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September was Trail Etiquette Month!!

If you missed my Facebook posts, here is the full scoop!

Now that Summer is starting to wind down (we hope), it is time to start thinking about taking your dog for nice, long walks and maybe even some weekend hikes.

But before you do, let's talk a little bit about how the cooler weather is going to affect your dog.

You may have noticed your dog has been a little lazier the past few months due to the heat (as have some of us :).

Like us, they will also get overheated if they get too hot, so we tend to keep them indoors a little more than we do in the cooler months.

So, what's going to happen as the weather starts to cool down?

Yep, the dogs are going to start getting a little more active, a little more frisky, and a little harder to handle.

It's ok though, just keep calm thoughts in your head and stick to what you have been doing to keep them calm. Remember, their attention span may be a little shorter (because.....birds) so you may need to be a little sterner and more patient than usual.

Just be aware of the changes that are coming so you can be prepared to handle your springtime dog!

Let's get started on the monthly topic with getting your dog to settle

It is common courtesy for you to have a good handle on your dog while walking/hiking so that everyone can enjoy their time without feeling like they have to watch out for other dogs or worry about their own dog acting up.

If you have not taught your dog to "Settle", now is as good a time as any before the cool weather kicks in!

Teaching your dog to settle comes in handy in so many instances.

Dog is crazy before going on walk... "Settle".

Dog is excited before going for a ride in the car... "settle".

Dog is excited about anything and you need them to be calm....."Settle"

So, you are probably asking, "Ok, so how do I get my dog to settle?"

As with anything new, I always tell my clients to make sure they are not only saying the "command" word, in this case, "settle", but also a hand signal and a feeling or emotion (in this case, calmness)

So, like any other "command", you say the word while giving the hand signal (whatever hand signal feels right for you). This will be said in a very calm manner.

And then you wait.

Wait for what?

For your dog to settle down.

This could take 10 seconds, or it could take 10 minutes, but the more you do it, the faster your dog will "settle".

Since I am a canine behavior coach, let's talk about the communication part of this.

The training is connecting the action to the word, "settle" and the hand signal.

The communication is waiting, in a calm manner, for the dog to respond.

Whenever you are teaching something new (training) you have to make sure you are also adding the communication part (emotions, body movement). This is the part your dog already understands!

So, as with any other part of working with your dog, you have to remember calmness and patience are always top priorities!!!

Practice this as often as you can!

Next thing to practice - Give 'em space!

Always keep in mind we do not know how other dogs are going to react or how comfortable other people/dogs are around dogs and or people so we always want to make sure we are giving our dog and others enough of a buffer to feel comfortable.

So, how do we do this?

I am so glad you asked :)

I always calculate at least 15 feet as a buffer...meaning, allow at least 15 feet for you to decide to move your dog aside to let others pass.

Let's go ahead and put this into action!

When you are walking your dog on a trail or path and you see another person or dog, at the 15-foot mark, move your dog at least 10 feet off of the path if possible. When I make this decision, I always say, "(Dog's name), this way." and walk them off of the path.

Once you are off of the path, have your dog sit, and stand with one foot in front of them facing the oncoming dog/person.

This signals to your dog that you have control of the situation.

If your dog tries to get up, say "Eh" and repeat "sit" if needed.

If your dog displays any behavior other than sitting quietly, you may need a large buffer for them.

Side note: In any situation, if your dog is displaying any behaviors such as growling, snapping, lip licking, yawning, lunging, nervous panting, cowering etc., they need more space between them and whatever is making them react.

If you are unable to give them the space they need on a trail, simply turn around and walk the other way.

Remember, it is up to you to help your dog feel safe. Any bad behaviors that you may see in your dog are most likely because they do not feel safe!!

Giving your dog space and remaining calm are two of the best things you can give your dog.

NEVER, force them into a situation when they are not ready for it.

You always have the choice to turn and walk away and try again tomorrow.

Now we need to wait for the pass

Once the people and dogs have passed, you don't want to just start walking again.....especially if your dog is not calm.

If your dog gets up, you want to have them sit again.

Tell them, "wait".

If they remain calm and seated, give them the ok to start walking again.

If they continue to try and get up, keep correcting and redirecting them to sit.

ONLY when they are seated calmly can you release and go.

Why do we do this?

We want to do this to let your dog know that they are free to go when you say they can.

Whenever you are working with your dog, you want all decisions to be yours.

This lets your dog know that you are capable of handling situations and they can trust you to keep them safe.

This is the behavior of a calm and centered leader.

That is the kind of leader your dog wants!!!!

Also, remember, I am a canine behavior coach, so if you struggle with walking your dog or keeping them calm, give me a shout!

I am here to help!!!


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