Helping Your Dog Put His Best Paw Forward
Your dog makes you happy. You make your dog happy. So why not be together as much as possible? If your pup is socialized and well-behaved, you don’t always have to leave him at home. Taking your dog on an outing can be fun and enriching for both of you. Outings should be a safe and positive experience for both you and your dog. Before you head out, here are some tips to help make your outings successful.
Before You Go
One of the keys to a successful outing is socialization. If you’ve adopted a puppy, puppyhood is the optimal time to socialize your puppy and get him used to new people, pets and places. As long as it’s a positive experience for your puppy (and once your veterinarian says it’s okay), aim to introduce him to one of these new things each day. Take him to a quiet park, and the next day walk him on a sidewalk. On public sidewalks and other busy areas, use a leash that is 6 feet or less in length and avoid using retractable leashes. Expose him to a variety of ground textures and sounds, and carefully introduce him to other friendly and social dogs. It’s also important to introduce him to a diverse mix of people: varying genders, ages, races, and people wearing hats, glasses, facial hair, and so on.
If you have adopted an adult dog, you may need to start socialization from the beginning if he lacked it as a puppy. Whether your dog is an adult or a puppy, always make sure he is wearing proper identification and a well-fitting collar. When on an outing, always keep him on a leash to help keep him safe.
If you’ve determined that your dog is friendly and outgoing enough for a public outing, the next step is to train him how to behave in public while still at home. First, make sure he masters the basic commands, like “sit,” “stay,” “come” and “leave it”. Then, practice what will be expected of him when you go out. Teach him to lie down and stay, even when distractions, like other dogs or people, are present. This is especially helpful when you take him to a restaurant patio. Have him practice good manners, such as not barking, jumping up on people or eating food from the table. Ensure that he’s completely housetrained before bringing him inside a public place or another person’s home. If he doesn’t seem to like other people or dogs, he may benefit from seeing a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. He should be left home until the issue is resolved and any aggression is eliminated.
Out and About
It’s time to head out! Grab your supplies — your dog’s leash, plastic bags for waste cleanup, a water bottle and bowl, a few treats and his favorite chew toy — and let’s go!
Before you take your dog into an establishment, make sure that it’s dog-friendly. Not all restaurant patios allow dogs, and many businesses prefer that dogs stay outside. Read up on your city’s laws regarding dogs in public places so you don’t run into trouble. When in doubt, just ask if it’s ok. Remember, it’s never ok to leave your dog unattended or unsupervised for any length of time. If your dog can’t be by your side the entire time, he should be taken home for his safety. Never, ever leave your dog tied outside to run into a store or restaurant.
Your first outings together should be kept short and stress should be minimized. Take him somewhere fun and not too overwhelming, like a dog park or pet supply store. When meeting new people, have your dog sit and stay before allowing the person to greet him. Don’t allow your dog to approach anyone without your approval, as well as the other person’s approval. Also, be cautious when introducing him to other dogs. First determine whether the other dog is friendly. If so, allow him to approach and sniff, observing both dogs closely for signs of discomfort or aggression. When a meeting goes well, praise and reward your dog with a treat.
If you take him to a restaurant patio, have him lie down quietly while you eat. It may be a good idea to allow him to exercise beforehand to release excess energy. Give him his favorite chew toy to reward him and keep him occupied.
Even the best-behaved dogs can slip up every now and then. Always watch him carefully and be mindful of his behavior, especially around a lot of people. Your dog should be on a leash at all times to keep him safe. If he starts to seem nervous or stressed, remove him from the situation. Don’t forget to reward good behavior!
As always, practice makes perfect. The more you take him out and socialize him, the more outgoing he will become. In addition to your outings, continued training classes and play dates with other dogs can help your dog become a model citizen.
So what are you waiting for? Get out and have some fun together!