Releash the hounds

Fido… Come… Sit
By Yvonne Passmore

After a dreary, cold and wet winter, we look forward to going for long strolls again with our dogs. Dogs also feel the warmth, appreciate the breeze and long to sniff at every tree, hoping to see who was there before. Many dogs haven’t seen other people and dogs for months. Dogs now have to readjust to sharing their turf.
For some dogs, all the new people and puppies and bikers and skateboarders can be a little overwhelming. When dogs are overwhelmed they hide behind their owner and shut down or they become overexcited, bouncy and unmanageable. If you notice your neighbors rolling their eyes and crossing the road to avoid you and your dog, then you have a problem.
Maybe your dog is too friendly (there are worse things) and insists that he goes to say hello to everyone that passes by. That’s great, for your dog, but not necessarily so for the passerby. Or perhaps you have a dog that is far from that. Snarling, growling, barking and lunging toward all who come too near
In both cases, you can’t let your dog continue the rude behavior. Rude, as in happily pulling you and jumping on people, or by putting on his best “Cujo” face in an attempt to keep people away. In both cases you need “park bench therapy” and you absolutely have to have physical control.
The physical control part is easy. There are many tools out there, such as head halters and harnesses. My favorite for managing the strength and mobility of a dog is the Gentle Leader Easy Walk harness. Once you gain physical control you are now able to relax.
Park Bench Therapy is where the real work begins. This means that you have to take him out in public, warts and all; this may be a scary thought, but a dog’s life behind the walls of a house or tied in the back yard is no life at all.
Over time, and for periods of time that are dependent on your dog, you park yourself on a well traveled, but not overwhelming corner or bench. You want to teach your dog that other people are not his business and ignoring them is a good thing. You do this by distracting him with one worthwhile treat each time someone passes. You may also pet and talk to him to help keep his focus on you. Ignore him when no one is around so he begins to make the connection that people passing by means good things from you. To help reinforce that thought, you need to politely discourage strangers from petting your dog. If you explain that your dog is in training, most won’t take offense.

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