How to Train Your Dog to Behave in Public

Medium
2-8 Weeks
General

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.

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 Old-fashioned methods based on dominating the dog are outdated because they use intimidation and punishment to cow the dog into obeying.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!

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.

The Walk to Heel Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Not Jump Up Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Sit on Command Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
roxy
Doberman Pinscher
2 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
roxy
Doberman Pinscher
2 Years

i want to take her to my school as an ESA but i dont want her to jump on people or get too excited also bark

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alison, To help Roxy get used to being around a lot of people but also to learn not jump on people, follow one of the methods in the training article bellow, and be sure to bring her around a lot of people to practice. Choose people who you either know or who will agree to help you teach her when you explain what you are doing. Here is the article link for teaching a dog not to jump: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump You can also work on the barking by teaching her to be calm and by teaching her the quiet command. To teach her the "Quiet" command use "The Barking on Command Method" found in the article linked bellow. To teach her to be calm around people use "The Desensitize Method" from that same article: I recommend either using "The Desensitize Method" or using both methods. https://wagwalking.com/training/be-quiet Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Season
Australian Shepher Samoyed mix
1 Year
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Season
Australian Shepher Samoyed mix
1 Year

Hello,
I have been doing a lot of leash training lately. My dog walks very nicely on a leash now around most distractions and if she gets distracted, I can always get her attention back on me using treats and a look at me command or a sit. However, if another person joints us on a walk she gets very excited and behaves as if we have never done any leash training. I have to stop every few steps because she is pulling, and I wait for her to come back into position (next to me) and to look at me before I continue, but there is no improvement whatsover throughout the walk.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jil, That's wonderful that you have made progress with leash walking in general. I have found when training, that many dogs actually have the hardest time heeling when walking with an additional person or other dog (even from the same family). Many dogs either compete to be in front, get focused on keeping everyone together, or simply get excited about the group, and seem to forget training and pull a lot when you add another person or dog to the walk. This can be even more difficult than passing other dogs! Treat this like a high level distraction that you have to practice around (like you probably had to do around other walkers and when passing dogs in the past while training). Recruit a friend or family member to go on a walk regularly with you just for the purpose of training. You can also look for a dog walking group somewhere like www.meetup.com, a local obedience club, rescue group, or online if you do not have friends who can help with this. Walk with a couple of feet between you and the other person help you (so that you don't bump into them when you do what I am about to mention). As soon as Season starts to pull ahead, cut directly in front of her at a ninety degree angle, then turn another ninety degrees again so that you end up walking in the opposite direction as your friend. To get back with your friend you can cut two more times, to make a complete box with your turns, so that you are walking in the same direction as your friend again. Instruct your friend to slow down whenever you do this so that you can catch back up with your dog in a few minutes. Make this a training walk. Do not have the goal be the walking itself, so that you can focus on your dog and turn in front of her as many times as you have to to teach her to focus on you again, without feeling frustrated about not getting very far distance wise! Choose a patient friend or family member to help with this since the walk will be rather awkward at first. Expect this to take a lot of practice, and not to be something resolved in two walks. Try not to get discouraged but instead notice small improvements. Doing this training simply teaches her that she still has to pay attention to you and follow you during the walk, rather than focusing on your friend or getting overly excited. Turning directly in front of her teaches spacial awareness (you may bump into her a bit and that's alright if she is generally a confident and non-aggressive dog). The more you practice this the better she should learn to pay attention to where you are and what you are doing though. Be sure to turn in front of her as soon as her head starts to move past your leg. If you turn too late it will be hard to do. If she gets so far ahead that you cannot turn in front of her, then turn 180 degrees , the other direction, so that you end up walking in the opposite direction as your friend. Walk that direction until she is paying attention to you again, then turn back toward your friend's direction to continue walking with your friend. Check out the "Turns" method from the article below for more detail on how to utilize turns and changes in speed to teach Heeling: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Cooper
Golden Retriever
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Cooper
Golden Retriever
2 Years

He is typically very well trained and behaves well around the house and the typical visitors. But, that all goes out the window when is in public with large groups of people. He gets extremely energetic as Goldens do, and he won’t calm down with anything. He drags you on the leash, wants to run around, and simply won’t listen to commands. I’m familiar with the aspect of making sure he has regular exercise in his routine (being that he’s an energetic dog breed), but nothing seems to help when he goes out in public places. Please help with any training advice!!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Savannah, A lot of is it practice, but a few other things can also help: a structured heel with some gentle discipline and boundaries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcwvUOf5oOg Place and Down-Stays for long-periods of time at home, then shorter periods of time around distractions in public: Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Generally working on building respect and trust for you through obedience at home before you go places so that listening is easier for him in public: Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Working method and Consistency method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Out - leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ It can be hard to do, but keeping your attitude calm and confident, and not angry, overly-excited, or nervous can also help him. A no-none-sense, tell him what to do, then expect him to do it and work him through it if needed attitude can make a difference in how you train in a good way. Also, it's super important to start your walk to public places really structured, with pup slightly behind you and focused on where you are going and not scanning the horizon to look at everything else. How you start the walk and whether he is tuned into you at the beginning can make a big difference in how he responds when exciting things come across his path. If he seems nervous and isn't responding to you due to fear instead of over-excitement, then spending a lot of calm time on the outskirts of public places practicing things like Place is important to deal with the root issue or nervousness around crowds. You can give treats for relaxed body language and obedience around crowds in that setting, be he probably won't take food until he is doing better because most dogs won't eat while stressed..so food would come later in the process. A large intermediate obedience class with a trainer who also trains at an off-leash level after intermediate (which shows skill level of trainer a bit), and comes well recommended by other clients, and trains in a way that makes sense to you, can also be a great way to practice obedience around distractions. Some groups like meetup.com also have dog walking or hiking groups that can be large enough and dog friendly enough to be able to practice with understanding folks regularly. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sky
Silky Terrier
1 Year
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Question
0 found helpful
Sky
Silky Terrier
1 Year

How do I teach my dog to stop barking at people and other dogs when in public. Would really love to bring her to a mall where pets are allowed, but the last time i brought her there she got very aggressive and loud. Thanks!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
416 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kat, If the barking is related to aggression or fear you need to deal with the underlying cause as well. First, I would work on building her respect and trust for you so that she is depending on you to handle situations she is uncomfortable with instead of trying to control things herself - i.e. barking to keep people away and express her dislike: Respect and trust: Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo If fearful you can also work on building confidence in general: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHKgNY5QZTk Help her overcome her fear of strangers through counter conditioning and interrupting bad mindset at the same time through People Aggression protocol video- notice the back tie for safety (your guest should never be put at risk. Only train with the correct safety protocols to keep everyone involved safe. https://youtu.be/mgmRRYK1Z6A Structured focused heel - interrupting first signs of aggression and reactivity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfiDe0GNnLQ Barking dog - other tools like the above video could be used instead of the collar, but notice the timing of corrections and how to barking is interrupted - use of structure, heel, calmness, timely corrections, and calm rewards: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/good-dog-transformations/how-we-work-through-leash-reactivity-with-the-wild-and-crazy-ozzie-2nd-session/ Later counter conditioning protocol to help with human aggression-possible fear issues, once he can handle training with more distance between he and people, and is ready for up close training - notice the back tie leash to avoid people being bitten still: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIJoEJfTS-E Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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