In spring the nature wakes up…and so does your dog’s natural instincts!

Spring time is here! Birds chirp cheerfully, squirrels gaily jump from tree to tree, ducks swim calmly, cats walk around the neighbourhoods with dignity…and dogs go crazy! After a long and relatively dead winter, it is only natural that your dog finds very, very exciting all this new life around him. You are not boring…but your dog might find his environment a little bit more interesting than you are…! He could let you know this sad truth by browsing intensively his surroundings, or by jumping, leaping, barking and pulling. While spring is a great time to get back into shape, there are more pleasant ways to get a workout than by trying to hold on to the leash when walking your crazy overexcited dog…

One great way to solve distractions problems is to train your dog to focus on you. If he is focusing his attention on you, chances are he will not even notice all those exciting things around him, or even better, he will choose to ignore them because he prefers interacting with you. Your dog will want to focus on you if your interactions with him are positive and fun. If all you do during the walks is punish him when he does something wrong – without ever interacting positively with him – you are teaching your dog that every single contact you have toward him is unpleasant. You are teaching your dog that your attention is very negative: do you think that it makes him willing to be attentive to you? He will most probably turn into a very discrete dog that does not want to upset his owner. This avoidance is not the foundation of a good relationship, nor is it a good and fun context for a walk.

Here is a great video that shows you how you can first train your dog to be attentive to you:

And here is another one from a different trainer that demonstrates the same concept:

It is important that you gradually increase the distractions when you work on this exercise, so that you give your dog a chance for success. Do not start in a park infested with squirrels if your dog goes crazy just seeing the tip of a fluffy tail two miles away. You should not always ask your dog to work against his natural instinct to chase. Instead, you can train him to show a more acceptable way to react in front of such exciting stimuli; you can also teach him to be aware of your presence and wait for your “OK” before doing what he really wants to do, which is to chase the potential prey and have a blast doing so. Here is an impressive demonstration of the outcome of great attention:

Of course, such a result comes from a lot, and a lot of hard work, but more importantly, from an excellent relationship between the dog and his master. So let’s get started with the first step: building your dog’s awareness and focus. Other advices on this same topic will be posted in the weeks to come.