A Miniature Schnauzer Learns to Behave on Walks

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 8, 2016

Eddie (Min Schnauzer)

Eddie is a eight-year-old Miniature Schnauzer who has some seaparation anxiety and gets anxious on the leash when he sees people and dogs.

I got a chuckle when I spotted the note attached to the door of Eddie’s new pad. Obviously this was the place in need of my services.

When a dog jumps up on an arriving human, its usually the dog’s way of saying “I have my eye on you” or an attempt to claim the human as theirs. While this wasn’t the worst door behavior I have ever felt with, I know we could do better.

But before we could get to fixing Eddie’s door behavior, I sat down with his guardian to discuss his daily routine and the rules and structure she had in place. Unlike the vast majority of my clients, Eddie’s guardian had done a really good job of training him as well as incorporating sensible rules to follow. I made a few suggestions on modifications to the daily routine and also showed the guardian a couple of tricks that I’ve picked up along the way.

The next step was to head out for a walk with Eddie so that I could see his reaction to unknown people or animals.

Because Eddie pulled on the leash quite a bit when he saw something he was reactive to, I pulled out a Martingale collar and showed his guardian how she can apply the special twist to the leash to give her more control and stop his pulling.

Eddie was quite excited at the prospect of going for a walk and kept trying to go through the door in front of his guardian. But for dogs, whoever is in front is literally leading, so we repeated the process until Eddie assumed more of a follower position.

While it took us longer to get outside for the walk today, spending this time conditioning the dog to remain in a calm state of mind and in the follower position will pay huge dividends down the road for any dog. As he gets more practiced at the new procedure, he will fall into line on his own. When you have a dog that is his reactive is Eddie can be, starting out in a calm and balanced mindset is a must.

As we started out on the walk, I started to get a little bit concerned as there was not another person or animal anywhere in sight. Fortunately a minute later, one of Eddie’s guardian’s neighbor’s let her children out of the apartment to feed some wild geese.

I quickly pulled out some high-value treats and we headed in their direction so that I could show Eddie’s guardian how she could counter condition him from reacting to children and animals simultaneously.

I apologize for the shotty camerawork at the start of the above video. It was hard to get Eddie, the geese and the children all in the same shot while we were at a distance.

By controlling the situation and not moving forward until Eddie was in a calm and balanced state, we were able to get him close to the children and geese without the dog reacting. Considering that Eddie’s past behavior always included his reacting strongly to the presence of unknown children as well as geese, I would call this a huge success.

I suggested that the guardian utilize this counterconditioning technique whenever she encounters other animals or people when on walks. If she is patient and persistent, practicing this counterconditioning exercise multiple times a week or more, Eddie will start to associate the approach of unknown people and animals as a good thing.

By the time we returned to Eddie’s apartment, he was looking up to his human for guidance and following her lead while in the great outdoors. This was the perfect mindset to re-create the door answering exercise to see how much Eddie had progressed since my arrival a few hours earlier.

Prior to the session, Eddie had done some machine gun barking any time there was a knock at the door. But this time, Eddie only barked twice and was pretty easily moved away from the door by his guardian.

I suggested that she repeat this exercise anytime she has friends come over to visit as well as legitimate visitors. This is one of my favorite exercises to run through because most dogs seem to pick it up between six and 12 repetitions.

Usually I say by the end of the session the dog was behaving better, but Eddie’s guardian had done such a great job of training him, his indoor behavior was not problematic.

It will take some time and practice, but based on how well Eddie’s guardian can read and interact with her dog, I suspect the counterconditioning exercise will help her eliminate his reactivity to unknown people and animals in no time.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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