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Dog Walking 102 – Fixing over excitement and anxiety

As a professional dog walker I believe there are many aspects of dog walking that the general public don’t encounter or take into consideration. This is my way of helping us all in having a more enjoyable and safe community. As you may already know EVERYONE in your family needs to practice the same techniques for maximum results and success. I hope you enjoy and find this helpful!

If you plan to use a retractable leash while walking your dog you are not doing your dog any favors. Retractable leashes are dangerous in many ways and because they operate by extending based off your dog pulling on the leash, they teach your dog to keep tension on the leash at all times if they want to walk faster or get ahead. Don’t use retractable leashes!

Our last post we went over:
*How to set your dog up for success from the beginning
*The steps to take while exiting your home
*The proper mind-set to have while on a walk

So we continue this post with:
*How to greet other dogs and people
*How to respond and handle overly stimulating situations

Once you have begun your walk and are confidently walking with your dog you may encounter other animals and/or people. If your dog is overly excited or anxious about the new animals or people (also known as triggers) odds are you are more vigilant than the average dog owner. Which is exactly the right way to be.

You should start by taking your dog on a walk in a neighborhood that you CAN be more successful in. Once you’ve given your dog some exercise and the new excitement of being outside has worn off; head to the areas where you might encounter triggers. When approaching a trigger we recommend you try crossing the street with your dog and having them go through a series of success commands. SUCCESS COMMANDS ARE COMMANDS THAT YOUR DOG HAS ALREADY MASTERED (i.e. shake, sit, lay down, etc). This teaches your dog that when there is a trigger you want them to stay focused with you, as well as building confidence in your dog during possible trigger situations.

If your dog is able to walk calmly on the other side of the street without being overly excited and/or anxious about the triggers the next step would be to walk closer to the triggers. While STAYING VIGILANT you will generally notice dogs and people from a block or two away. There are two techniques you can try, not all dogs learn in the same manner.

Technique 1) *Recommended for dogs that are prone to barking, lunging and/or jumping
Step to the side (usually a driveway, yard or parking lot), have your dog sit and have a firm grip on the leash as THE LEASH HANGS WITHOUT TENSION between you and your dog. The goal is to have your dog engaged with you while the trigger passes. Instruct your dog to follow the success commands and reward them with praise and treats as the trigger passes by. Once they have passed, allow your dog to look at and sniff towards them for a couple seconds (they are inquisitive creatures and there is no harm in looking and sniffing). Most aggression is due to fear. AN INQUISITIVE DOG IS A GOOD THING! You want your dog to feel comfortable learning and evaluating triggers! Once your dog looks at you again, usually wanting another treat, reward them and give them the command to walk with you again.

Eventually your dog will learn to step to the side, go through a series of success commands, focus on you and evaluate the trigger in a positive manner.

Technique 2) *Recommended for dogs that are not prone to barking, lunging and/or jumping
As you approach the trigger instruct your dog to walk on the opposite side of your body (opposite from the trigger). INCREASE your pace so you have very MINIMAL time for your dog to interact with the trigger. While passing you should try to keep your dog’s focus with verbal praise and/or a treat. After passing the trigger, by a few feet, instruct your dog to sit and reward them for being well behaved. Again AN INQUISITIVE DOG IS A GOOD THING! So if your dog sniffs the air as the trigger passes that is a good thing.

Eventually your dog will learn to focus on you whenever they see a trigger approaching.

Most dogs that are reactive while on walks have fear based reactions. Giving your dog success commands and allowing them to mastering even simple tasks outside of your home will boost their confidence and teach them to interact with you throughout your walks. We practice this with Moxie and our client dogs on a regular basis, to ensure we are maximizing the bond and trust we have while in public. Fear based reactions are the hardest to fix and take the longest to master. Please don’t give up and decide to no-longer socialize your dog because you are unsure of what to do. Remember your dog does not speak english. It is your job as a dog parent to help them be the best dog possible and no dog is born a great dog without given proper instruction and interaction.

Want more help? Fill out the form through our Contact Us tab to tell us what your dog is doing and how we can help. Thank you for reading our blog post. If you’s like to suggest another topic or have any advice for us please email us at Have a great day!
~ Nikki Johnson