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Not every dog is as friendly as yours.
The dog that runs up to every dog wanting to play or be friends, is inviting disaster on his head. That other dog may be having a bad day, not be friendly, or feel threatened by a strange dog running towards them. The upshot is an increased risk of dog-on-dog aggression that could end with a fight and a trip to the vet clinic.
Of course, dogs being sociable is a good thing, as long as you keep things under control. When your dog listens to your commands and does as told, then it's perfectly fine to ask the other dog's owner if it's OK to approach, and let the dogs meet in a safe way.
When breaking bad behavioral habits, it's always a good idea to look at things from the dog's point of view. To him, running up to another dog is its own reward as he gets to play. Part of retraining is making yourself fun to the dog, rewarding good behavior in a way that makes him keen to obey.
The secret to training is to make the reward for obeying, outweigh the reward to the dog of doing their own thing. In the case of running up to other dogs, you need to factor in the fun of being rewarded with play. One way round this is to reward the dog for a successful recall and then allow him to approach the other dog in a controlled way. Thus, he gets to have his cake and eat it too.
Of course, it's not always appropriate to approach the other dog... but he doesn't know this. And those rare times when you do pop the leash on and march in the opposite direction, will only act to reinforce that he has to behave to get the full benefits.
As with all training, start from a young age. Good obedience established early stands you in good stead throughout the dog's life. However, it's never too late to start and teach an old dog new obedience! Just be sure to make the sessions fun and end on a high note. Also, train every day for 10 - 15 minutes, to keep everything fresh and focused in the dog's mind.
Start basic training in a distraction-free place, such as the home or yard. As your dog gets more responsive, then train in different locations to emphasize that he's expected to obey no matter where you are:
You will need:
- A leash
- A favorite toy or ball
The Recall Games Method
Understand the idea
Who says training has to be hard work? Dogs learn best when things are fun. Key to preventing a dog running after another, is to have him return to your side when called. This is called 'recall'. Try these games to reinforce the recall command.
Hide and seek
Have your dog sit in one room. Go into another room and hide. Call out "Come find me!" in a super-excited voice. When the dog tracks you down, repeat "come" as you give him a mega-fuss and reward him with a game of tug or another favorite activity. Crucially, you teach the dog that 'come' is fun. Now try this when on walks. Pop behind a tree and call "Come, find me" and then be super-duper pleased when he does
'Come' for dinner
What bigger reward is there than a plate of food? Make dinner-time work double time by calling "come" when the dog is in another room. Then he gets his dinner down as a reward. What dog can resist the idea of coming on the off-chance that a whole dish of food is down?
The happy coincidence recall
There are times when your dog just happens to be moving toward you. Take advantage of this movement and call "come", which teaches the dog what the act of trotting toward you is called. Of course, big fusses and pats are in order when he arrives at your heel.
Dogs love fuss, attention, and praise (not to mention treats). Work with a friend and take it in turns to call the dog over with the word "come". When he obeys, make a big fuss and give a treat. Then stand still and have the other person call "come" and reward him. Pretty soon the dog will be ricocheting backward and forward to the 'come' command
The Recall Rules Method
Understand the idea
Actually, it's all too easy to misuse the 'come' command and teach the wrong message. The aim is have the dog only link 'come' with positive things, rather than negative, so it's always a pleasure to return to your side.
Never punish a slow recall
NEVER punish the dog when he turns up...eventually... after a delayed recall. He doesn't understand you are cross that it took so long, and only knows that he came to you and you smacked him. Where's incentive to come again?
Don't overuse the 'come' command
Don't overuse the 'come' command. If the dog isn't listening, don't keep shouting "come" as it just becomes so much background noise that the dog tunes out. Instead, be quiet, and wait for a flicker of attention in your direction or get his attention with a squeaky toy or the like.
The fun stops here
Avoid ending a walk by calling "come". The dog will figure it means an end to fun. Instead, call him, reward him, and leave enough time for a short leash walk.
Don't expect too much
Training takes time. If your dog is disobedient, then work with his limitations. Keep him on a longline, and then if he fails to respond you still have him under control.
The Recall and Reward Method
Understand the idea
And finally, let the dog have his cake and eat it. It's important he still gets to greet safe dogs. Let him find out that if he does what he's asked to do (runs to you rather than other dogs) then he still gets to play with the dog if he's good.
Recall your dog when you spot an unknown dog.
Reward and restrain your dog
Reward your dog and pop the leash on. Your dog is now under control.
Speak to the owner
Ask the other dog's owner if their dog is friendly to other canines and would like to play with yours
If both dogs (and owners) are happy, then allow your dog off leash to play. This rewards the dog in a way he understands, by allowing him to play, thus reinforcing that attending recall does not mean an end to fun.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 11/03/2017, edited: 01/08/2021