How to Train Your Dog to Behave in Public

How to Train Your Dog to Behave in Public
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-8 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Does it matter what people think about your dog's behavior?

You should care, because when out in public your dog is an ambassador for canine-kind. If he behaves badly by lunging at strangers, jumping up, or barking, this is unpleasant and intimidating for others. However, a well-behaved dog that walks nicely to heel and sits politely to greet people is a positive pleasure.

A dog that behaves in public means you can relax and enjoy walks, rather than be on edge all the time in anticipation of problems. Remember, the dog and his behavior are your responsibility, both in moral terms and in the eyes of the law. Should your dog jump up at a senior citizen, knocking them over so that they fracture a hip, then you could well be liable for their surgical expenses.

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Defining Tasks

To behave well in public means having the dog under control at all times, both on and off the leash. This skill doesn't happen by magic but by putting in the time with regular obedience training. Even a basic command such as "Sit", along with walking to heel, equip the dog with a great grounding so that he is able to meet and greet strangers without showing you up.

Training both puppies and adult dogs does require time, persistence, and patience. For the puppies, the world is a big exciting place full of new sights, sounds, and smells, so distraction is rife. For the adult dog, they may have deeply ingrained bad habits that need to be replaced with new good behavior.

For both young and old, be sure to use reward-based training methods. This rewards the dog's good behavior, which sets them on the path to thinking about what they need to do to please you and earn a reward. Old-fashioned methods based on dominating the dog are outdated because they use intimidation and punishment to cow the dog into obeying. Not a happy scenario!

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Getting Started

Basic obedience training requires little other than:

  • A collar and leash to restrain the dog

  • Bite-sized tasty treats to use as a reward

  • A bag that clips onto your belt, in which to keep the treats handy

  • Time, patience, and consistency

Train your dog a couple of times a day for 10 to 15 minutes. You can also incorporate training into your walks, such as getting the dog to sit curbside. However, be sure to make training fun and always end on a high with a command the dog knows and can do well. This helps build self-confidence and enthusiasm for the next session.

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The Walk to Heel Method

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1

Start without distractions

Train in a backyard with few distractions. Have the dog on a collar and lead. Walk forward. If the dog surges ahead, stop immediately.

2

Wait for a "sit"

Now ignore the dog and wait for him to sit. Once he sits, reward him with a treat. The idea is that the dog learns he is to stop when you stop.

3

Stop when he surges ahead

Walk on again. If the dog walks nicely on a slack lead, praise him and toss a treat. If he surges ahead, stop and wait for the sit. Then reward the sit, and start off again.

4

Label the "heel"

Your dog now has two choices, he can walk by your side and be rewarded, or if he surges ahead you stop and he has to sit and wait. Either way you are in control. When you move off and he heels, say "Heel" is a firm but happy voice, and reward him.

5

Build the behavior

With the dog now listening to you and watching for treats as he heels, start extending the amount of time he is expected to heel before he gets a treat. By making him travel further each time, he will eventually start to heel automatically. And if he surges ahead, you simply stop, meaning that he gets nowhere fast and finds it more rewarding to behave.

The Not Jump Up Method

Effective

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1

Know jumping is self-rewarding

When a dog jumps up, he rewards himself, therefore you must prevent jumping up so that it doesn't become a habit. If you can see a flashpoint, such as a friend approaching, have the dog sit and "Look" at you.

2

Restrain the dog

Other strategies include stepping on the dog's lead so that it is too short for the dog to jump up. This may feel rather a negative thing to do, but know you are preventing the dog learning bad behavior.

3

Withdraw attention

If your dog jumps up when you come home, ignore the dog and walk off to a different room. Return, and only acknowledge the dog once he is calm with all four paws on the floor. Then make a big fuss of him. The lesson is that jumping up means no attention, while sitting or standing nicely means a fuss.

4

Practice with friends

Now practice the dog greeting friends. Perhaps do this outside and tie the dog to an immovable object such as a tree. Have the friend approach but stop and walk away as soon as the dog goes to jump. The friend only continues once the dog is calm with four-on-the-floor.

5

Teach an alternative behavior

Jumping up is an action, but so is sitting, standing, lying, or 'Look'. Decide on an alternative action you want the dog to perform in order to be greeted and work on this. For example, tell the dog "Sit" and only fuss him when he is in a sit.

The Sit on Command Method

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1

Get his attention

Hold a treat between your finger and thumb, just in front of the dog's nose so that it holds his attention.

2

Raise the treat in the air

Use the treat as a lure, moving it slowly so that the dog follows it with his nose. Raise the treat is an arc over and behind the dog's head. As he follows the treat, as his head goes up and back, his butt will drop to the floor.

3

Label this "sit"

As soon as his butt hits the deck, say "Sit" in a firm but excited voice, and reward him with the treat.

4

Try without the treat

Practice with the treat until he starts to anticipate and sits as he starts to see your hand move. Now, start phasing out the treat, perhaps rewarding him for every second, then every third sit, rather than each time.

5

Take your training outside

Now practice in different places and with distractions until he responds regardless of what's going on and has a rock-solid sit.

Written by Amy Caldwell

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 10/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Max

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Saint Bernard

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13 Months

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Question

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He barks, gets excited and he pulls when he sees other dogs. And when someone wants to pet him he gets excited and tries to jump on them. I just want a calm walk where there’s no barking at dogs or pulling or even getting excited. What should I do to prevent this?

May 27, 2022

Max's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alessandra, Is he friendly toward other dogs and simply excited to say hi? If so, check out this article and video below. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo I would also look for a no-pull device designed for strong dogs, like a gentle leader or prong collar. Make sure you fit both properly though. https://www.google.com/search?q=thomas+davis+prong+how+to&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS909US909&oq=thomas+davis+prong+how+to&aqs=chrome..69i57j33i160l3.3915j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#kpvalbx=_EyCRYsKrN_nFqtsPxuW8qAY20 If pup is friendly, once you have worked on Heel with the Turns method and using a no-pull device that ensures pup can't physically drag you down the street during training practice. https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 27, 2022

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Lily

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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4 Years

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My challenge is that I failed in Lily's early years to properly train her for reactivity, and now she is very anxious in public and new places, and she is not good on a leash (pulls and doesn't follow our lead). I want to work on this so that she can go more places in public with us and be less anxious and able to enjoy outings without it being a stressor.

May 17, 2022

Lily's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brynne, Is she aggressive or tries to get away when scared? If she isn't aggressive, check out the article I have linked below on shy dogs. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ Also, check out this youtube channel series on reactivity. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a And this one on shy dogs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AElTVoIPlOw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWoivpkvXgqhAC44tlofiw-CS If pup is aggressive when afraid, I would desensitize her to wearing a basket muzzle before training. The trainer in the videos also has a video on how to properly introduce the muzzle slowly, so pup won't be fearful of it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 18, 2022


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