My dog gets too excited around other dogs on walks

Last month I wrote about how my dog gets excited when he sees other dogs on walks and pulls.

A common problem, right?

It’s not that my dog is at all reactive, and he doesn’t even pull that hard. I just want him to remain focused and to continue heeling when we see other dogs.

I have high expectations.

I haven’t made much progress, because I haven’t made the effort to follow through with my training goals.

Instead of using a choke/slip collar and carrying treats as planned, I’ve been falling back on the Gentle Leader. I love the Gentle Leader, but it basically allows my dog to pull while minimizing the effects of pulling so I can “check out” on training. It’s great for when I take Ace to stores or busy events. It’s not great for when I’m working on training in the neighborhood.

So, I’ve decided to recommit to my original goals:

  • Use a prong collar. I’ve decided that works better than our cheap, heavy choke collar Ace is wearing in the photo below.
  • Carry treats.
  • Keep enough distance from other dogs so I can reward good behavior.
  • Slowly increase the challenges.

To do this, I always have treats in my coat pocket ahead of time so they’re always there. Otherwise it’s too easy for me to skip the treats.

I’ve also cut my dog’s daily food back by about 1/6 so the extra treats won’t cause weight gain. This will also keep him more interested in treats since he won’t be too full. He’s pretty treat motivated, but it always helps to train when the dog is looking for a meal!

The reason I like the prong collar is because it feels like a regular collar to my dog (vs. having something over his nose with the Gentle Leader).

When we pass other dogs, I keep the leash loose (no tension) so my dog can make the choice on how to respond. I use the command “watch” while luring him with a treat. If that doesn’t work, I give him a light tug on the prong collar followed by a “good boy!” and a treat when he looks at me.

It’s very basic training, and it works well for us when I follow through. This is how I trained by dog when I first got him.

I also like the prong collar because I can switch the leash back and forth between the prong collar and the nylon collar and my dog won’t even notice. The goal is to get to the point where he doesn’t need the prong collar.

I’m hoping if we work on this every day for about a month, I will notice significant improvements.

So, how about the rest of you?

Do you have any training goals for your dog walks?

This post was a part of the Walk Your Dog hop sponsored by BoingyDog and Paws and Pedals

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  1. Dawn on March 3, 2014

    Maya and Pierson are so well behaved in many ways. They don’t beg, counter-surf, get into the trash, get on the furniture, and they are getting very good at sitting calmly when guests come over. Overall, I am pretty good at training them. But I really need to consider enlisting the help of a dog trainer who is good with this specific type of leash reactive behavior. I’m not knowledgeable or comfortable with some of the tools you mentioned, so perhaps someone who is would be a good place to turn. Two things, though, stop me from hiring someone. My pride (because I’m already a pretty good dog trainer) and money.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 3, 2014

      I’d say those are the two things that stop most of us from getting more help with our dogs. I would love to take Ace to more training classes to improve on his overall skills, for example. But right now I’m not willing to spend the money.

  2. nancyspoint on March 3, 2014

    Great tips! I tend to tighten up the leash when meeting other dogs while walking mine . I guess this is doing it exactly wrong. It makes sense that tightening the leash only sends the signal to get excited ‘cuz another dog is approaching soon! Hadn’t really thought about that. We do send lots of mixed messages don’t we?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 3, 2014

      I do that too sometimes. It’s our natural reaction. I think the dogs learn to look for other dogs when we get tense! I even notice Ace gets more excited when I say “heel” because he thinks I’m saying that because another dog is approaching.

  3. Colby on March 3, 2014

    I’ve been working on this behavior with Linus for quite a while and just like you I sometimes get a little relaxed with my training. The main problem we have with Linus is he does not respond well to our rewards. We’ve tried treats, praise, food. So far our best reward for him was this extremely stinky, greasy, salmon treat, but even that didn’t work all that well.

    Do you have any ideas on other rewards that might work with Linus?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 3, 2014

      Yeah, that’s tough. I’m so lucky because Ace is so toy motivated and treat motivated. Even a “good boy!” is good enough for him.

      Could a toy work for Linus? A squeaky toy? Or a rope toy? Not quite as convenient as treats, obviously.

      One time I had a foster dog who wasn’t responding to anything, and the trainer chopped up this nasty cheddarwurst and said it works for all dogs. Well, it still didn’t work with my foster dog, but it might work for Linus.

      • Colby on March 3, 2014

        All the Labs and Goldens I’ve raised have been extremely food motivated. It makes things a lot easier. Linus is a mixed breed from the shelter. We think he’s mostly Australian Shepherd. He likes carrying a toy around the house, but he’s not really motivated by them. I think I need to do something to appeal to his herding instinct.

  4. Funnily enough we just had a Dog Trainer come & visit us & have had a very quick lesson in managing my dog on leash and around other dogs and its been very insightful. We’re working on something very similar to you it sounds like. Amazing how a good trainer can get your dog walking loosely on leash & non-reactive around other dogs in such a short-time…..I’m still working on my skills 🙂 Thanks for joining the Walk your Dog BlogHop – Hope to see you again next month 🙂

  5. Julie Smith on March 4, 2014

    I never liked the collar. But I have seen trainers do what you are doing, combining commands, the treats, and gentle tugs with the collar if the commands don’t work. I have found that every dog has a favorite treat which they respond better to. Try different treats with him, find the one he responds better to. That worked with my dog, I did not have pull the leash that often.

  6. Jen @ Dog Adventures on March 4, 2014

    Great post! I’m working on loose leash walking too with Kate at the moment. Treats are never far from my hand and will be using a lot of the same focus techniques you are! Thanks for sharing and keep us posted on how you go 🙂

  7. Sally on June 12, 2015

    It is incredibly cruel to use a prong collar.

    I hope by now you have discovered Positive Reinforcement Training so you don’t use painful methods your poor dog.

  8. Sally on June 12, 2015

    Using a prong or e-collar on your dog shows our lack of knowledge in training without them and our inadequacies as trainers. If you can’t work out how to train without one, acknowledge the fact. Don’t make excuses that your dog likes it etc. I’m sure if we asked them, they’d say please don’t. If you wouldn’t use a training tool or technique on a bear or tiger, don’t use it on your dog.