I own a variety of dogs and they all have one thing in common. If we are out on a quiet hike with low traffic they will ALL react when we see a person or dog appear. If we were in a higher traffic area this isn’t a problem.
So why does this happen? Why do we go from a nice quiet hike to barking, charging crazies? Well folks it’s because my dogs – as do most – have a startle and their response is to throw up a threat display triggered by that startle.
It’s annoying I’m not going to lie. Happily we’re pretty good at managing this behaviour. So here’s what to do if your dog has a similar issue.
- Watch out for people and dogs. If you hear them coming then preemptively leash up your dog. I catch more than I miss.
- Train a really great recall. So if one of my dog triggers (and then the rest follow) I just call them to me, reward for coming and leash up – disaster adverted!
- Teach a settle. I ask my dogs on cue to essentially “chill out”. I taught this skill while hanging out with them, waiting for them to relax and then rewarding. Once they learned they earned treats for chilling I just added a verbal cue to it by saying the word as they slide into position. Easy, peasy.
It sounds simple but teaching a recall and a settle for a dog that’s over excited is tough. Work on it in quiet areas and then progress to higher excitement levels. A favourite way for me to practice is to have someone ring the doorbell and then ask the dogs to settle. It engages the startle effective and then they learn how to calm down without charging any unsuspecting hikers and their pets! Also take your training show on the road and keep your dog on a long line while you practice.