Helping Taz Learn to Listen Outside

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 6, 2014


This is Taz, an eight-month-old Black lab / Heeler mix. His owner called me for assistance in getting Taz to pay attention when outside and to stop pulling on the leash. Because they live in the Dakota’s, we scheduled the appointment for his owner’s visit to Omaha to visit his father.

When I arrived for the appointment, I was struck by how calm and well mannered Taz was. Usually my client’s dogs are over excited, jumping up, barking, not listening to their owners and put on quite the spectacle.

Not Taz. He came over to give me a nice sniff, showed consideration for my personal space and showed calm, relaxed body language. It was obvious that Taz’s owner had done an outstanding job of training the dog. He had a number of rules and boundaries inside the house, listened well and showed respect for his owner.

I fitted Taz up with a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash to test how the dog responded. I walked him around the room and Taz heeled perfectly so we went out for a short walk.

Once we got outside, I instantly understood why his owner asked for help. Taz’s energy level increased and his hunting dog instincts kicked in. He tracked every movement by any bird, squirrel or rabbit in sight. He was so focused on tracking these animals that he completely ignored his owner and myself as we tried to walk him.

Taz’s owner explained that due to the winter, he hadn’t taken Taz out for many walks. He also mentioned that he did not have a fenced in yard at home and that Taz runs away when off leash in an area that was not fenced in.

Its normal for most dogs to be curious about birds, rabbits and other animals. Usually they learn that they can’t catch birds after many unsuccessful attempts to chase after them. But due to his lack of experience in the great outdoors, especially off leash didn’t afford Taz the ability to learn this lesson.

As a result, everything outside is new and extremely interesting to Taz. So much so that it is going to take some time, exposure and practice before the great outdoors loses its allure enough for Taz to be as obedient outside as he is inside. This is a prime example of why its so important to get a new dog as much practice and exposure to new situations and environments as possible in the first 12 months of their life.

I showed his owner a few different walking techniques to help give him more control of the dog during this transition. Some worked better than others and as luck would have it, the last technique I showed him got the best results.

I suggested that he practice the techniques that worked as much as possible on walks as well as find a safe area where the dog can be allowed to explore off leash. Dogs need to learn at their own pace and because of his lack of outside exposure, it will take a number of off leash sessions before the newness of the great outdoors wears off.

However, considering how well behaved and responsive the dog is inside, Im confident that these manners will assert themselves outside within a few weeks.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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