Turn Tension into Happy Times

The Dog Trainer has an easy (and fun) way to transform stressful doggie behavior into relaxed ease.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
November 14, 2013

Let’s say your dog barks and lunges at other dogs, or maybe at bicyclists or at bearded men wearing sunglasses – or, well, at anything, really. You already know better than to yank on her neck to punish her, since that will only add to her stress and feed straight into her problem behavior. And you strongly suspect that your own stress contributes to your dog’s tension, because every time you see a dog coming you gasp, freeze for a second, and reflexively tighten up on the leash. If you’ve read it once, you’ve read it a million times – tight leashes make tense dogs.

But you can’t help it! What are you supposed to do?

The answer is not to punish yourself for feeling tense in a tricky situation! Instead, do try this at home:

Get yourself ready with a stash of tiny pieces of chicken, or hot dog, or cheese – something super delicious that your dog doesn’t often get. Leash her up and stand in your living room or your backyard – doesn’t matter. And, in the absence of other dogs - or bicycles, or bearded men in sunnies - gasp, tense up, tighten the leash. Then immediately feed your dog a tiny piece of chicken. And as soon as she swallows it, relax again. A few seconds later, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Take a break for a minute and repeat.

It can take just a couple of reps, or a few dozen, depending on your dog, but eventually the magic moment comes: you gasp, and your dog immediately turns and looks for her chicken. Practice on walks when there’s no trouble in sight, and watch for that “Where’s the chicken?” look. Go you! Because now that you know your own tension isn’t contributing to your dog’s, you can probably relax a little, too.

For more tips on how to raise a happy well-behaved pet, check out: quickanddirtytips.com/dog-trainer

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