Exercises to do on walks to improve socialization

Being the leader in your dog’s eyes will make walks, and life, much more pleasant for you, your dog, and the people you encounter on outings.

Socialization and Fear

Outdoor exercise provides additional socialization opportunities. However, it is up to you to keep all encounters positive and safe. If your dog shows fear of bicycles and skaters, you need to work on developing the dog’s confidence, and above all, watch for potential problems and keep your dog safe … and in check. Never allow your dog to jump or nip at an oncoming person. Even if your dog backs away in fear, you really do want to do your best to keep the dog from feeling fearful. Steer him out of what he may perceive to be harm’s way. Pick up your dog and carry him away if you must. But note: the practice of picking up small dogs and holding them above other dogs, or at “people-level” in front of other people, often exacerbates aggression in your dog. Aim for reducing feelings of fear as well as reducing any tendencies toward aggression.

Among the first lessons to teach your dog is to pay attention to you. Before taking your dog to public places, your dog must know to count on you and look to you for guidance. It’s equally important for you to know how to regain your dog’s attention when he is excited, agitated, frightened, or otherwise distracted by someone or something encountered along your walk.

Practice these so that when you are in public, you’ll be able to keep and regain your dog’s attention. Keep him focused on you, and as soon as you notice a potential trigger – a loose animal, jogger, bicyclist, skater, or the like – give him a behavior cue, such as SIT.  Don’t give a release cue (such as ‘OK’) until you are well beyond the distraction.

Also, it pays to teach your dog to tolerate triggers such as joggers, bicyclists, and baby strollers. You can acclimate your dog to bikes, strollers, and fast-moving people with the help of a willing friend or neighbor in the course of a few short sessions. If you have a young dog or newly adopted adult dog, start this conditioning, as part of socialization, from the start. If your dog has already developed a fear of, or aggression towards, such triggers, enlist the help of a good certified balanced method trainer/behaviorist before the situation escalates into a bite.

Threatened by another dog while jogging or walking?

When facing an oncoming dog, whether a stray dog or an aggressive-seeming dog not being controlled adequately by his handler, remain calm and act fast.

Stop jogging and pull your dog close to you. Using a firm but the calm tone of voice, say “OFF!” or “NO!” Say “OFF!” or “NO!” to the approaching dog repeatedly.

As we tell children, do not scream or jump around or otherwise convey tension and fear, as that will serve only to incite the approaching dog and scare your own.

Most dogs mean no harm and won’t show aggression unless threatened. Calmly walk in another direction, keeping your dog close. Continue using a confident, calm, firm tone of voice and demonstrate to both dogs that you are in control.

You can also avert problems and ward off the oncoming dog by throwing a bone or stick or even a snack in the opposite direction, then calmly and quickly leave the area with your dog.

If the approaching dog definitely is aggressive and attacks your dog, in a worst-case situation, you might have to drop the leash to allow your dog a chance to escape.

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