Dogcharmer: Learning lessons

New pups need to be exposed to plenty of experiences.

A 7-month-old Anatolian shepherd, Ela, who's still learning. —Lin Vincent

Dear Tom,

I have a loving, rambunctious, 80-plus-pound, 7-month-old Anatolian shepherd who is in an important learning stage of her life, and while she has mastered, for the most part, her Dogwatch invisible fence, her willingness to come (when tempted with treats), her ability to “leave it,” and her energetic eagerness to meet other dogs on the street, she really loves to bark at passersby, especially from her kitchen window, and at times from the car. Should I be using a bark collar? Is that too many electronics for her growing neck to bear? How do I train her to it?

Thank you,

Dear Lin,

Congrats on your new family addition. At 7 months of age she’s no longer a baby, yet not close to being an adult. She’s entered what I fondly refer to as the “punky” age, and being an Anatolian shepherd, she’s a large, punky girl. The key here is socialization, which doesn’t just mean playing with other dogs. It means — “Been there, done that, seen that, no big deal!”

I’ll never forget the couple who moved from rural, rural Alabama to midtown Manhattan with their German shepherd. That was one GS that would sooner kill itself, or kill you, before getting in that elevator thing, then going out to the insanity of the bustling city streets. Never having experienced anything close to resembling midtown Manhattan, the dog was terrified.

If AS Girl plays beautifully off-leash with other dogs, that’s great, but it’s very different from meeting strange dogs while on a leash. I’ve lost count of all the lessons I did with dogs that were aggressive with other dogs while on a leash, but OK off-leash. Most people don’t realize that the dog feels pretty tough, like the 10-year-old boy who’s acting real tough when his big brother is standing right behind him. Your dog is emboldened by his leash attachment to you! You got his back; he gets more protective. So real socializing starts on day 1!

After your vet’s OK, at about 4 months, Puppy gets walked into town on a leash. The moment another dog is seen, you’re happily and joyously telling pup, “Oh, look! There’s a possible new friend!” as she gets a treat. What’s she going to relate all this joy and happiness to? The approaching dog, of course.

When close enough, ask, “Is your dog friendly?” to the other end of the approaching leash. If you get a “Yes,” let them meet and smell the “proverbials.” Puppy needs to be exposed, on as positive a basis as you can manage, to everything possible. Crowded streets, screaming fire engines, stores, etc. What you’re looking for is the dog’s attitude to be — been there, done that, seen that, no big deal. At this point I would definitely suggest that you do not use a bark collar, because it’s likely to exacerbate the problem. The endeavor is to create positive associations with new situations and dogs she sees.

At this point, the foundation of her training needs to be upgraded from, to use your words, Lin, “for the most part,” to really cooperating, regardless of the intensity of the distraction. AS Girl needs to seriously learn to comply with the commands, “Leave it,” “Quiet,” and “Heel.” And for that, I’d recommend that you get the help of a real pro, as opposed to just a training collar.

Give AS Girl a kiss for me, and stay in touch.

The Dogcharmer

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