What can you do to save your peaceful outing and arrive home relaxed and happy? Here are three useful handling strategies that you can use to gain control.
A Training Reminder
If you expect successful responses, do yourself a favor. Be sure you have introduced and practiced handling and obedience skills under calm and controlled situations. Those are the best times to fine-tune your ability to influence behaviors and assess needs; not when you and your dog become emotionally overloaded in the face of a challenging situation.
Three Response Strategies
There are three response strategies that a DINOS owner can choose when she is worried her dog might overreact: Get out of Dodge; Practice obedience and social skills; Be preemptive. Any combination or all three can be used in one scenario to optimize the outcome. Ideally each successful encounter sets the stage for less stress the next time.
Get Out of Dodge
This is an in-the-moment strategy designed to avoid any interaction. When danger lurks, there is no shame in just leaving. Sometimes you don’t have time to work through the issue. Other times you have a dog that is not ready for a particular challenge.
Breathe deep, relax and calmly call your dog to get its attention. Turn away from the trigger giving light leash taps if necessary (don’t pull on the leash as doing so can intensify a reaction) to put enough distance between you and the approaching trigger. Move to the space where you both feel emotionally safe.
Sometimes moving a short distance to the other side of a room or stepping off the path will be enough. Once out of the line of fire you can determine whether to add another strategy.
The opening scenarios might be a good time to practice your social and obedience skills. Look at your dog then decide if he is ready for a practice session. Is he willing and able to engage with you? Can he enjoy the rewards you offer? Or is he worried or distracted?
You can test readiness by playing games with your rewards.Toss food on the ground and let your dog search for it. Play with a toy or your leash in a tug of war. Pet him. If your dog isn’t interested in petting, food or toys, he’s probably not ready for a formal lesson. If he can relax and focus on you, start with sit stay. From there you can do tricks and games, down stay, recall and walk on leash.
Sometimes you can’t or don’t want to leave. Perhaps you want to practice your skills. What can you do?
If I have a DINOS that is worried about people or children approaching, step forward and say “Stop. My dog isn’t ready to say hi. Do you want to see our stupid pet tricks?” Then show off your tricks. If your dog is relaxed and performs the tricks easily, add to its social and obedience skills by creating a training moment. Should you let the person come closer or pet your dog? It depends on what your dog wants.
If it’s a dog approaching off leash, sit your dog to your left and slightly behind as you ask the owner to call her dog. Ninety-nine percent of the time the owner can’t or won’t. Don’t wait for the dog to get closer. Step straight forward toward the dog (Hold yours calmly on leash to keep him sitting) and with your meanest low tone say, “Git.” Or reach down and pretend to pick up rocks. Usually the approaching dog gets the message and stops.
No matter which strategy or combination you chose, the outcome should leave you calm and focused on what you both need to feel secure and keep your partnership intact. If you succeed, have a party. If not make an adjustment in your strategy and try again.