When you take your pup on a stroll around your neighborhood, do they lunge and bark at every living thing? Many dogs become hyper-focused on other dogs, people, squirrels, cars, or other moving objects, making your daily walk less than pleasant. Dogs who react this way to other animals or people when on a leash are called “leash reactive.” January is National Walk Your Dog month—the perfect time to teach your overly excited pup to focus on you while out walking. Follow these tips from our team at Harbor View Veterinary Hospital to make your walks more enjoyable.
#1: Teach your dog focus behaviors at home
On walks, you may give your dog the freedom to sniff and check out the neighborhood, but you also need to quickly gain their attention when a person or another dog approaches. Teach your dog these focus behaviors developed by Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinary behaviorist renowned for her low-stress handling and behavior modification methods. Begin training your dog in the comfort of your own home with no distractions, and then move outside, still staying far enough away from your dog’s triggers to remain under their reactivity threshold. Slowly build up to closer distances and more distractions as you continue to use the focus behaviors.
#2: Use a head collar when walking your dog
Headcollars for dogs are similar to halters in horses—where the head goes, the body follows. If an unexpected distraction sneaks up, and your dog is well over their reactivity threshold, a flat collar won’t help guide them to a safe distance. Instead, fit your dog with a head collar like the Gentle Leader, so you have better head control when they become hyper-focused on their reactivity trigger, and use the collar to redirect their focus to you.
Does your dog still become anxious and stressed on walks, despite your training efforts? Many dogs who suffer from generalized anxiety can benefit from medications that may help them relax. Schedule an appointment with our veterinarians at Harbor View Veterinary Hospital to see if a medication can help calm your dog, especially when out walking.