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get your dog to behave outside

How to Get Your Dog to Behave Outside

Follow these steps to get familiar with good dog manners in public, and how to get your dog to behave outside.

When you’re out and about, your dog will be taking in all sorts of sights, smells, and sensations. No doubt he or she is always excited to get up close and personal with… just about everything and everyone!

But if your dog strains to jump on people or pups while on a city stroll, or jerks to catch darting squirrels in the backwoods, that’s likely to feel more fight than fun for you.

Your job, as his or her human companion, is to be able to control your dog’s attention when it’s needed, and guide your loyal pal to be a good neighbor.

  • Knowing what’s considered “good behavior” is part one (and some of the finer points may be news to first-time dog owners).
  • Knowing how to achieve good manners outdoors can stump even seasoned dog owners—so in this article we’ll fill you in on both.

What’s considered BAD manners outside?

  • Some of the basics you may have heard about for indoors are also considered no-no’s outdoors: jumping up on, and/or snapping at, other people or pets, for instance.
  • Do you tend to let your dog wander on a long or retractable leash? Doing this in a setting where there are others around, or as you approach a corner where you can’t see who’s coming, is definitely bad manners—and that’s on YOU! Be especially wary of your dog’s interest in babies in strollers, or young children; always wait for parental permission before your furry friend approaches!
  • Allowing your dog to pee on other people’s furniture, lawns, gardens, or feet is also bad form—and not picking up your dog’s poop is, in many places, a citation-able offense.

What’s a “good manners” approach?

The most polite greetings between dogs and humans typically involve plenty of tail wagging and sniffing or licking (with permission!). In a canine-to-canine greeting, either dog might also get low on their front paws in a “let’s play” position.

Most dogs, especially younger ones, are likely to feel excited and curious when they encounter a stranger. Their natural personalities (from laid-back and chill, to hot-tempered and defensive) will certainly come through strongly, but they’ll also take cues from you about how to respond.

Helpful tip: good practice when you’re in a public setting is to keep the leash shorter—or at least shorten it to about a foot—so people and pets you pass can enjoy a more deliberate meet-and-greet. This will help you avoid surprises that can lead to power struggles.

How can you steer your dog towards good behaviors?

It’s a combination of practice, and sending the right signals to help keep your dog calm and friendly, including:

  • Using a calm voice.
  • Avoiding jerky motions or yanking on the leash.
  • Praising them often when they’re just going along, being good.
  • Keeping a favorite toy or treat in your pocket to work as a safe attention-getter.
  • Following the same routine when greeting everyone.

If the people you encounter want to pet your dog, and your dog is calm and relaxed (e.g., no raised hair on their neck or back), you can allow your dog to approach the back of the person’s hand to sniff. If all goes well, invite the newcomer to pat the side or back of your dog.

If it’s a dog-to-dog greeting, allow them to sniff one another. If they’re in a safe setting, you can ask the other dog’s owner if it’s okay for them to enjoy a little controlled tussle—though keeping them leashed may be a good idea initially.

Helpful tip: Don’t PULL! While it’s often good to shorten the leash if you stop, avoid pulling or yanking on it. This often sends a signal that there’s a reason to be anxious, which will only ramp up your dog’s excitement even more. Make deliberate moves, speak to your dog in calm tones, and redirect their attention to you.

And finally…

PRACTICE! Repetition and consistency is king in training.

If you have a young dog, or you’re in a new setting, you might want to enlist a helper to practice greetings. Have them turn their back on your dog, or raise their knee to block forward momentum, if he or she starts to jump; then use commands, settling touches, or the distraction toy to get their attention, and try the greeting again once they’ve calmed down.

And if you’re within driving distance of Holderness New Hampshire, bring your dog to one of our beginner-to-advanced dog training programs to learn all the skills necessary for a happy, well-mannered dog life.

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