Now that spring has sprung, you and your dog are looking forward to getting outdoors for walks, runs and visits to the dog park.
But, say Best Friends trainers Kim Mandel and Jamie Ianello, they often hear from clients that their dogs seem to be less obedient in the spring -- as though they’ve forgotten all their training and the “rules” of public behavior.
In fact, the root of the problem is we pet parents ourselves. During the long winter months, we become lax about reinforcing training since we’re spending less time outdoors. Obedience skills become rusty and -- when it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors -- that lack of practice suddenly become apparent as dogs dash off in pursuit of scurrying wildlife and kids on bikes.
Without regular practice, dogs will forget attention cues like ‘look’ or ‘watch’. Obeying these in the house is easy, but once you get outside with high-level distractions, this loss of attention can be a problem.
Some dogs seem to have forgotten how to walk on a leash over the winter and suddenly start pulling. An even bigger problem is off-leash recall; your dog may be so excited to be out and about that she doesn’t respond to your call. After all, there are so many good things to sniff in the spring!
Mandel and Ianello say that now is perfect time to brush up on basic commands so your pet is ready to enjoy the great outdoors with the family and canine friends this spring. They suggest the following:
- Begin by reinforcing basic commands, like sit, down and stay. For his own safety, your dog should respond promptly and consistently.
- Practice "sit and wait,” and other impulse-control exercises. Use rewards to motivate him and turn him back into a thinking creature.
- Work on leasing walking, repeating the same techniques you used when you first taught her.
If you are having any trouble getting your dog back "into shape,” talk with a professional trainer to determine whether there are other issues that need to be addressed or if a refresher course is in order.
Even dogs that understand all the basic commands can benefit from a refresher which strengthens the bond between you and your pet. Going back to class also is great way to enhance canine social skills, since pets have the opportunity to meet dogs and learn to interact with them.
If you and your pet have never taken an obedience course, now is a good time to enroll to get him ready for the outdoor time to come. For more information on professional obedience courses, visit or call the Best Friends center nearest you.
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Our expert panel of trainers for this blog included:
Jamie Ianello specializes in advanced training and aggression issues, and trains for Best Friends in White Plains NY,
Kimberly Mandel is a behaviorist who has been training dogs for more than 15 years. She can be reached in North Plainfield NJ.