When the weather kicks up the sunshine factor a notch who doesn’t want to get out with their dog? Whether you enjoy a trail hike or breakfast at an outdoor cafe with a friend, taking your dog along can make any activity more pleasurable.
Before you leash up Fido it is important to ask yourself if he is comfortable going in public places. Can you say with confidence your dog enjoys the sights, sounds and movements of the world? Does your dog feel safe where you take him? Is the experience an enjoyable one for him and you? If your dog does love to go anywhere and everywhere, it is important that you have taught him how to behave in public so that you enjoy the experience as much as he does.
Expect The Expected
Successful outings and new experiences for your dog are recipes that require some core ingredients. A key ingredient in any outing is preparation. Think ahead about what your dog may experience where you plan on taking him. Being a step ahead of what may be presented to your dog will help him and you have a good time together.
- On a cafe patio, your dog will be exposed to the smells and presence of food that will be within his reach. If your dog is constantly nudging you at the dinner table to share, the cafe may not be the best place to take him yet.
- Will there be other dogs and people walking by? How about kids running around and people who want to pet your dog? If your dog is not comfortable with strangers or children be prepared to shield him from potential negative experiences with either.
- On a hike or in the park your dog may be exposed to other dogs, people, children, flying balls and frisbees and maybe trash on the ground. Do you know how your dog will handle these things?
What’s The Plan?
Next, decide how you will handle potential challenges. Will you…
- Know how to read your dog’s body language? He may be telling you he is stressed, anxious or over the top excited. How will you react to him telling you “this is too much”?
- Will you move away to create distance for him?
- Use treats as a food lure to attract or keep your dog’s attention on you?
- Use cues your dog has practiced such as sit, down, stay, watch, leave it or touch to help direct your dog’s behavior? Which will you use in each situation?
Once you have a plan in place you will want to take important items to make the day successful. If your dog is trained to lay down on his mat or is simply more comfortable on it be sure to bring it along. Treat pouches or other hip or backpacks and tasty treats for your dog are essential as well as a water bowl and fresh water. Every time you leave home taking water for your dog should be essential. Just like us, our dogs need to stay hydrated especially in warm climates. If your dog has a favorite toy that is sure to grab his attention if you need it, bring that too. Now that you are all packed up, you are ready to go enjoy your activity with your dog! As you are out and about, be aware of the environment around you so you can respond proactively to challenges rather than reacting when the distraction is already too close. Use your plan.
Home Sweet Home
After you get home assess how the activity with your dog went. Was it 100% successful? Is there room for improvement for a better experience next time? What did your dog do well? What needs extra practice? Note anything you want to do differently next time including where you went with your dog. Always explore outings at your dog’s comfort and experience level. If your dog is not trained to relax on a mat for the 60 minutes it takes to eat breakfast at the cafe maybe you could you start with a shorter visit like a trip for coffee.
If your outing was not as enjoyable or successful as you would like, spend some time at home teaching your dog behaviors that can help him have more successful activities with you outside the home. Then pick an easier outing for next time. Also, use high value treats in highly distracting environments to help to motivate and reinforce your dog for behavior you like. Again, always bring a water bowl and fresh water for your dog wherever you go.
If your dog is fearful of new experiences, people or children or is reactive to other dogs or people please contact Building Bonds for help. If you live outside of our service area you may consult with a certified professional dog trainer who can help you ease that stress for your dog and find activities within his comfort zone.