Tuesday, April 30, 2013

City Dog: Navigating Crowded City Sidewalks with Dogs

After spending all winter walking like this, you can imagine how excited we were to get out in some nicer weather.
I think the entire city of Chicago was too.
While we always love the energy of people flooding the parks for impromptu picnics, restaurants opening their alfresco dining spaces, and seeing everyone out and about, this also makes our routine family walk an obstacle course as we need to dodge dogs darting out from behind patios, adolescent pups rushing to eagerly meet our dogs, and afternoon drinkers rushing to pinch the pups' cheeks.
We were a bit out of practice, but this is how we've been picking up our Spring Training:

Treating all Walks as Training Walks
We are consistent treating all of our walks as training walks. Our pooches have focus, they walk at our side, they sit at corners, and we bring treats to mark positive behavior. We don't allow our dogs to meet other dogs during walks because it can be too exciting and it can be dangerous to play on leash, not to mention the importance of positive dog introductions!  Since our dogs know the routine, and our expectations, they remain calm on walks.

Working on Check-in's
We spent the winter working on check-in's with our dogs where we would bring really good treats that we would give them each time they would look back at us while we were walking. Though they sometimes take it too literally, and you can see Miss M nearly moonwalking as she just wants to look at me the whole time to earn more treats, this has been really helpful during distractions. These are really helpful when working with distractions. We associated barking dogs with a check-in, so instead of getting excited the dogs look back at us and we are able to pass by without  problems. This has been especially helpful as we've been walking by many outdoor dining spaces with barking dogs darting out of the patio.

Mixing it Up
Our pooches still get a bit excited by the people (Miss M loves to get petted!) and other dogs (Mr. B gets a bit nervous). To desensitize them to distractions we continually practice our training in these crowded areas. Each time we try it a bit longer, but it helps our pups focus on us even with all the excitement going around.

These are some things that have worked for us.
How do you adjust your walks as things are getting more crowded outside?

It took us a long time to be able to do this and this.
But now they're able to do things like this.


Liz @ The Shrinking Owl said...

The mental image of Ms. M moonwalking is the best.

Maggie said...

We avoid sidewalks with outdoor patios, mainly because people often have dogs obstructing an open path or a lap-dog will bark reactively at us. Plus, all the good smells are torture for Maggie. We do "proof" that with treats, but sometimes there is too much commotion.

We also avoid sidewalks where I see a dog tied up outside- sometimes with a flexi-leash! Does anyone else find that to be rude and unsafe? I believe it's also illegal ($250 fine).

I scream, "My dog needs space!" (Actually, it's usually ME who needs the space, ha ha!) several times a day and cross the street if I have enough lead time (especially if I see a dog off-leash).

We do "check in's" like you - I am shocked at how many dog owners think that's a marvel, when it is so easy to train - and I release with "okay!" and throw my hands up in the air (as in "no treats!"). I think that Maggie thinks that's a fun little game.

We always train on walks - always have. We enjoy it!
I always bring a water bottle for my dog too. ( :

Anonymous said...

I am going to fly the dogs to Chicago and let them boot camp with you!

Anonymous said...

I've been working with Dottie about checking in when I think she'll get overwhelmed and we've made a bit of progress but she's no where near as good as Mr. B and Miss M.

The idea of Miss M moonwalking... that's awesome.

Maggie said...

Now that people and dogs are out and about more, I'm super focused on getting Lucas and Cooper to "watch me" and to have an automatic sit whenever I stop walking. They both have very low thresholds, so it's definitely a challenge with more crowded sidewalks! Emmett does the same thing as Miss M... If he knows I have treats in my pocket, he walks next to me staring up at my face, which causes him to trip dozens of times on every walk!

Two French Bulldogs said...

Do you find walking your pooches individually is better training than walking together? My Lily screams than I want to nip. If I am by myself I play with every buddy
Benny (& Lily)

Pocket Pittie in the City said...

We're working really hard to help Maggie's reactivity so it's difficult to walk in super crowded places. BUT we realize that it will only be beneficial for her to get exposure to new sights and sounds so it's a toss up. As of now, we're walking very early in the morning to make sure she has good walks.

My Two Pitties said...

Great tips! I practice all these things too while walking my dogs on leash. Although they are super friendly towards other dogs it is so helpful to not let them meet on leash. I wish everyone would follow the same rules!

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