Snuggles is a recently adopted, 7-year-old Husky and a retired sled dog. Snuggles lives up to her name as she is the sweetest, snuggly girl ever! She is a working dog and knows all about being part of a sled team, but is learning some of the basic commands a dog of leisure needs to know.
Her owners contacted Zen Dog Training to help with Snuggles’ prey-drive. While on walks, she locks her sights on squirrels and bunnies, and lunges toward them, often pulling her owner off balance in the process!
One of the most important aspects of dog ownership is the ability to take enjoyable, safe walks. So, during our visit, we introduced a number of interrupt strategies and equipment that Snuggles’ owner can use to keep her walking and not thinking about chasing.
The first step is switching Snuggles to a front-clip harness. Harnesses like the Easy Walk by Premier or the Sensation that attach in the front give the handler more control. We also recommend they always use a 6-foot lead as more length will make it easier to keep the leash loose.
On walks, when Snuggles displays signs of hunting behavior (intense staring, ears perked up and pointed forward, body weight shifted forward, leaning/pulling against the lead and/or raised hackles) Snuggles’ owner was taught to interrupt her using a “Body-Turn”.
To do a Body Turn, first signal that you want the behavior to stop by saying “Eh, Eh!” or other guttural “No” noise and gently (but swiftly) pull your dog so that they break eye contact with whatever they are locked on or lunging toward.
The trick is to pick a side of the body and simultaneously pull the hands to the body while using the core and leg muscles to step back. This smooth motion shouldn’t startle or scare your dog but will turn them 180 degrees around; breaking eye-contact with the “prey.” Once interrupted, her handler can ask her to focus with a command like “Let’s go!” and continue walking at a brisk pace.
At first, it may take 3-5 interrupts (per episode) before Snuggles understands that we want her to stop this behavior. However, with calm and consistent application, Snuggles will learn that chasing squirrels and bunnies only results in her being stopped and interrupted.
For more information on interrupting unwanted behaviors on walks and other Zen Dog Training strategies, please visit us at zendogtraining.net to view our extensive library of video tutorials or contact us today!