The simple task of walking Ember can sometimes be quiet a challenge. We’ve made a lot of progress with some tips that I have learnt.
Walking a reactive dog can be an anxious and stressful experience, you’ve put in so much effort avoiding all situations, that you’re worn out just halfway through the walk. However, there are ways to make it easier, just remember that it is going to take some time and you need to be committed to the process. If you are not able to control your dog on a walk, it might be worth seeking a professional behaviourist, I am not a trained professional, these are just some tips I have learnt through having a reactive puppy.
1. Repeat until your dog believes
Remain consistent with the praise, treats or clicks you use when nearing a potential situation.
2. Turn fearful things into a positive experience
When your dog is being reactive, they are feeling a lot of stress, so communicates with them that nothing bad is going to happen. Hold some treats or have your clicker handy. If your dog is being particularly calm, don’t be afraid to use some extra praises.
3. Understand failures will happen
It takes a lot of time and patience to desensitise a dog, so don’t become discouraged if it doesn’t always work. Failures help us improve.
4. Teach target or watch
I use watch a lot with Ember, making her look me in the face or watch a treat in my hand when we are coming up to a potential situation. Make sure you have their attention and they are focused on something positive, be it you, a treat or even a toy.
5. Use a front clip harness
This is something I have been looking into for Ember. Front clip harnesses are great for teaching a dog to walk nicely on a lead. As well as belong them walk more calmly, they give you more control to steer and turn your dog.
Do you use a front harness? Would you recommend them?
6. Avoid situations if you don’t feel in control
Sometimes you feel so unsure about some situations it is best just to avoid them, some situations are not worth the effort. If you don’t feel your dog will be able to manage the situation and you don’t feel confident controlling your dog, safety should always come first. It doesn’t mean you have failed, some battles are just not worth fighting. I personally use this technique when I am walking Ember by myself in an environment I am unsure of.
Remember patience and consistency is key.
Do you have a reactive dog? Do you have any more tips or experiences you can share with us?