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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tinker Belle Turns Cujo! How to control lunging and barking on a walk.

                                                            These two are actually pups getting to know
                                                     each other but you get the idea!

Does your dog have perfect manners inside the home? Isn’t he just the sweetest thing ever? (Or sweetest thing eva as they say in N.Y.)

Sit, Fido.” Fido sits. “Come Fido.” Fido comes. What a good dog! Pat, pat with a side order of biscuit!

Outside for a walk… same scenario using commands only there’s another dog coming up the road and you suddenly have a totally different dog at the end of your leash!

Sit Fido.” Fido pulls at the leash practically yanking your arm out of the socket. Grrr, woof, woof, grr…SIT , FIDO, SIT!” You yell as Fido is pulling you down the road ready to attack some adorable pup that’s attached to a very handsome looking person.

Let’s face it, that’s no way to meet friends and influence people! We all know the magnetic draw that comes with walking a cute well behaved dog, but walking Cujo is certainly no magnetic draw and no way to get a date, if your looking!
(Don't worry hon, I’m not looking!)

One big mistake we as humans make when it comes to getting a new dog, be it puppy or older dog, is that we take them out and we expect that they are going to behave because they do a great job listening inside the home. However the big world carries with it more threats and distractions to a dog then your home ever will. It is easy for a dog to keep its focus on you the holder of food and praise when there are no other distractions in sight.

It’s like taking a toddler to a toy store and not telling them beforehand how you expect them to act.
Oh sure kids listen well enough inside the home with their toys strewn in every room. But take that same toddler out to a toy store to buy a gift for someone else and you’ll soon see that sweet little Timmy is falling into the proverbial meltdown well screaming, “I WANT IT! I WANT IT” until your face is turning bright red and you want to walk away as if to say, “Who’s unruly child is that?”

That happened once to me and I gave my son this warning, “if you have a tantrum, I’m leaving!” Imagine his surprise when he found himself in the middle of the aisle in  full blown tantrum status with mom nowhere to be seen! It never happened again because I learned very quickly to talk to him beforehand at home. In the end, he learned the value of money and how to find the price of an item he would be allowed to get, and I learned that his perfect behavior was not to be expected everywhere when he wasn’t told the rules beforehand. So we both learned from that little meltdown. Today those same actions would probably get me arrested for child endangerment!

So how do you prepare your dog for such walks?

What needs to be done and kept up with on a daily basis with any new dog one gets is obedience training. You want to build a trust between the two of you and you want to be seen by your new dog as the leader of their pack. Dogs grow up in packs and once you bring them into your home your family becomes its pack. Like everything in life, there is a social order and the leader of this pack should always be held by the human.

To hold order and leadership, start to train the dog daily in obedience in a quiet non distracting place. Once the commands are learned in non distracting places you gradually build up distractions until the dog is listening to your commands no matter what is going on around him.

When I suggest obedience training, it does not stop at, sit ~stay, down~stay, come, or heel. Many times commands such as “Leave it” or “Drop it” can play an important role in preventing trouble before it happens or stopping trouble once it has begun.

The "Leave it" command means, “Stop everything you are going for, or thinking of going for, and put your attention back on me!” This command can be used in so many situations yet is rarely taught, or if taught, is rarely used.

The “Drop it” command is pretty self explanatory and it is important for you to teach this command before it is needed to get Cujo to drop Tinker Belle from his jaws!

Emphasizing: First train inside the home where there are no distractions, then go to the yard, then to the driveway, then to the street in front of your home , then start to move further down the street each day until your dog’s total attention is brought back to you with a command.

To use or not to use training aides

There are variety of training aides available ranging from a no pull harness to a head /face halter, to a prong collar, to a shock collar. I do believe that if the dog is a real problem, training aides when used correctly are effective, however they should not be used for the rest of the dog’s life or they will never learn how to behave without wearing one and that is not your goal.

You also need to be very careful with items like shock collars because if the dog is aggressive, the shock can make that aggression much worse, so I do not recommend such an item for an already aggressive or out of control dog and here's why. If you use a prong or shock collar and the dog is out of control already the dog may very well associate that shock or tug on a choke chain/ prong as pain that is coming from that other dog.   The dog's mind is already at a place of possibly no return at that moment, the dog's mind is on the other dog so at that moment you  shock or tug, your dog may start associating every bad thing it feels with other dogs passing by.  I am not a fan of such collars but I know people will use them so I want some thought to go into it before you do use them.    

Should dogs work for nothing?

Some dogs do fine with praise alone, some are not even interested in food rewards. It is important for you to learn what really motivates your dog. In some instances it is a special toy. All dogs are different. But when in training, some type of reward should be given and can be phased out over time.
Let’s face it, I love the job I do, but I still want that pay check at the end of the week!

You will find that the greater the distraction, the harder it will be for your dog to follow commands which means the greater the reward has to be.

This example will be directed at using food as a reward. Most dogs get plain biscuits which are great to start with when training inside the home providing they are small enough for the dog to get down easily. Even Cheerios are good for training in non distracting areas. Start off with basic treats in the home, then when going into the yard use soft treats, then move to hot dogs slivers as you get to driveway training and then up it to chicken slivers when you are in the street.

Always use a treat that can be swallowed quickly without chewing so the dog is not distracted by crumbs that fall to the floor. Your goal is to get the dog’s attention back on you right after the reward is given and this won't happen if the dog is sniffing the floor to slurp up the crumbs.  So basically the faster they can suck it down, the better.

If at any location where you are training the dog, the dog does not listen to the commands but loses focus on something in its surroundings, it means you have to go back and train longer in the last place the dog was listening.

Keep in mind that dogs do not always carry over what you’ve taught them from place to place and if the dog has been pulling and lunging on previous outings before training, then it may take a little longer in one spot to train before moving forward.

You also have to remember that is was over a period of time that the dog learned how to behave in each circumstance that you put him in. This is called a “Learned Behavior” and the dog may try to revert to old behaviors that worked for them in the past.

You mission , should you choose to accept it (what TV show was that?), is trying to show the dog a new behavior which not all dogs get right away until they see the repeated outcome.

For instance: Dogs that have lunged and barked at passing dogs learned that this behavior moved the other dog away.

What you now want to show the dog is that even though they are not lunging and growling anymore, with appropriate behavior the other dog is still going to move away.

You may want to have a few of your dog owning friends help you with this by continuously passing you with their dog on the opposite side of the street so your dog can see that this new “act accordingly” behavior works as well as the barking and lunging did and there is a reward at the end for the good behavior.

With learned behavior it is sometimes important to change your command wording as well, even if you need to use a totally different language. (The command "Sit"  in spanish would be "Sentarse.")

Example: if your command was “Fido Come” and Fido did not come, you may have to change the wording to “Fido, Here” with new training. You don’t want the dog to associate old commands with old behaviors.

Once you have training under way it may be a good time to join a training class because at a class your dog will be exposed to other dogs in a controlled atmosphere and you can work your dog off to the side while other dogs are working together. I suggest you tell the trainer of your dog's problem before you actually sign up for class so the trainer will know how to set up class and be prepared for your dog’s arrival. As well they may want to tell you to bring specific training equipment.

I am once again going to put up my favorite site for positive based training which gives a reward for the behavior you want to see. Know what motivates your dog! Is it Food? Praise? Toys?

The total cost for training beside your time, would be around $20.00 (or under) for supplies, (clicker about 3 dollars, treat bag 5 to 10 dollars) You do not have to use an official treat bag if it is too expensive, one of those tourist fanny packs will work fine for holding treats. Come on, I know you have one, especially if you're in your 40's or 50's!   You just might not look as fashionable!

Train several times throughout the day in shorter increments rather than one long training each day. Why do I say this? Because shorter sessions several times a day show the dog that you as a leader are consistent. No one wants to follow a leader that is inconsistent.   

Watch the site with the videos first so you can see how clicker training is done. It is very important to mark the behavior at the exact time it is done by the dog. If you mark the behavior at the wrong time you will develop the wrong behavior.

Step by step directions


Training in a controlled environment can help with some dogs.


  1. Another helpful training tip. u should have your own reality show.

  2. Another great training tip from Canine Capers, well written and humorous while providing great information. You should have your own TV reality show!! Keep the information coming

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I posted the reply from doglover1127 regarding shock collars because everyone has a right to their opinion. While I did state in my article that training equipment is useful, I do not agree it should be used for the dog's lifetime. Once taught the training equipment should go away. It is like relying on crutches when you can walk but choose not to. What happens when the crutches are no longer there and there is no muscle tone in your legs to hold you up? If you are well versed in shock collars, fine, use them, but have a back up plan for when that battery goes dead , that's all I'm saying.

  5. Sorry , apparently doglover left the same message on two posts, I deleted one thinking it was a mistake. here is doglovers post for this article and the same for the barking in the car article.

    article.tdoglover1127 has left a new comment on your post "Tinker Belle Turns Cujo! How to control lunging an...":

    Remote Shock Collars are one of the most effective, easiest and most humane training aids available. Remote Shock Collars are placed on a dog's neck, allowing a trainer to deliver small static corrections of varying strength by remote control. The correction the dog gets from the remote dog training collar is no different than static from walking on carpet. The benefits of working with a remote dog training collar is the trainer can immediately correct a dog's mistakes at a distance far greater than leash training allows. A Shock Collar is a safe, effective and humane way to train your dog.

  6. Hi friends,

    Really, this is the great training tip of dogs you have provided. Keep it up always! Thanks.
    Shock Collars

  7. Thanks regarding the post. It's good to listen to one other individual's opinion. I certainly agree with exactly what you are saying regarding the data. Please keep up the nice work as I'm definitely going again to read more.

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    Spencer Schleinitz
    Explained Here

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.