks, offer delightful praise and excitement, which often surprises dogs, especially if they’ve been punished for barking in the past. Keep pairing the “speak” with the bark eliciting stimulus until your dog begins to bark when he hears the command.
As soon as you have a bark, it’s time to teach the opposite. Ask your dog to speak, and then when he barks, say “quiet” and put a treat or toy in front of his nose. As soon as he is quiet, mark with a “good” or a click, and then give him the treat or toy. Once your dog learns the command and is quiet when asked, fade the lure.
When your dog has mastered speak and quiet, practice these commands in different areas of your home and yard; gradually bring the training outside on walks. When you first start, use rewards that are reinforcing to your pet, such as tasty treats. However, as training goes on, simply a “thank you” and praise can be enough for your pet to be quiet when asked, especially when used in combination with the training behaviors of heel, walking on a loose leash and automatic sits.
These training tips will help you and your dog experience less stress at walk time and will allow you both to enjoy exploring your neighborhood together.
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