Whoosh! What the heck was that?
By: Shawna Gallagher - ABCDT ~
I have been busy the past couple of weeks working with Triton and his stress level with heavy traffic and large vehicles going by him on the street. Granted not all dogs need this much attention to traffic training but all dogs no matter the breed or breeding are individuals and have different training needs. It’s important that you observe your dog and provide the training that is right for your dog.
Let me back up just a bit, when we adopted Triton in September 2013 he was right around a year old and from my guess had not been exposed to lots of different dogs, people, or experiences in the human world. So with that he has missed out on some of the prime socializing periods of his life when he should have been exposed to the world. Which leaves me trying to play catch up with his training and it can take longer. I live in a pretty quiet neighborhood with easy access to a couple of different busier roads, which is great for training. When I first got Triton and was walking him he was a little startled by cars which I figured was somewhat normal, it wasn’t until I was walking him on what I call “the big block”, on garbage day and buses running that I realized that we had a problem. Triton and I were about half way through our walk and all of a sudden we were caught up in a whirlwind of things going on. I did anticipate that he might have an issue so I took him off the sidewalk and attempted (no specific training at this point) to get and keep his attention. Well, that did not work AT ALL!!! At that moment I had 1 garbage truck and 1 UPS truck coming from one direction and in the other direction 2 school busses with 1 person walking close by and just about ½ a block away another person on a bicycle. Just one of these things would send Triton into a fit but with all of that at once was just too much for the poor guy. He proceeded to lunge, jump, spin, drool and bark, looking pretty much like a crazed dog and there was no getting and keeping his attention at that time. Needless to say that was the end of the walk, taking both of us while to completely recover. Just as a reference between dogs I had a Husky mix that when I first moved here did not like cars at all and it took him a very short period of regular walks and no additional training to get him to not run between my legs every time a car would pass. Triton on the other hand is a whole other story needing lots of training and the use of different techniques.
So the question I’m sure your all wondering is how did I deal with it and do I have any tips for you. You’re in luck! I will tell you what is working with Triton, now keep in mind if your dog has true fear issues this may not work or you may need to break the steps down. Or have a totally different program altogether. One of my clients has a dog that has true fear issues and it was not until recently that we were able to take the leash walking lessons outside off property, after 6 months of indoor training!
After the wonderful episode I knew that this was not good and needed to do something. I started focusing on several different activities at home that would help me get his attention and keep it.
First I only walked along that road during quitter times while building up our relationship by doing lots of different exercises at home. If I did see a large vehicle coming I would get off of the sidewalk ask him some well-known cues and keep to his attention as best as I could as the vehicles went by.
At home I worked on the following list of cues:
- Practiced loose leash walking in the house and yard
- Close – this is a loose form of heel
- U-Turns – this is great for when you see a “trigger” coming and you need to either avoid or get more space the dog will stay calm
- “Let’s go” cue
- Auto sits – this is when I stop walking he automatically sits without me asking
- Sit-stay, downs, down-stay
- Touch games
Practice these cues first in one room of the house once that has been proofed 95% - 100% move to other areas of the home. Then you can take the sessions out in the yard, in front of your home, on a quiet walk working up to a busy time in your neighborhood or onto a busy street. Don’t go to fast, let your dog set the pace, and don’t worry if you need to do a refresher course starting one or more steps back. In fact it is good to randomly do quick sessions from the very beginning.
It may seem like a lot but trust me if you have a dog that freaks out on walks the likelihood that you will continue walking your dog and enjoying won’t last very long without training. You can follow Triton’s daily progress and get training tips on Instagram, just look me up under “petcoach2”.
Remember to walk your dog daily for at least 30 minutes :)