My dog goes crazy before a walk!
(Q) When my one-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel sees his lead come out, he goes crazy — jumping up, barking and crying. This continues until we’re out of the house when the vocals stop, but then he pulls like crazy on the lead for the first five minutes. Is there any way of calming him down in those first few minutes?
(A) Trainer Elizabeth Kershaw says: Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is currently going through adolescence and making his own rules. Insist that he sits quietly to have his lead put on. Ask him once to sit. If he sits on the first time of asking, continue to put his lead on. If he doesn’t, hang the lead back up and walk away, sit down and read the paper for a short time. If he vocalises at all, stop the process immediately and wait until he is sitting quietly. If this takes more than a minute, walk away.
When you can put the lead on while he sits quietly, proceed to the door. He must then sit at the door until you are ready to open it. Ask him once. No sit and you take the lead off and walk away! If he sits, you open the door while he remains sitting; if he does not, take the lead off and walk away. If he tries to rush out of the door, close it. He has to remain seated until you give him permission to go out. Persevere until he does. He sits and waits again while you close the door.
Depending on where you go next, he walks under control to the gate, sits while you open it, goes through with your permission and sits while you close it. At any time that he does not comply, feel free to abort the walk and go back to stage one. Refusing to sit and wait or barking and whining are behaviours that mean the walk does not happen.
Bear in mind that his behaviour may get worse before it gets better while he discovers that it is what he does that determines whether he gets further than the gate! With luck, the controls you put in before you leave home will gradually have an effect on his excitement levels during the walk. If not, try a sit/stay until he calms down. Be prepared to abandon the walk at any time that you do not get compliance.
You’ll need to commit to putting in the time to make your point. It is not an overnight fix. Don’t start if you do not mean to continue, and be consistent. If he gets away with returning to excitable behaviour you have lost the battle.