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How to Train Your Dog to Not Run into the Street

How to Train Your Dog to Not Run into the Street
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-2 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Every year,  over a million dogs are hit and killed by motor vehicles in the US.  Many more are hit and severely injured. The tragedy and trauma experienced by families who lose a pet to being hit by a car is not something any pet owner should have to experience. Even dogs that survive such an encounter can end up with lifelong impairments, and cost their owners thousands of dollars in veterinary expenses. 

The problem is, dogs are not born with any instinctive fear of vehicles, they do not know what a road is, as opposed to a sidewalk, and there is little to naturally deter them from running out onto a road, unless specifically taught not to do so. While the safest method to prevent your dog from running out onto the street is to keep your dog on a leash, even the best-laid plans can go awry. Leashes break, yard gates get left open, people accidentally drop leashes, knots come untied, there is a myriad of ways your dog could be put in a situation where he is free to run into traffic. So, teaching your dog not to run into the street, even if you always keep him on a leash, is a great idea to prevent the unthinkable.

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Defining Tasks

Training your dog to avoid roadways should be done as early as possible. Puppies are unpredictable and can be easily distracted chasing a ball or squirrel out onto a roadway. Adult dogs that have not developed a healthy caution of roadways should also be taught not to run out on the road. This is a critical safety issue for your dog. There are several exercises that can be used to gain control over your dog and prevent them from running out onto the street, which include teaching your dog to distinguish the street from the sidewalk and providing alternate behaviors and off-leash commands.

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Getting Started


You will need a leash and a relatively safe roadway, in a quiet neighborhood, with little traffic to ensure your dog's safety during training, and some time to walk your dog and expose him to streets and traffic. As an added benefit, all that exercise will be good for you, your dog, and your relationship! You can work on leash walking manners while you are at it, teach your dog to heel, and practice being in control around other dogs, people and new experiences. You should take along some treats to reward your dog for obeying commands and following your directions. If you are in a rural setting, or in a situation where your dog could be unsupervised with access to streets, you may choose to create a negative association with a shock collar and whistle. Read all instructions with a shock collar to ensure you understand its correct usage.

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The Curb Training Method

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1

Stop at all curbs

Take your dog out on a leash in a relatively quiet neighborhood with little traffic. Whenever you come to a curb, stop.

2

Have dog sit at curbs

Tell your dog to 'sit' and and wait for him to sit and to look at you. If your dog knows the command for 'look at me', you can give this command. Give your dog a treat for stopping, sitting, and waiting.

3

Attach a command to proceed

When your dog is sitting and looking at you, and when it is safe to do so, give a command to proceed onto the roadway, such as 'let's go'. Avoid using just “go” as it sounds a lot like “no” and can be confusing for your dog.

4

Establsih stopping and proceeding

Step off the curb and cross the road. Repeat this exercise multiple times over several days. Gradually move to areas with higher traffic. This will help your dog become aware that a street is different from a sidewalk, and he they should only go on the road when commanded to do so.

5

Teach commands at distance

Start having your dog wait at the curb. Do not give the 'proceed' command, instead tell him to 'wait' or “'stay' while you step out onto the street. Do this while there is no traffic around. Cross the street and and return, reward your dog, then give the command to proceed. If your dog steps out on the street without being commanded, say “no” and take him back to the curb and start again. This teaches your dog that they are not to go out on the road unless they receive the command, even if you are across the road.

The Control Commands Method

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Teach 'come'

Teach your dog to come when called. Call your dog and give her a treat when she comes. Eventually, you will not give treats to your dog for coming to you, but will provide praise.

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Teach 'touch'

Teach your dog to come and touch your hand with her nose by calling out “touch”. Always provide a high value treat when performing this command. Do not use this command as often as 'come', which is for everyday use, and is not always rewarded with a treat. In an emergency situation you can all out “touch” and get a more sure response as your dog will expect a tangible reward for responding. Also, because they actually touch their nose to your hand, she is in close enough proximity for you to get a grip on a collar and restrain her in a dangerous situation, such as when noisy traffic is nearby.

3

Teach 'down'

You should also teach your dog to go 'down' from a distance. Working in an enclosed area, free from hazards, while off-leash, teach your dog to lie down. Reward her with a treat when she performs this task at a distance. Add distractions such as other dogs, throwing balls, etc. and give the 'down' command, so that your dog learns to respond to this while off-leash, even when distracted.

4

Use long leash

Use a long leash, 20 feet or more. A flexi leash may be useful. Walk your dog in a relatively quiet, safe neighborhood. Let your dog approach a roadway or street. Give the command to 'come', 'down', or 'touch', before he steps out on the road. Reward your dog for responding.

5

Establish

If your dog goes onto the road without obeying your command, say “No” firmly. Use the leash to restrain your dog, repeat the command until you get a positive response, then reward to reinforce the response to the verbal command. Repeat these exercises over several days to establish good voice control over your dog that can be applied even when off-leash.

The Negative Reinforcement Method

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Set up negative reinforcement

This may be necessary for dogs that are in an environment where unsupervised access to roadways is more likely to occur, such as for rural dogs. Fit your dog with a shock collar and have a whistle on hand. Supervise your dog during training while off leash near a quiet roadway where there is no traffic.

2

Warn

When your dog approaches the roadway, let out a blast on the whistle. If the dog comes to you or avoids the roadway, give your dog a treat.

3

Trigger

If your dog proceeds out onto the road, activate the shock collar. Shock collars should be adjusted to the minimum setting needed to elicit a response.

4

Retreat

Call your dog back to you, away from the road.

5

Repeat negative association

Repeat this exercise multiple times over a period of several days. Avoid allowing your dog access to the roadway during the training period when he could wander onto the road without receiving a negative association, which will confuse and slow down training, or worse-- when he could be struck by oncoming traffic. Repeat until your dog does not approach roadways, as he will have come to associate streets with negative consequences.

By Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Louie

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Chocolate lab

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1 Year

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Louie wears a pet safe wireless fence collar, and if someone walks by, rides a bicycle by, he runs out and chases them down the street. I guess the collar does not affect him, what do I do to keep him from running out to the road? Thank you

April 10, 2022

Louie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gina, For some really reactive/aggressive dogs, when they are highly aroused, their adrenaline is so high they will push through pain to react. When pup's not been properly boundary trained some dogs don't know that they can make the correction stop by returning inside the yard boundary. Pup may even associate that correction with the person walking past and be reacting defensively, thinking that the person is causing the correction. Aggressive dogs need a physical barrier, like a tall wooden fence they can't climb or dig under. Sometimes an invisible fence can be effectively used for an aggressive dog, when it's in addition to a physical fence, and set up to be two feet inside the wooden fence, so pup is deterred from approaching the wooden fence to climb it or dig under it. That is usually only needed for the very aggressive dog who can climb a six foot fence - which most can't. If you can't provide pup with a physical barrier, I recommend only taking pup outside on leash. In general, I would hire a professional trainer with a lot of experience with aggression to work on the underlying aggression that's motivating pup to run out the fence. This often looks like counter conditioning pup to strangers gradually with safety measures in place, while also working on structured obedience. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 11, 2022

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Kelowna

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Husky mix

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4 Years

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Lately, Kelowna will bark and even attack other dogs while on our walks. Otherwise, she is a very calm dog but she seems to get jealous if she thinks I'll give another dog some attention, even if they're at a distance. Today, we were working in our yard and she ran out to the street to see this smaller dog. When I grabbed onto her, she lunged for the small dog. Help!

Oct. 25, 2020

Kelowna's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your dog needs to learn new behaviors to quell her fear. First we reduce her fear around new dogs, and then we begin adding cues such as “watch me” or “sit.” Research tells us that most leash reactivity is caused by fear, not by aggression. Dogs bark and lunge at other dogs to warn, “Go away! Go away!” Dogs fear other dogs because of genetic reasons, lack of socialization, fights when they were puppies, or any scary (to the dog) interaction with other dogs. Sometimes having low thyroid levels contributes to unwanted canine behavior. During this time, avoid any punishment for reactivity. Doing so will make her concerns even bigger. Dogs learn by making associations, and you want your dog to associate other dogs with pleasant things — never punishment. The first step is to reframe what an oncoming dog means to your dog. From a safe distance — your dog determines the distance, not you — have your leashed dog view another dog. As the new dog comes into view, drop a lot of enticing meat treats just in front of your dog’s nose. Ignore any hysterics for now, but back up and create more space if your dog is unwilling to eat. This part is hard for humans — I understand. It helps to see your dog’s behavior for what it most likely is: fear vs. disobedience. The training reinforcer MUST be a great one, such as real meat. It is critical that the appearance of the new dog causes meat to fall from the sky. When the other dog is out of your dog’s view, all treats stop. We want your dog to predict that other dogs near him means that YUMMY FOOD will appear! As you are reframing your dog’s opinion of seeing other leashed dogs, be careful where you take your dog, and be protective of what she is exposed to. One fight can create a reactive dog. Consider not walking your dog for 30 days as you reprogram her opinions of other dogs. Instead, sit on your front porch or in your garage (or somewhere out of the way if those two options aren't possible) with your dog on leash, and practice treating every time another dog comes into your dog’s line of sight. During this time, engage your dog’s mind with mind puzzles, obedience work, and fun stuff like games in the house or yard. You know you have made great progress when your dog sees another dog, and he turns his head away from the once-threatening dog and looks into your eyes, expecting a treat. Once your dog is looking at her (former) trigger and then looking expectantly up at you for a treat, you can begin to put this skill on cue. Tell your dog "watch me" every time you see another dog approaching. Your end goal is for your dog to see another dog, and remain calm, looking at you for guidance. And this will be either continuing your walk, or being allowed to interact with the other dog. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

Oct. 26, 2020


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