By Jeff Stallings
That catchphrase—like a kid in a candy store—expresses the unbounded enthusiasm and chaotic excitement of a child with unlimited options. Well, the same rings true with dogs: Given no rules or limitations, a puppy or dog exhibits the same lack of focus as that unruly child.
The best gift we can give during dog training is to remove the pressure of having too many choices: The choice of what to smell; which street commotion to be afraid of; which way to pull his human down the street. While the current and (hopefully) passing trend in dog and puppy training is to feed endless treats as reward and distraction, a better strategy is to provide focus, to humanely narrow your dog’s options and to make decisions best left to the species with the larger frontal cortex.
It’s always easier to prevent a dog from going into a state than it is to get them out of an undesirable state once they’re in it.Thankfully dogs “live in the moment”, driven by smell and energy, so it’s usually fairly straightforward to shift them from that undesirable state to a calm, submissive and responsive one. This is accomplished either by voice or non-verbal sounds, leash corrections or “bites” that use your hand to get the dog’s attention away from the source of concern (an approaching dog; a threatening person) and back to you where it belongs. Then you and your dog can “keep calm and carry on.”