Our dogs will encounter many new things in their lifetimes and won’t know what it is, whether it is stranger danger or friend.
It is up to us to teach our dogs how to react to each new stimuli that it faces, whether it be the neighborhood cat, the postman or even a family member who you don’t see frequently.
How do we do that I hear you ask? We show it!!
We expose them to as much as we can and show them how to react.
When we see a cat or bird for the first time, try to have your dog on lead with a pouch full of treats and ask them to ‘watch’ and reward with praise and treat for this behavior. The more we can expose them to the trigger and show them what we want them to do the more they will give us this without us asking. I like the ‘watch’ command as it can be used in many situations where you want the dog to not react but to stay still and watch – this is a clear request from you and leaves no doubt in their mind what your expectation is.
If you have a friendly possum or other wildlife that come each night that start your dog on a hunt or barking frenzy, pop them on lead and show them how to react. Every time you take them and show them, even if they didn't notice it for themselves you are preparing them to know what to do when they do notice it.
If we have chickens we would not just let the dog loose with them the very first time, these are tasty looking treats to some dogs and huge big scary dinosaurs to others but with each the reaction will be the same – fear initially and then they will either bark or run away.
We wouldn’t take our children to the pool and just give them no instructions, we would give them some safety directions – do not do this, do not do that etc. so why do we expect our dogs to go to the chicken coop without the same level of instruction.
If they bark at the postman every single day then we have not shown them how they should react. If you can train this when you are around they will put it into practice when you are not.
For every new situation your dog is facing, or one you don’t do frequently ask yourself has my dog got the skills to know what is expected of them in this situation? If the answer is no then you need to teach them.
Start today, it is not too late!