Other Animals

Consider other animals your dog may see on your walks or visits together. Make a master list, decide on your plans of action for each—on-leash or off—and share your ideas with everyone involved in your dog's care. If you are caught unaware, your reaction may be impulsive and may actually encourage a more exaggerated response from your dog the next time around.

First, make a list of all the animals you might encounter: cats, squirrels, rabbits, ducks, geese, farm animals, guinea pigs, and so on. Include indoor pets as well as wild critters your dog might see outdoors.

The goal when you and your dog see these animals together is for your dog to pay more attention to you than to the animal. When you tell your dog WAIT, HEEL, or COME, she will heed your direction above her impulse to chase the creature. Reaching this level of focus takes a high level of maturity and training, but the foundations of such respect should start today. Each time your dog is more focused on the animal than on you, step away from her and call her name. Does she follow you? If not, tug her leash and say NO. Repeat this process as often as necessary to get her attention.

What about when we are approached? What sets my dog off is not an animal running away, but another dog chasing us. She gets aggressive and pulls on the leash, when otherwise she's playful.

The leash is putting her body in a compromised pose, which is aggravating to say the least. A dog running at you is also an overwhelming sight. Combining these creates a fight-or-flight reaction, and since flight is out of the question, your dog must hunker down. Teach her a strong heel and review the attention exercise on page 91. When the other dog approaches, remind your dog to HEEL and move quickly out of what this dog perceives as his territory. The other dog will refrain from attack, saving his energies for a more formidable foe.

Other directions that are useful to condition your dog toward a greater tolerance for other animals are outlined in the following table:

Command Response

HEEL

Your dog must walk a step behind you when you're passing or surrounded by

live distractions.

WAIT

This command tells your dog to stop, on-leash or off, and contain her impulses

until you release her with OKAY.

SIT-STAY

This second-level containment skill encourages focus and can be paired with

bracing (see page 79) to help your dog ground herself when she's overexcited.

DOWN

This is a difficult containment exercise, but once your dog respects it, it's a mar

velous way to help her relax when stimulated. An ideal time to practice this skill

would be when you're visiting a home where animals abound.

COME Although full off-leash focus on this direction is not expected before social maturity (a year to two years), it's a skill to continue working on. If your dog is not reliable, keep her on a long line, and if she's entranced by another animal, call her name as you move quickly in the opposite direction.

COME Although full off-leash focus on this direction is not expected before social maturity (a year to two years), it's a skill to continue working on. If your dog is not reliable, keep her on a long line, and if she's entranced by another animal, call her name as you move quickly in the opposite direction.

It's very hard for your dog to contain her chasing impulse—it's like asking a person not to chase a one hundred dollar bill floating by in the wind. Give your dog some suitable "game" alternatives (see chapter 9), and take her to an enclosed area where you can let her chase and play without interference.

Condition your dog to household objects that she doesn't see every day—balloons, strollers, grocery carts, umbrellas, garden hoses, and so on. Although a floating balloon heralds a celebration to you, your dog may be caught off guard by the strange sight. Dogs in this state of alert are known to bark, look fearful, or displace their confusion onto a person or object by snapping or jumping.

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