Posted on March 7, 2016
Meet Toby, a one-year-old Golden Doodle. Toby is a total peach of a pup. Except when he sees other dogs on leash!
His parents, Rahul and Puja, called Zen Dog Training because Toby had become leash reactive. An exuberant and enthusiastic dog off-leash, on-leash Toby was exhibiting rude behavior by barking, jumping, and lunging at other dogs!
Before we started the process of training him we wanted to make sure everyone knew how to do an Emergency U-Turn (an Interruption Technique) so they could get him out of trouble when he was barking excessively on leash at other dogs.
Our practice session started slowly. Instead of starting with actual dogs (a high-level distraction), we first practiced with other milder things that set Toby off to barking, a.k.a. low-level distractions.
For Toby, birds in the neighbor’s hedges provided us with plenty of opportunities to interrupt his excitable lunging. We walked around outside making sure Toby was on a loose leash so he could feel free to have a natural response.
Toby spotted a bird in one of the bushes and began to bark. We used that opportunity to do the U-Turn. A “U-Turn” is a quick 180-degree turn of your dog’s head away from whatever he is looking at plus quickly walking away to create distance from whatever is upsetting him.
How to do a U-Turn:
- Say “Eh- Eh” in a calm but serious voice.
- Bring the leash into your core (hips) and turn around 180 degrees (pivoting your body in the opposite direction).
- Start walking the other way to move your dog’s focus 100% away from the distraction.
It is essential that you break your dog’s eye contact with whatever has them worked up as you walk away or across the street.
Benefits of using a U-Turn:
- U-Turns are an important technique for people with larger or heavier dogs.
- Instead of trying to use your arms and shoulders to tighten up on the leash, you turn 180-degrees away from unwanted behaviors using your whole body.
- Using your entire body - not just your arms and shoulders - during a U-Turn is important, especially in situations where your dog is overwhelmed.
- Learning to use your body’s core strength sends a clearer message of steady movement to your dog. You AND your dog will feel more grounded and confident as you move safely away.
Rahul and Puja quickly learned this Emergency U-Turn technique. They became comfortable managing Toby’s lower level reactions. Now they can slowly start working on helping Toby to feel calmer upon seeing other dogs on leash.
For more information about doing Leash Interruptions, go to Zen Dog Training Online and click on “Leash Lessons”.