I’ve made a few (more than I’d like to mention)! One of the biggest, in my opinion, is not getting proper eye contact from my dog when he was a pup! It has made training him that much harder.
I’ve had Duke since he was 4 months old, he has been to obedience class (basic & advance), attended some agility just for fun, goes to dog parks and is 97.5% good off leash! YET he still has an issue on leash when approaching other dogs. Squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, leaves…no problem! Just dogs!
As a youngster, he would ‘notice’ them as far as 2 – 3 blocks away and focus on them. I didn’t think anything of it! We would sometimes even meet other dogs on the street and his greeting tactics were pretty much face to face, ok you can sniff now and then they would circle and once Duke got his sniff, he was off to something he could pee on! In hind site, I should have nipped it in the bud right then and there! If I knew then what I know now! What that simple stare turned into was a lip licking dog that is dog reactive on leash! I guess this is where I say “He’s a good dog, he goes to dog parks, he’s friendly, or he would never do anything”! He is all those and more but the bottom line is that this is an unwanted behavior and it needs to stop!
Even as I write this I think of the frustration I sometimes feel when we walk, that feeling of ‘I dont know what I’m doing’! One thing I learned with Harley (someday I may blog about her story) is that you should always have a plan. Then when you are faced with the situation, you will know what to do and it shouldn’t freak you out!
We are currently working at getting that much needed eye contact. The amazing thing with Duke is that he follows your lead fairly well when he walks so I always thought he was paying attention to me! I guess I should have paid better attention to him! I now try to only use his name when I want eye contact. We have been trying to increase the amount of time he holds the look before given a reward, whether it be a pat on the head, a good back scratching or a handful of hotdogs pieces!
Now when we see a dog coming our way, we use the command ‘Leave it!’ and make sure that Duke ‘checks in’ with me! If that doesn’t work, we turn and walk in the other direction making sure he doesn’t turn back to look at the dog! If needed, I used a good smelling treat to get his attention back to me. I am also taking Duke on shorter, more structured walks rather than aiming for distance. I find that a structured walk with tons of turns, stops at corners, a few stays and figure eights in driveways not only keeps his attention to me rather then what is 2 blocks away but it also seems to tire him more then a 3 mile walk!