A New Reaction…


Gwynn has decided that children are super exciting.  I was walking down the sidewalk towards a woman and her son a few days ago.  Loose leash, Gwynn is sniffing things and entirely indifferent to them.  I moved myself and him onto the road but kept walking, so that I’m probably about 10 ft away from the sidewalk, because not everyone likes dogs and I don’t really like standing on someone’s soggy lawn in the dark while waiting for people to cross my path.  Everything’s fine (why wouldn’t it be?) and then they get to be about 20 ft away from us and he lunges towards the pair (to the point that he lifts his upper body up a bit), tail wagging wildly, and woofs.  Just once, but it was a big woof, not one of his sissy high-pitched ‘I see a dog’ woofs.  And the poor kid bursts into tears.

must.. get... to... child!

I apologized and got the hell out of dodge.  I bit my tongue on the urge to say “It’s ok, he’s friendly!” or “He’s just really excited about kids!” or some other “I’m sorry, but here’s how we really didn’t do anything worth apologizing for” un-apology.

And then it happened again, but with more barking, at some random person the next morning.  And suddenly every non-dog-person absolutely needs to be greeted and he tries to drag me to them. Awesome.

So – Gwynn is overreacting to the stimulus of ‘kids’, and, from what I can tell, sometimes ‘people who don’t have a dog’.  And it’s like this issue appeared overnight, though I’m sure I was missing signs of impending doom.  The dog didn’t wake up one morning and think to himself, “Gee, those kids… they’re so neat, I should jump at them”.

After that incident, Gwynn and I spent about half an hour practicing some combination of ‘eye contact’ and ‘heel’ going up and down the busiest non-main-road in my neighbourhood.  I usually just ask him for loose-leash when walking, but now I have a new goal: I want to say heel, and get him to stick close to me (preferably while giving me pretty consistent attention) when walking past people – all people.  And dogs.  While we’re at it, let’s add cats to the list too.  And the stump in that guy’s yard, because Gwynn acts like it’s secretly a living garden gnome every time.

What I’m doing as a starting point is this: when I see people/dogs/movement on the other side of the road, I stop, get him to sit, and every time he gives me eye-contact, I reward him.  I’m doing the same at intersections, and randomly on the walk.

Anyone have any thoughts or opinions about this plan?  Suggestions for a better plan?

We had the most perfect training opportunity once this week, when we waited on the driveway for a doggy friend of ours to come up the street.  She was with a trainer, and working on basically the exact same thing, so we stood on opposite sides of the street from each other, each practicing rewarding eye-contact for a few minutes.  It is unlikely that I’ll find someone with a kid willing to do this, so that’s about as ideal a training situation as I can think of.

Now I just need to go buy a new clicker, since I have lost a second one to the great outdoors, and muttering “YES!” to myself over and over again is making me sound like a crazy person.

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6 Comments

  1. I think it sounds like a good plan. Part of the change in behavior could be that Gwynn is growing up and even though he appears friendly, he may also be checking people out to be protective of you. Just work your plan and keep you standard high and I think you will have him walking the way you want in no time. 🙂

    • I hope that isn’t the case, but you’re right, it’s certainly possible. Maybe me being so sick lately has convinced him that I need protection from the rest of the world, lol – even the children (or especially the children?).
      I appreciate your confidence in me – Gwynn is learning quickly, and I’m really trying not to get overly stressed when i see children approaching, so that I’m not sending the wrong message for training.

  2. New reactions can be challenging. Good for you for getting on it right away. It sounds like a good plan to me 🙂

    • thanks, glad to hear it. it’s going well so far, though I really need to practice the ‘eye-contact’ aspect a lot more before i’ll be willing to stop crossing the street.

  3. Great “action” shot!

    • I can’t take credit, though the dog does look surprisingly like Gwynn! clicking the picture will take you to where I found it.

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