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Small dogs cannot always be seen by drivers, whether on slow neighborhood streets or busier state roads out in the country. It doesn't take very long for a small dog to run out into the street and get hurt or worse by a vehicle. Teaching your small dog to stay away from cars and stay out of the street could save his life.
This is boundary training as much as safety training. Even if you live in a safe neighborhood where your children are allowed to ride bikes and scooters or play football games in the middle of the street, you will want to teach your small dog to stay away from cars and out of the street because he won't always recognize when a car is coming and which direction to go, as people do. Accidents often happen on small neighborhood streets because a dog gets scared by a vehicle and runs in the wrong direction. Training your small dog to stay out of the street completely will keep him safer.
You have a few options while training your small dog to stay out of the street. You can train your dog basic boundary training, so he does not leave his boundaries rather than only understanding what the street is in to stay away from it. You can also teach him what a vehicle is and how to stay away from any vehicles, moving or not. Your small dog does not belong in the street, even for playtime, because he won't always know the difference between when a street is safe and when it is not. Training your dog to pause before he crosses the street or to wait for your command will be key in keeping him safe around streets. You can train an older dog as well as a younger dog how to stay out of the street and to recognize the dangers of vehicles. Remember, your small dog may be so small drivers may never see him coming.
Bring lots of high-value treats to your training sessions when training your small dog to stay out of the street. Be sure for the first several training sessions your small dog is on a leash. Really small dogs such as Chihuahuas might also need to be harnessed. If you need to yank your little guy back to safety, a harness is always better than a leash and collar. Yanking on a small dog's leash and collar could hurt your pup. If you are clicker training your small dog for other commands, bring a clicker for all of your training sessions as well.
The Click on Curb Method
If you are using a clicker for other training, use the click and treat method to train your small dog to stay out of the street as well. Be prepared with your clicker and treats.
Leash to Curb
Walk your small dog to the curb with a leash.
Stand and sit
Stand next to your small dog and ask him to sit. Be sure to click and treat once he is sitting.
Step off the curb and quickly hop back on the curb. This first step off will be very fast. You don’t want your dog to follow.
Click and treat
As soon as you come back to the curb, click and treat. If your little guy follows your quick step off the curb, regroup and try again without the click and treat.
Continue to repeat this action of stepping off the curb and coming back to your small dog quickly. Each time you return to the curb, click and treat.
As your little guy gets used to you stepping off the curb and heading out to the street alone without following you, take a few more steps out into the street. You may need to loosen the leash so it does not pull your pup at all as you increase your distance into the street.
Each time you are out in the street with your small dog sitting curbside waiting for you, be sure to come back to him quickly and click and treat as long as he stays.
Keep practicing with your small dog so he knows he needs to stay on the curb and not step into the street even if you do.
The Sit and Wait Method
Have your small dog sit at the curb. Stand next to him and use the 'wait' command to have him wait for you to release him.
Walk away from the curb while staying out of the street. Release your small dog or ask him to 'come' and have him walk with you again away from the curb.
Back to curb
Walk back to the curbside with your dog on the leash next to you.
Have him sit again and ask him to wait.
Keep repeating these steps of walking away from the curb and then back to the curb, having your small dog sit and wait before releasing him to walk away again with you. This will condition your small dog to know he cannot cross the curb and if he comes to the curbside, he should be sitting and waiting to be released. He should also know the path away from the curb is the one he should take.
Be sure you are rewarding your small dog at every interval. Reward with a treat when he sits curbside and when he walks away from you or obeys the command to come with you.
Always be consistent with your expectations curbside. Any time your small dog comes to a curb in your walks together, he should stop and sit, waiting for you to release him.
The Street Safe Method
Introduce the street
Walk your small dog to a street that isn’t very busy. Keep him on a leash but drop the leash and don’t use it unless you need to regain control of your small dog.
Stand with your dog on the curb. Very quickly, step out into the street. Come back just as quick and give your small dog a treat. This action should be so fast he doesn’t have time to step off the curb to get to you.
Keep stepping off the curb and stepping back to treat your small dog.
As your little guy gets used to you stepping off, start to walk away from the curb, going a few steps away from your dog. Be sure to come back quickly rewarding your little dog for staying each time.
In the street
Keep challenging your dog and head farther into the street. If you have to use commands to get him to stay on the curb, you can for the first few times you are heading farther out into the street. But remember, the goal will be for your small dog to know he is not to go into the street at all, and you might not always be around to tell him to 'stay'.
Take your dog to a busier street and practice stepping out when the street is clear. Increase your distance with the sounds and motions of cars passing when it’s safe to do so. Be sure to come back to the curb quickly and reward your small dog for staying on the curb waiting for you.
If at any time your small dog steps out into the street, place him back, do not give him a treat, and start again.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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