The only way dogs will know what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not acceptable is if someone takes the time to train them. Dogs need to learn what is expected of them, and people need to be consistent in enforcing those expectations. Your dog will be a happier member of your household and your community if you teach him how to behave.
What is an “educated” dog?
The American Kennel Club (AKC) presents the guidelines for good dog behavior in its Canine Good Citizenship program. According to AKC’s program, an educated dog, or canine good citizen, will:
• Walk politely on leash and through a crowd
• Readily accept a stranger
• Sit politely for petting
• Have good appearance and grooming
• Sit down on command as well as stay in place when told
• Come when called
• React appropriately to other dogs and distractions
To tackle the first task, here are some tips on getting your dog to walk politely on a leash:
• Always walk with your dog to your right. This way, when you’re walking on the sidewalk, your dog will be on the opposite side of oncoming traffic-pedestrians, bikers, etc.
• Start inside. Attach a leash to your dog and give a command that will eventually mean “by my side.”
• Walk around the house. Make lots of twists and turns. Say “yes” and give the dog a treat whenever he is walking by your side.
• If your dog drifts away from your side, don’t yell or pull on the leash, just turn the opposite way and walk. When he catches up and is at your side-say “yes” and give a treat.
• When he gets really good at walking by your side, have him take two or three, then four or five, etc. steps at your side before you say “yes” and give a treat. When you’re up to 15 steps at your side, you can move your practice outside.
• Start in the backyard. When he can take 15-20 steps at your side for one “yes” and treat, move to the front yard. Again, go back to getting two or three steps for a “yes” and treat and slowly work your way up to taking more steps.
Important: Don’t let your dog continue to walk forward if he is not at your side. Stop and wait for him to return to you-or turn and walk in the opposite direction. Don’t yank or pull on the leash, just turn and walk your dog away from what he’s pulling toward.
When your dog is successfully walking 15-20 steps in your neighborhood for one “yes” and treat, it’s time to slowly eliminate the treats. Give your “by my side” command and walk forward. If he pulls toward a favorite tree or sniffing spot, turn and walk in the opposite direction. When he’s back at your side, turn and walk toward the scent again. He’ll soon learn that if he wants to get to something he has to walk nicely toward it. If he pulls, he can’t get there. Alternate using treats sometimes and “smells” other times as his rewards. Eventually you’ll no longer need the treats.
For extra help, consider trying one of the new “no-pull” harnesses on the market. There are different brands available. The best are those that have the leash clip on the front, at the dog’s chest. The brand Gentle leader is a good one to use.