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I wonder if you can help me with this one. My dog is a typical friendly energetic 75 lb. 14-month-old Labrador Retriever. She loves every dog we meet. She has basic obedience training and normally heels well enough. But she pulls the leash and runs toward other dogs whenever she sees one. She just wants to say hello and play with them. But of course, very few dogs and their owners appreciate a 75 lb. dog running toward them.
What should I do when meeting with other dogs? Thank you very much.
Your dog's "exuberant greeting" ritual when seeing other dogs is extremely common. Fortunately for you, it's not impossible to change how your dog responds when she sees other dogs.
The moment you step out the door, you are in competition with EVERYTHING for your dog's attention: other people, squirrels, and dogs. Often these things are much more interesting than you are. Don't let this hurt your feelings. It's just that your dog is with you all the time and you aren't always as much fun as that dog coming your way.
Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to become more interesting than another dog. I don't mean that you should wear a dog costume every time you venture out. The way to get most dogs' attention is with food. I'm not talking about your run of the mill dry "Milk Bone" treat. How boring! You need to arm yourself with Million Dollar Treats.
“The moment you step out the door, you are in competition with EVERYTHING for your dog's attention...”
Million Dollar Treats are tidbits of food that your dog absolutely goes crazy for. Some of my favorites are warm salmon, string cheese, warm tortellini, tuna fish, warm chicken... you get the picture! Experiment with what your dog drools for. Most dogs prefer warm food over cold food, which enhances the value of the treat, even if it's a bit messy for you.
Put your treats in a baggie, and then put the baggie in your pocket where you can get quick access to it. Remember, you're doing this for your dog, so just deal with the extra mess of the treats.
The moment you venture outside your door, start feeding your Million Dollar Treats and praising your dog as you walk. If she gets distracted and begins to pull ahead, simply stop, become a tree, and wait for your dog to look back at you. When she does, get excited, and praise her while offering her a treat. Do not go to her with the treat, but rather wait for her to come back to you to take it. Begin walking again while feeding her. Practice, practice, practice this each and every time you go outside. The more you practice this, the more she will focus on you because it gets her Million Dollar Treats! (NOTE: you will need to phase out the treats over time. Contact a qualified trainer in your area for assistance with this.)
If you notice that she can't stop pulling towards that approaching dog, then walk the other way, praising her as she comes along. Begin feeding once she's walking nicely again. It's important not to lure her with the treat as she pulls you. You may be inadvertently rewarding her for pulling. Yikes!
If your Million Dollar Treats aren't working, try skipping your dog's meal or two before you go out. A hungry dog is a motivated dog!
You may also want to increase your dog's exercise at a dog park. This often helps to tire out most dogs and gives them their "dog fix" for the day.
You may also consider the use of a Gentle Leader head halter in addition to using treats. This halter controls the movement of your dogs' head, which gently allows you better control of your dog. Contact a qualified trainer in your area for assistance of the correct usage of this training device.
Your dog sounds like a wonderful playmate. If you're ever in my area, please come by for a play session. I absolutely love to play!
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Please remember that Bailey is busy being a dog, and can take up to several months to reply to questions.