Walking Aussie Sisters

by Sandy
(Sacramento, CA)

Aussie Sisters

Aussie Sisters

My two Aussie dogs can’t walk together without barking and lunging. These Australian Shepherd girls are almost 9 years old and early on we invested in some major training and desensitizing which improved a lot of their issues.

However, they still can't manage a walk together that is without some issue. One is the protector and will bark (to alert) and the other is fearful, will lunge and then sometimes gets rolling with barking as well. While some walks they start out managing well; no pulling and keeping up with my fast pace...all it takes is a small dog, with tags jingling, that alert both of them and POOF...they jerk on the leash and lose their cool!

I usually stop and get them on a SIT, tell them to LEAVE IT and wait...and wait...and wait. The fearful one MUST watch whatever is exciting her, and while she won't bark or lunge when told to SIT...she HAS to watch. I've tried blocking her view, but she pops her head around my legs and I never succeed distracting her. She calms down as long as the other dog/bike/skateboarder is moving away. The protector just can't stop barking...even if the dog/bike/skateboarder goes a block down the road...she keeps at it!

A brief 10 minute walk can easily go into 30 minutes+ pending who we greet in the neighborhood. I get stressed by the unknown…and yet I know each walk is a training session! My biggest concern is that they are both about 65# and I’m getting older and want to insure everyone’s safety by having them better controlled on these walks. Any tips on lessons I can work on during these challenging walks?

Dog Training Excellence Answer:

Sandy, first of all let me congratulate you on keeping up the training with these two gorgeous dogs. It’s hard and frustrating, specially when there is already an anxiety or high energy type issue, nonetheless you have managed to stay with them for 9 years! Give yourself a pat on the back, smile and relax. You are doing a great job.

Now, remember the relax part. I get the sense that going out for walks is usually stressful for you. This is not trivial, those girls can read your body language like an open book and will know as soon as you start tensing up (even before you even notice!). This means that you might be cueing them, telling them through your body language that there is something stressful and potentially dangerous around. They get super alert and as soon as anything comes along….POOF! So, my first advice is to try and relax during walks. I know this is easier said than done, so here are a few ideas:

  • Sing a happy song while you walk. Singing relaxes you in a natural way without forcing the feeling.

  • Play games to teach your dogs to focus on you and walk nicely during walks. Games are always fun, so…have fun!

  • Keeping your dogs and everyone safe is always important so keep working on counter conditioning and desensitization. These are amazing techniques, but require a lot (and when I say a lot … it could be years!) of practice and consistency.

  • Have an exit strategy: instead of asking for a sit and staying in place near the trigger, get them to follow you quickly away from the dog/bike/skateboarder/etc.

Hope this helps! Keep us posted!

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