For many urban dog guardians struggling with serious behavioral issues, there is a moment. An EVENTUAL pause. No matter how capricious the reaction. The pup stops trembling, fleeing, freezing, lunging, barking, growling or any other lamentable behavior that provokes judgmental looks from other pedestrians; or worse, harm and acute affliction to both sides of leash and any other human or animal unlucky enough to pass during a negative reaction.
And, we often complain about how distracted our dogs get; but, our attention is easily led astray too. We worry that our neighbors dislike us because our dog is always pulling and yapping at their children. Or gasp, think that because our pup is laying on the ground; refusing to move, that the stranger heading to work might think we did something horribly cruel to our four-legged baby to cause him or her to flatten like a pancake onto the sidewalk.
When we are working to help our dogs learn better responses to triggers that cause an adverse response; we torment ourselves that we have wasted our time when we hit a progress impasse, or, get stuck in a moment where we know our pup is not ready to handle the challenge that real life tosses their way. And, boy, do we take it personally. Here’s a few tips to help when you and your pup are in a standoff:
- Stop talking so much. We humans love to chatter chatter and often do not realize our mouths are constantly moving. If you are frustrated and your dog is constantly ignoring you, chances are you are ranting.
- Give feedback when your pup stops doing whatever it is that is causing you to be annoyed at your otherwise perfect creature. Do not treat. Verbal praise is sufficient. A dog who ceases to jump, bark, snarl, chase squirrels or yank you down the street is WAY better than a dog who continues those undesirable acts.
- Go home or get out of the situation for a few minutes. Hitting the reset button can give both of you a moment to regain your focus and restore your emotions. If you and your dog are in an unbelievably heightened state of mind continuing to stay in your current disturbing spot is not going to do either of you any good.
- Keep a log of your dog’s behavior. It often helps to track how frequent and how long the dreaded behaviors occur to remind you that your dog is doing much better today than a week or two ago. When we put a lot of effort into training our dogs, one doggie outburst can send us into a spiral. But, if your dog’s barking and lunging is now lasting five seconds vs. ten seconds, you are making progress. Humans tend to latch on to the ONE bad behavior and miss the multitude of tiny successes, especially in very distracting environments.
Remember, dogs are very “in the moment” beings. Recognizing and commending your pup for making better choices, even if they are not perfect, will help his or her behavior continue to improve and prevent you from getting an ulcer in the process.