Tricks of the trade: follow the leader

Some of my avid readers (if such thing exists) may recall a blog I wrote months ago about when a puppy reaches the teenage phase. If you haven't, you can read the blog here, but this pretty much sums it up:

It’s that moment when the “teenager” stops a few paces short of the gate and stares at me that I realize he’s grown up. He realizes that he actually has a choice whether he follows me or not. It’s when he actually considers the fact that there might be better things in the world than the scraps of treat left in my coat pocket.

Sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself standing at the front of the dog park, ready to leave, hopelessly calling your dog who is essentially giving you the middle finger while running victory laps around the park? Have you yelled "Ok, Bye Fido, see you later...." hoping for a response? Well I have a little secret for you... they're on to you! They know your routine and they know it's time to go and they don't want to!

I've been very fortunate to have had so many puppy clients and been able to help raise and train them. Inevitably, puppies will turn into defiant teenagers, and well trained adult dogs will have a stubborn streak. It's all a part of the fun! I'm sure you can imagine what a mess it would be if all 8 of my dogs protested leaving the park at once (it's happened), so I have a few tricks to avoid this debacle that you can use on your own pup.

Always keep them guessing. I never walk in the direction at the park. Some days I walk straight to the water then come back to water bowls in front, then to the big field, then to the side field, then out the gate. Sometimes we go to the side field first, then the water, then the side field again, then the big field then the gate. You get the picture... I don't have an order of the way we walk the park, that way, just because we are playing close to the gate to leave, doesn't mean we are leaving. When I decide it's time to leave, I can start leashing up some of the ones who I know will protest, and then start walking to the gate with the rest.

Check in. I always like to work on recall with my dogs, even the older well trained ones, just to have them check in with me and know that I'm watching them. I often call them over and have them sit and wait for a treat. I pet them, touch their collars, and hold on to them just to get them used to it. This way, when I want to put them on leash, they aren't expecting it and are less likely to put up a fight (not literal fight, stubborn fight).

After party. When the dogs get to the gate and are ready to leave, I give them a treat (not everyone, just the ones who are new to the routine or having a hard time remembering why I am so convincing) and lots of over-the-top cheerleading praise. Leaving the park is just as much fun as going to the park, RIGHT!??!

Leash 'em up. If you have any doubt that you are going to be able to get your pup out of the park incident-free, just leash 'em up. Once they experience the thrill of the chase and the anger in your face, there is no going back, they will want to make it a regular thing. Once you've had enough successful exits and cheerleader praise, and you feel that you trust him a little bit more, you can try and get closer and closer to the gate before you put the leash on.

Some dogs this is never a problem for and some dogs this is such a problem that their owners never take them to the dog park and never let them off leash. That's no way for a city dog to live, in my opinion! I hope this helps! Remember, you always win!