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Once you get the hang of it, the sequence should look like this: Your dog should immediately turn to face you at the sound of his name, and you should immediately ask him to sit or down. He should remain sitting or in a down until he is released with an “OK” or other release word.
Practice this in increasingly distracting environments, like on walks or before your dog greets someone. Also have this become your dog’s default behavior whenever he gets out of the car. Once this has been successfully practiced, it can then be added to the dog park good behavior repertoire. Not only will your dog wait in the car until he is released, but when he gets out, he will immediately turn and face you when he's called and go into a sit or a down on your command. This cuts down on the dashing for the fence line by helping the dog return his focus to you.
Heeling on leash will be the final invaluable element for good behavior when you walk to the gate. This behavior should be practiced first at home; as your dog gets better at it, you can gradually move to more distracting areas. Front-clip harnesses and head halters offer more control over your dog during the initial training sessions. For specifics on teaching this behavior, check out this video on how to teach your dog to heel.
Once your dog has learned to heel in increasingly distracting situations, it’s time to practice this behavior while approaching the park. When you first start heeling as you approach the dog park, avoid walking in a straight line toward the gate, which is where your dog has repeatedly practiced the racing and pulling behavior. Rather, do back-and-forth, heeling in zigzags parallel to the fence line as you make gradual progress toward the fence. This will make your dog more likely to be successful when he first practices approaching the fence in the heel position. As your dog successfully demonstrates his heeling, you can gradually begin to make a more direct approach to the park.
As soon as you get to the gate, practice having your dog sit at the gate in his “wait at the door” behavior before he is allowed to go in. This also helps your dog to be motivated to demonstrate calm behavior to get what he ultimately wants: play and interaction with other dogs.
Not only will you have a better-behaved pet when you enter the dog park, but these techniques can be applied to any situation, including trips into the pet store, doggy day care, a training class or a trip out of town.
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