Walks are extremely important for both your dog’s good health and good behavior. Daily walks let your dog expend energy in a positive, healthy way. But sometimes dogs act up while they are on the leash. Here’s a question from a reader about her dog’s habit of chasing other dogs.

Your Question:

Jim,

We are working on the problem of pulling on the leash with our 9 month old rottie pup. He is not aggressive, but he wants to play with other dogs while we are out walking.

This is what I’ve been doing so far: I put him in a “down,” which he usually holds until they pass. But after the other dogs pass, I have to be careful because he often bolts after them. What is the best way to teach him to remain in the sit or down position until I release him?

We are in obedience classes now. But, I worry that we will frighten other pet owners who might not know he really is friendly.

You’ve said before not to set him up to fail, so am I wrong placing him in the down while we are out on walks? Should I change directions to avoid the other dogs until he has mastered the “down” command? Right now, I am working diligently on having him focus on me rather than the distraction of other dogs. Can you give me any more advice?

My Answer:

You first must get him to do a “proofed” down inside with no distractions. By “proofed” I mean a down that he will maintain until released. Be prepared, because this will take lots of practice. Once he has it, you can gradually add one more distraction to the training. Ask a friend to help. Once he can do that, add another distraction, or change the environment. It will take patience, but it will pay off.

Also, it is generally easier for a dog to hold a “down” rather than a “sit” in a highly charged distraction setting. Go at your dog’s pace. You are on the right track if you are setting him up to succeed, not fail.

Use the “down” like this: put him in a “down” at a distance far enough away from the other dog that he will not become reactive. Praise that behavior so he understands that there is a desireable alternative to running after other dogs. Keep up the good work!

(C) Jim Burwell 2010
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