How many of you have had one of THOSE mornings…you know the kind, you wake up late and then everything seems to start going wrong. You’re trying to get ready, eat breakfast and get out the door. You’re late, you’re stressed and you’re frazzled. You jump in the car to go to work and your brain is going in about 100 different directions at once, focusing on everything other than what you are doing.
It’s hard to bounce back from a rough start like that. It’s a horrible way to start the day and really just sets the tone for the rest of your day. You end up driving too fast, getting irritated too easily and your mood is generally just NOT good.
We’ve ALL had mornings like that, and we all know how hard it is to turn your day around after a bad start! Nobody likes feeling that type of stress or negative energy.
Now, let’s put this into play in your dog’s world…
You dog wakes up in the morning, running around in an overly excited, elevated state because it’s time to go for a walk. Jumping, barking, panting…one or all of those behaviors are happening. He’s amped and ready to GO! You rush to get the leash on and out the door you go. Your dog, focused on everything BUT you, shoots out the door like a cannonball.
You know that crazy morning I described? Your dog just had the equivalent of that morning too. The tone was set for his walk long before he ever step foot through the door (or cannonballed through).
So, what’s going on in a situation like this? Quite a few things:
1. First and foremost, you are rewarding your dog for being in this elevated, disconnected frame of mind. By allowing him to go for a walk in this overly excited state, you are essentially teaching him that it’s okay and that this behavior, in face, is the key to getting what they want.
2. You are teaching your dog that it’s okay to ignore you and be externally focused. That this stressed and excited state is what we want (when it’s not!). When your dog is in an elevated/stressed state, much like you, it’s easy for him to make choices that aren’t the greatest (i.e. barking, growling, reacting, lunging).
3. Walks turn into stressful times for both you and your dog, when they should be a time for you to relax, unwind and have fun with your dog!
4. This is a safety issue as well if your dog is off leash near the door. Allowing your dog to bolt out the door on leash could very well teach him that bolting out the door when he is off leash is okay as well.
Now that you have an understanding of some of the things going on, what can you do to help the situation? That question is not easily answered as, quite often, there are many things layered to create that anxious/over-stimulated state, but one thing you can start to implement is threshold training.
Gone are the days of the “alpha” walking through the door first, but we are asking that your dog calmly stop at thresholds and be mindful of you. We are teaching your dog that by remaining calm and patiently waiting, he will get what he wants. We want your dog focused on you and calmly waiting for direction vs. shooting out of the door like a cannon. We want your dog practicing impulse control and waiting until he is released before entering and exiting doorways. We want you and your dog to start the walk off on the right foot (or paw) to help set the tone for the entire walk. Give it a try!