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Hi! I have a mixed breed (possibly hound/shepherd?) female who is about 15 months old. Overall she is a fantastic family dog. She's great with other dogs, loves kids, and has been very easy to train. She's a little shy, especially when people she doesn't know come to our house, but she doesn't chew, have accidents, or have any issues around the house.

The only problem I have with her is when I take her for a walk in a busy place or when my three kids walk with us. For some reason, she gets super excited or anxious. She whines and yelps and acts like she can barely contain herself. She pulls a lot and sometimes lunges against the leash. Instead of walking pretty well on the leash with me like she does when we walk around the block or to the park, she just flips out. For example, yesterday I took her and the kids for a walk at a nearby state park. They have a strict leash law and since it was a nice day a lot of people and dogs where there. From the second we got out of the car, she started whining and yelping and never calmed down. I tried to have her down/stay until she was calm, but within a few minutes of walking again she had herself all worked up. Even when we were on a trail with no other people or dogs, she was very loud. If my kids wanted to run ahead or go off the trail to climb on rocks, she got even more anxious. I'm not even kidding, people who could hear her in the distance probably thought she was being tortured.

Besides trying to calm her with a down/stay, I try to ignore her. When she pulls, I stop walking and call her back to my side. I don't discipline her as I'd rather reward her for good behavior -- but so far nothing gets her to behave in order to earn a reward!

Now, when it's just me and I walk her around our neighborhood or to the park, she is great. She starts out excited and maybe a little whiny, but quickly settles down and is enjoyable to be with. She is used to getting some off leash time, as there are a couple of parks near our house where she can run free (she is great at coming back when called). If the kids come with us, even for the exact same walk, she whines and yelps the whole time, even after a significant time getting to run off leash.

What can I do to help her relax and walk calmly no matter where we are? I avoid taking her places because of her behavior and don't like how the kids are starting to ask to leave her home. :help:
 

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She is clearly stressed on leash in some situations. Have you tried training a "look at me" (disengage) either with a specific command or her name, reinforced with tiny high-value treats? Train this in situations where she is not stressed and then transfer this skill gradually to more stressful situations. Do this training before again putting her in a situation that is too stressful situation (if possible given your lifestyle and her stress). Exercising her before training is a great idea.
 

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Dogs don't generalize. She may know that lunging/pulling/yelping is not ok with you, but she does not know that she is supposed to remain calm with other people, as well. The reason she is probably behaving that way is because she wants to see everything and greet everyone! She wants to be up ahead seeing what the kids are doing, she wants to know what that dog is doing, what that person over there has in his pockets, etc. She may not be ready for those busy areas yet. New friends and places are so exciting for them! First, take her to increasingly trafficked areas gradually before you plunge her into a carnival.

For example, our neighborhood is rather quiet, but when I felt Ralphie was ready I took him to a series of apartment complexes where there were more people, dogs, and cars on the streets. I always reward when he merely glances at passerby and comes along when I command him to. Next I would try a pet store, perhaps, and when he was ok with that I would try busier areas. Your dog is still young, too, so she may mellow out with age. Also, you could try taking her to an obedience class where she will learn to work alongside lots of other people and dogs, and I'm sure they would certainly be willing to help you with those issues.

She my be pulling ahead to play with the kids because she feels they are part of her "pack" and they should be together, or she wants to be with them. If she was off-leash she would probably run back and forth between you and the kids. I would get your kids to help you increasing the distance they run ahead of you gradually. First they are walking beside you. Reward for calm behavior. Next they are a few feet in front of you. Reward for calm behavior. Then they are 10 ft in front of you. Reward for calm behavior. If at any time she becomes distressed, the kids come back and you work at the distance she is comfortable with. It is not a quick fix, but eventually she will learn that she does not need to freak out when the kids run ahead of you.
 

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It makes a walk much more exciting going to new places with lots of new people/dogs around or having your kids with you. It needs to be trained. If possible mix it up by both going to those nice places with just the two of you and walking in the neighborhood with just one child at a time then 2 then all of them.

Bucky is worse than your dog as he acts that way with just me! I stop and let him wheel around and lunge and sniff and be nuts if he needs to then move forward when he settles down. It's the slowest wedding procession ever if he is too excited. One step, pause for what seems like minutes. If he really loses it I turn around and go home.

I'd do that with your dog. Leash her up get a kid to help for a few minutes and out the door. Stop when she gets excited and pulls and go when she looks at you and there's no tension on the leash. You don't need to talk to your dog, just have a conversion with your child about whatever. If you only get down the driveway that's fine at first. Do daily and work up to all three kids. It's okay to get excited but if she is yelping and pulling then you don't move. Quite soon you will see she settles down on the way home on those short training walks, then you know she is starting to get it.

I reward when dog looks at me but I do not force dog to do so by cuing it. On your walks with her do reward it when she 'checks' in so she knows that you like it. I want the dog to be in charge of calming down, not me. I will restrict dog's area [as in shorten the leash] to make it easier to do so but no sit and look at me when excited, I wait for it to happen.

In time dog will be able to do so in increasingly exciting situations. Bucky started with walks down the driveway and couldn't go on hikes at all. Now he can handle 1.5 mile walks, 45 minute hikes to new places without going berserk and on 1/2 mile walks with another person the return trip is nice now. It's been a long 6 months and I am sure it will be another 6 months before he behaves most of the time but week by week I have seen improvement.
 

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I reward when dog looks at me but I do not force dog to do so by cuing it. On your walks with her do reward it when she 'checks' in so she knows that you like it. I want the dog to be in charge of calming down, not me. I will restrict dog's area [as in shorten the leash] to make it easier to do so but no sit and look at me when excited, I wait for it to happen.

In time dog will be able to do so in increasingly exciting situations. Bucky started with walks down the driveway and couldn't go on hikes at all. Now he can handle 1.5 mile walks, 45 minute hikes to new places without going berserk and on 1/2 mile walks with another person the return trip is nice now. It's been a long 6 months and I am sure it will be another 6 months before he behaves most of the time but week by week I have seen improvement.
Yes, if this works, I would do all of this. Build up your dog's confidence slowly. But if she is too stressed to check in with you or doesn't do that naturally, other training (such as a look-at-me cue) can really work. My dog is highly leash reactive, so we've done a lot of this training. I think my dog needs this, but yours might do quite well with just a bit of reinforcement in tough situations.
 

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I've struggled with this a lot with one of my dogs. He gets overstimulated and overaroused very easily in new places. Most of his walks are on a local trail that is very familiar to him, so we can practice focus and passing people and other dogs when he's not already bananas. When we do go to new places, it helps if he's already been exercised.

It also helps to leave him alone in the car for 10-20min because it seems to give him a chance to look around and pull himself together. I know that if I take him out of the car when he's screaming and flailing that it's not going to get better. This wouldn't work for every dog, but he's learned to calm down if I leave him in the car and walk away.

Age helps a lot too. Mine is 3.5 and he's really gotten so much better in the past couple years.

I definitely agree with heavily reinforcing voluntary check ins. Also teaching something cued like "leave it" or the dog's name that means to look to you.

It's always harder with new people. Both of my dogs are great walking one on one, but as soon as we add another person they are a bit more annoying. And adding another dog is even harder. Maybe try just one kid, going for a short walk, then add two kids, etc. Start in places that are pretty boring (down your street) and build up.
 
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