Given the changing nature of my disability, I am either walking slowly, using a walker or using a wheelchair when I’m out and about with my dog. Anyone who has ever used adaptive equipment for any length of time quickly comes to appreciate how much more challenging it is to move in a small space with it. Add the challenge of managing a dog, and things are really tough. Add in lots of pet dogs in the immediate area and you are in for a nearly impossible challenge.
Whether you are training a service dog candidate, therapy dog candidate or pet there are a few behaviors that I like to teach all my clients that can help in negotiating tight, unpredictable urban settings when another dog might just pop up around the corner.
- Walking forwards and backwards. With large dogs in particular, walking backwards can be really important and helpful in a tight space.
- Returning to the owner’s left side on cue. Way easier if the dog does it on cue than if you have to finagle the leash and do a pile of u-turns to get the dog by your side again!
- Check in with you before greeting an unfamiliar dog. I teach my dogs to make eye contact with me and then if the other dog is equally as friendly as they are, I’ll let them greet with the cue “go say hello.” The reward for eye contact is the opportunity to sniff and interact.
- The really short sniff hello. Most of the time I prefer to let unfamiliar dogs pass by without interaction. Realistically in some settings like farmers markets, fairs and pet stores this can be impossible. If your dog is not tolerant of unfamiliar dogs the best bet is to just avoid these situations entirely. However, if your dog is tolerant of unfamiliar dogs, then teaching your dog to quickly move away after sniffing is a great skill. It allows you to pass by a dog, briefly sniff and keep on going without missing a beat.
- “Off” or “leave it” cue can be essential in tight spaces.
Are there any other cues you find really helpful in busy and tight settings? Feel free to chime in and happy training!