Open for business: Calm dogs welcome!!
More and more pet owners are opting to take their canine companions along for outings with family and friends. This trend is causing dog friendly eateries to flourish and states are loosening their regulations for allowing pets on outdoor patios. It is exciting news! The social time together is good for all involved, both two legged and four. But it is also a big responsibility, particularly when we visit busy locations where there are other people or pets in close proximity.
Dogs are usually comfortable with people or dogs they already know, but if they are sharing space with strangers it is important they have impeccable manners and possess the ability to stay calm and not be a nuisance to others. This is where the R in the Be A.W.A.R.E protocol comes into play...it is the pet owners responsibility to make sure their dog is able to share public space without being a nuisance.
If your dog needs some work learning to relax, here is an idea that can help.
You can teach Fido to maintain a down-stay behavior in this way so you have better control. Practice at home first, then gradually build up to more and more distracting environments. In a few weeks, most dogs can be ready to lay down quietly by your side and remain calm while others pass by.
Begin by having your dog’s leash attached to their collar. (note: for this exercise a standard leash works better than a retractable one) Have your dog lie down (luring with a treat works for most dogs), then place your foot on the leash within a few inches of the buckle. The pressure of your foot on the leash in close proximity to the buckle will create an anchoring effect that prevents your dog from getting upright onto all four feet. Reward your dog while he or she remains in a laying down position but be calm about it. Too much excitement will cause your dog to pop up. The goal of the exercise is to maintain calm behavior, not build excitement so monitor your enthusiasm accordingly.
If your dog does attempt to get up, stay calm and keep your foot firmly anchored on the leash. Be patient even if your dog is resisting and just wait for him or her to settle back in. Practice in increasing increments of time, starting with a one to two minutes and working up to thirty or so over the course of weeks.
You can perform this simple maneuver either in a standing or sitting position, but be prepared to work through some mistakes. Dogs are easily distracted by movement and new things so it is normal for your dog to want to get up and go investigate. Don’t allow it. Instead stay steady and insist your dog lay back down. With repetition, your dog will learn to patiently observe the environment and remain laying at your feet. There is no reason, other than lack of persistence and practice, that your dog can’t remain calmly laying down for thirty to sixty minutes while you visit with friends or enjoy a meal.
When you’re ready for Fido to get up, issue permission with a simple word like Okay and encouragement to follow you.
The purpose of the exercise is to give you a way to insist your dog hold a long down behavior and wait for permission to get up. Being able to remain laying down in public, even while distractions are present, will make your dog one of those welcome canine citizens that everyone admires.
As a dog owner, it's on you to always be awaRe and that means to be Responsible when you're sharing public space with others.