‘Here we go again!’ Was the usual thought on my mind whenever we encountered a person or dog on a walk.
It was always the same story. The approaching dog would walk calmly beside its owner, while my Loki took centre stage, lunging and barking.
There’s no denying it – her desperation to greet other dogs and people was a huge source of embarrassment.
To other owners your dog looks deranged, manic, aggressive even. But you know it’s simply overzealous friendliness. If they both had a chance to be off-lead, things would be so different. They’d complete the usual sniffing ritual and be on their way.
For frustrated greeters, the lead has become the enemy – a party pooper preventing them from being the social butterfly they’ve grown to be.
For your dog they’re just eager to say hello, but for you, your daily walks have become excruciating and tiresome.
Does this on-lead behaviour sound familiar?
If so, you may have a frustrated greeter on your hands. While my Loki still has her moments, we’re well on our way to stopping this behaviour altogether.
But it doesn’t come without consistent training. So here are 3 tips to help keep your frustrated greeter calm on walks.
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It’s important to use distraction before your dog has a chance to react. If they’re already pulling and yelping, it’s highly unlikely you’ll gain their focus. So always remain under threshold during training.
Just by walking your dog every day you’ll identify at what distance your dog starts to react towards a trigger. Use this distance as a marker and slowly close the gap over time.
Give your dog the opportunity to see the other dog from a safe distance. You should use treats as a reward for holding their attention on you. As the other dog walks towards you, use various commands such as sit, touch, or find it to keep their focus. If the other dog passes by and your dog doesn’t react, praise heavily and continue on your way.
If they lose concentration, take note of the distance between you and the other dog, walk away and try again next time.
Teach impulse control
While at home you should teach your dog basic self-control. They’ll eventually learn to apply this behaviour in other situations and control their impulses with other dogs too.
A few training sessions to consider include teaching leave it, drop it, making them sit before they eat or go out for a walk.
Before they have a chance to react on walks, you can use the leave it command to let your dog know a greeting is not on the cards.
Work on your impulse control training regularly to reinforce the behaviour.
Recruit a decoy dog
If you have a friend or family member with a well-behaved dog, ask them if they’d be happy to do some training with you. This technique is effective because unlike natural encounters, this will be an immersive training experience that helps your dog progress quicker.
Ask your friend to stand with their dog behind your dog’s threshold line. Ensure you have an ample supply of treats and get them to move slowly towards you. As they approach, hold your dog’s focus on you. If your dog looks up at you and shows no reaction, offer praise and treats as you walk towards the decoy.
Tell your friend in advance, if your dog reacts they should walk away and out of sight. Your dog will come to understand that their overexcited behaviour will not gain them the greeting they want. Whereas calm behaviour will.
If they do react, go back to the point where there was no reaction and start the process again.
Here’s a fabulous video on how to deal with frustrated greeters. Using rewards to reinforce calm behaviour.
Correcting the behaviour of a frustrated greeter can be long and frustrating. You’ll need patience and persistence to see any results. Your dog needs to understand that barking and lunging is not appropriate behaviour to greet people and dogs. When they’re calm, they’re allowed to say hello.
By adopting these techniques and using incremental steps to correct the behaviour, you’ll eventually lower your dog’s excitement levels and start seeing those daily walks as a joy, not a chore.
How does your dog behave on lead? What step have you taken to keep them calm on walks?
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