Dog Charmer: Crossing the road

Highways are no place for a puppy.

An invisible fence may be the best solution for a puppy living near a highway. — Courtesy Tom Shelby

Hey there,

How do you break a 10-month-old puppy from crossing the highway?

Lisa Wilson

Hi Lisa,

Great question. I’m big on what I call “auto stops.” Dog’s walking next to you, no leash. When you get to the curb you don’t break stride, just cross the street like it’s still sidewalk, but Bowser stops dead at the curb and doesn’t cross until he hears your “release,” even if you’ve crossed the street. Bowser doesn’t enter the street until he hears you say “OK.” That’s what I say, “OK.” My son says “Free,” which is smarter. Smarter because I’ve experienced saying OK in conversation with a friend when my dog, who was heeling, stopped heeling the moment she heard me exclaim, “OK.” A lot less likely to happen with the word “free.”

My first dog as an adult was a pharaoh hound named CheetaAnn. Initially, we lived in Whitestone, Queens, and Cheets and I would jog from the Throgs Neck Bridge to Fort Totten every morning, and Cheets, a sighthound who was real fast, came to a screaming stop at every curb until she heard my release.

Here’s what I did, for all my dogs. Cheets is walking next to me on a loose leash, and when we get to the curb, I give the leash a slight jerk backward as I say “Uh-uh” the exact moment she starts to step off the curb into the street. I may have to do this several times until she stops automatically at the curb even as I continue into the street. Timed correctly with a smart, sensitive dog, you might be amazed at how quickly the dog “gets it,” and stops automatically at every curb, especially if intermittent treats accompany the praise when she catches up to you after she’s released. The same lesson applies to car doors and the front door to my house. They do not leave through the open door until they hear “OK.”

However, Lisa, I gather from your question that crossing streets in suburbia is not your issue, but rather that your house is near the highway and your 10-month-old is off-leash a lot. In that case I might suggest you install an invisible fence to contain the puppy. Lisa, in my lifetime of training, I have never told someone to get an e-collar, read the instructions, and use it. When necessary, I’ve said, Get an e-collar, and don’t even open the box until I get there. Then, depending on the sensitivity of the dog and the intensity of the behavior needed to be altered, I decide between tone, vibe, stim, and intensity. A tone may stop the off-leash pug from nibbling on duck poop, but is useless stopping the off-leash predatory Lab from going after the skunk or porcupine. By the time I hand the owner the e-collar, it’s for follow-up when necessary. I’ve already trained the dog to the e-collar. So Lisa, if you want to go the e-collar route, I’d suggest you get a pro to get you through the first lesson. When the puppy gets within 10 feet of the highway, the puppy hears tone (or feels vibration) as a warning, and if it continues toward the highway, feels electric stim. There’s more to it, and it will require constant vigilance, with an e-collar at the ready. Will your 10-month-old want to chase the deer on the other side of the highway? My suggestion is, Have the invisible fence installed — it includes training, and is safest for an off-leash puppy.

Good luck,
The Dogcharmer

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