Someone once commented that I must have the “funnest” job ever. “You get to play with puppies all day long!”
Yes, this is true. I do indeed play with puppies all day long and I do it while eating bonbons and dancing with Unicorns in my ruby red slippers.
Seriously though, there are no paparazzi at my door because being a dog trainer tends to be very boring, even repetitive as I often find myself dealing with the same issues on a regular basis with adult dogs.
But I could spend my days playing with puppies and dancing with Unicorns if dog owners could just do a few things differently when raising their puppies.
The first thing would be to teach their puppy how to walk nicely on leash. I know, I know . . . I sound like a broken record but it is one of the Top 5 issues I deal with and it is preventable. What’s worse is that it’s kind of simple to teach a puppy to walk nicely on leash. But it takes what no one has to give: time.
All you have to do is stop walking the second the leash gets even remotely tight and wait. Wait for the puppy to calm down.
When you teach a puppy how to manage its own speed along the walk you are actually teaching impulse control, how to calm down and how to stay focused.
The more a puppy pulls on the leash, the more excited they get. The more excited they get the more frustrated they get. The more frustrated they get the more anxious they get about going for walks.
Then as an adult dog, they go from zero to 100 the moment the leash is picked up and it is impossible to get them to calm down because they are conditioned to be anxious instead of calm.
The owner then thinks the only way to solve this is to allow the dog to run off-leash and burn off that energy. But the dog is in such a hyperactive state that it can’t control itself. Often the pup makes a poor choice when it greets another dog and a fight breaks out.
That’s when I get a phone call about a dog that is picking fights. What the dog needs is to learn how to calm down and relax during the walks – something it should have learned as a puppy.
Something else Fido should learn as a puppy is not to drag their owner toward other dogs. Please stop this easily preventable behaviour because it leads to leash aggression!
A dog with leash aggression probably started off as a frustrated puppy who was allowed to drag their person toward other dogs instead of being taught impulse control and patience and that not all dogs are meant to be greeted.
This includes lunging at dogs while on leash. It is absolutely not a playful behaviour. It is a frustrated puppy with limited impulse control and a permissive owner who suddenly decides to deny their dog the luxury of dragging them towards another canine.
This behaviour turns to aggression not because the dog really is aggressive but due to frustration and being over stimulated.
To further complicate the issue, the approaching dog reacts out of fear and confusion as to the intentions of the lunging dog. After that, both dogs become leash aggressive.
Then guess what? Yep, I get a phone call about a leash-aggressive dog.
Prevent the problem by teaching a puppy to sit and focus on you rather than the approaching dog from the day you bring that puppy home.
Once the pup learns to be patient the young puppy can be allowed to say hello to the approaching dog upon agreement from the other owner.
This is such an important impulse control skill that is always overlooked because people seem to have been brainwashed into thinking that all dogs must say hello to each other all the time. They don’t! Pour that glass of brain washing Kool-Aid out and walk away from that thought process right now.
Now if you don’t mind, I have a unicorn holding a box of chocolates waiting to teach me the tango.
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at email@example.com