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You're on a walk with your dog and he charges ahead of you as usual. Your little buddy loves to be in the lead and you let him, because, well, he don't weigh that much. Like most small dog owners, you haven't thought too much about training them because, for most things, you can scoop them up when they aren't obeying. But one day, your furry friend charges into the street ahead of you and narrowly misses being caught up under wheels of a car. You yank him back in time, thank goodness, but it makes you think.
Training your small dog to stay away from the road is crucial for their protection and your peace of mind. With consistency and repetition, your small dog can learn any skill a larger pup can. Figure out what drives your dog to obey, whether it is treats or affection, and reward the behaviors you want. In no time, your small dog will avoid the road without your explicit permission.
Before you go outside to train, cut your small dog's favorite food into small bite-sized pieces or gather some treats that your pup can eat quickly. Keep them in your pocket during your walk. It's best to put your small dog on a harness before the walk. You don't want to be pulling on their neck when you need to correct them.
The Wait for Permission Method
Gain some good loose leash skills
Before starting to work on your pup's road safety skills, make sure they can walk on a leash politely. During your walks, stop walking anytime your small dog starts pulling on the leash and only start up again when they come back to you. After a little bit, they'll associate loose leash walking with forward movement.
Say "stop" when you reach the curb
As you and your pup come up to the curb, say "stop" and hold at the curb. If your dog steps off without permission, say "no" and pull them back onto the curb. Then try walking towards the curb again. If they stop, praise them. If not, try again.
Step off the curb but don't let your pup come
Take a step off the curb and say "stop" again. Make sure your pup stays on the curb, just as in the previous step. Practice this stage a few times before moving on to the next step.
Release your small dog with a command
When you are ready for your dog to join you in the street, you can release them by using the command "let's go." Ideally, your pup will remember their loose leash training and not race ahead into the street.
Do the same thing at every curb
Practice stopping at every curb you come up to. Be consistent with your commands, "stop" and "let's go," and make sure you use them every time you come to a curb. Over time, your pup will start doing them automatically and learn good street safety.
The Sit, Look, and Wait Method
Brush up on your dog's basic skills
Practice the commands for "sit," "look," and "wait" with your dog. You want to make sure they already connect the words with good rewards, so they will be more likely to respond when you are training outside.
Start with 'sit'
Choose a quiet street without too much traffic, ideally the curb in front of your house. Walk up to the curb with your pup and tell them to sit. If they listen, give them a reward. Repeat this several times so your small dog associates coming up to the curb with sitting down.
Add in 'look'
Once your pup starts sitting down as soon as you approach the curb, say "sit" and then add in the command "look" to have them look up at you for direction. Just like in the previous step, reward your small dog and practice a few times.
Finally, have your small dog wait
When your small dog gets the hang of 'sit and look', step off the curb and say "wait" while holding your flat hand towards your pup. If your dog stays on the curb and waits for you, step back onto the curb and tell them "good wait." Give them a big reward. If they step off with you, say "uh-uh" and herd them back onto the curb.
Once your small dog has the hang of waiting on the curb, let your pup come along by using a release command, "let's go." Commit to going through the same steps every time you come to a curb and only saying "let's go" when it is safe for your dog to go into the street.
The Show the Way Method
Put your pup on a short leash
For this method, the best way to begin is to put your small dog in a harness on a short leash. It will give you extra control and keep strain off of their neck.
Walk between your dog and the street
Make it a habit to keep your pup close to your side, further from the road then you are. Always putting yourself between your dog and the road can help keep them safe.
Correct the behavior you don't like
If your dog steps into the road, quickly pull them back onto the road. Don't scold your pup or yell. Just gently, but firmly, correct the behavior you don't like.
Praise the behavior you want to see more
When you are walking along and your small dog sticks close to your side, give him the occasional treat or verbal praise. By rewarding the behavior you like, you show your pup what he should do when walking near the street.
Set consistent rules
Always handle walking by the road the same way. Constantly keep the same rules when you are near the street so your pup becomes familiar with what is required of them. Over time, your small dog will learn good road safety.
By Christina Gunning
Published: 03/23/2018, edited: 01/08/2021