My Dog Forgets About Me When He Sees Another Dog

Dear Adam, Since reading your dog obedience training book (I’m actually still reading it) my year old German Shepherd and I are making great strides towards being well-trained (both of us).

He has been my constant companion since he was 8-weeks old and is a funny, loving, sweet, devoted boy who is actually fun to train. I have combined come/sit/stay/down/heed into a play session using his favorite tennis ball (i.e., having him sit/say, I throw the ball, I walk away, have him go down from afar, fetch it up, come, give, etc.).

He responds beautifully and we get glowing comments from strangers who stop to watch us work. Since switching to the pinch collar, he walks very nicely on a loose lead, no longer bouncing/bounding at cats, squirrels, leaves, other dogs behind their fences, etc., which was a puppy thing, I’m sure. Now, here comes, the BUT….

I have not been successful in getting him to walk PAST another (strange) dog(s), whether that dog is loose (with no owner in sight) or walking nicely with their person, on their lead. Mine bounds and bounces and generally causes a ruckus (as you say). He doesn’t snap, bite or growl and NEVER reacts negatively towards me when corrected. I always give him a correction and usually, but not always get a yelp, and I do regain control; however, he doesn’t seem to apply the lesson to the next time.

I can have him sit while the other guy passes or turn and go the other way and he goes right with me. But pass nicely…he breaks. In virtually all other aspects, he respects and responds to my wishes, is truly bonded to me and wants to please me. I’m not sure if my corrections are not motivational enough (they work in every other instance) or if I need to correct BEFORE he breaks (I’m waiting till be commits the crime before I correct) or if this is a trait (Shepherds are famous for being wary of strangers and, of course, protective) that I need to approach differently.

He does play well with dogs he know, however, he doesn’t hang with dogs all that often. He is friendly enough with people, but aloof, again as Shepherds tend to be. He is excellent in the house, well behaved, attentive and responds to all comments (off lead). Any suggestions? Any comments? Any hope? Thank you, Nancy

ADAM RESPONDS: Here’s the deal: As the motivation for the distraction INCREASES, the motivation for your correction MUST INCREASE, too.

But here’s what I want you to do: Find a distraction dog. Perhaps a friend’s pooch. Tie him up to a tree. Now, take your dog out of your car, and walk him past the dog on the tree. WATCH YOUR DOG the whole time. Do not watch the other dog. Walk straight towards the other dog. THE SECOND you see your dog look (fixate) on the other dog, IMMEDIATELY AND WITHOUT WARNING, SPIN 180 degrees, and RUN in the opposite direction. Do this two or three times, and you’ll be able to work your way to the point where you’re almost in front of the other dog, BUT YOUR DOG WILL NOT TAKE HIS EYES OFF YOU. He will start to think it’s a trick, and he doesn’t want to be left out at the end of the leash.

When you get to the point where the tree dog is on your left, you can run at a 90 degree direction to your right, since your dog will be looking to your left now, instead of ahead of you. Praise the dog when you see that he’s aware of the distraction, but chooses to look at you. If you need to do this 100 times, then it means that your corrections aren’t meaningful, and you might think about getting an electronic remote collar to help you a bit.

However, it’s all technique, and I’ve taught little people to successfully do this. But some people naturally have more of an aptitude for this stuff. If you don’t, that’s okay. Go with the e-collar and make your life easy. But try this first with the pinch collar. It should work well for you. And feel free to report back.