Insecure On The Walk – (Student Question)
Dear Pawfessor Dion,
I have a new Doberman named Burt. He’s a beautiful show quality dog from a long line of champions, just 12 weeks old and a wonderful dog, but when it comes to taking walks, his behavior is somewhat odd. When I leave the house he’ll walk for about a half block and then begin the “sit down and freeze.” A walk around just two blocks can take 35 minutes. Oddly enough, I can take him to a busy, confusing place like Petsmart or drive him to the downtown shopping area or park and he walks just fine, but when we leave from the house to walk around the neighborhood, it’s impossible.
If he hears another dog bark, no matter how far away it is, that’s it. He’s not moving. The other interesting element is that when he realizes I’ve turned to “go home” he tries to drag me back to the house like he can’t get there fast enough. He is also more comfortable (meaning he sits less) if I walk with both of my children. He seems to feel safer in the “pack.” It’s at its worst when I walk him alone. He is very people friendly and has no trouble meeting new people when I take him out to socialize.
I have been working with a trainer who told me to take treats to encourage him to walk, but that hasn’t worked to really get him going. He’ll even sit in the middle of an intersection as we’re trying to cross the street. I have to pick him up and carry him across so the traffic can start again.
Should I just stick this out and let him work through his fears or is there something different I should do?
It seems that your dog is showing signs of insecurity, but since I can’t see him in person, it’s impossible for me to be specific in pinpointing what’s causing the problem. However, here are some suggestions that should help the situation:
When taking Burt for a walk, keep inviting your children and family members to come along with you. This will not only help ease the dog’s tension when walking in what seems to be a stressful environment for him; it will ease your tension as well. Remember, the energy you project with your dog has a profound affect on him, so the more relaxed and calm-assertive you are, the more relaxed he’ll be. Then, gradually “subtract” one member from the family pack on the walk, ’til its back down to you and him.
Another technique you might find helpful is to drive your dog to different locations within walking distance of your house, then park and walk back home with him. This will help trigger Burt’s natural migrating instincts and connect him with the animal within, which is ultimately more powerful than any issue he might be facing. The good news is, you’ve been consistent in investing time and energy in your dog. If you keep up the effort and remain calm and assertive, your hard work will eventually pay off.
Stay calm and confident,