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Get More Attention on Walks without Saying a Word

Author: Alison Spanner | Date: September 17, 2013

One of the most common complaints I hear from clients is that their dog doesn’t listen outside.  They say his name, try to keep him interested but he is just too distracted by squirrels, baby strollers, discarded chicken bones and other dogs.

I, myself, used to have a VERY distracted dog on walks.

Sonar never listened to a word I said but, then again, she is deaf so I can’t really blame her for that.  But now, my deaf dog stops and checks in every time I ask her to.  How did I teach the most distracted dog (deaf to my voice) to give me attention on walks?

I simply stopped walking. I stopped trying to cue her in any other way.  I didn’t say her name or tap her back or lunge to get in her line of sight.  I simply stopped walking and stood still until she came back to me and sat.  Oh,sile the power of body language.  As a student of dog behavior, I know, in theory, dogs pay way more attention to our body language than the English language. Turns out, this theory works amazingly well in practice too!

Sonar got it, and got it fast.  The first three times I stopped while walking her, I waited silently (it took a couple of minutes) until she turned back to look at me and then I asked her to sit.  When she sat, I gave her a treat and immediately started walking again.  Second and third time–stopped, waited until she looked, asked her to sit, gave treat, and started walking.

The fourth time I stopped, she looked at me and sat immediately. I haven’t had to cue her again.  Now, every time I stop walking she stops, sits and looks at me.  I give her a treat (more often than not) and we keep going at my pace and with her much more attentive to me than ever before.

So my advice: stop trying to chat your dog into attention and instead speak loud and clear by stopping the walk until you get attention.

Try this out and let me know what you think!


    1. marksulkin says:

      I’ll try it on the next walk

    2. Celeste says:

      I will try this. My pup has started to get crazy every time we pass another dog and if a bike whizzes by. Any advice? I do stop, but maybe I talk too much and sound too urgent?

      • Alison Spanner says:

        Hi Celeste,

        Thanks for your comment! It is important to keep calm (and quiet, let your behavior speak for itself) when you see a dog or bike approaching. Your dog will feed on your energy and that may be contributing to his behavior. If you remain calm, your pup may realize there is nothing to get worked up over.

        When you see a bike or other dog approaching, pull over and get your dog sitting in front of you (if he sits to your side, just put a treat to his nose and lure him to sit in front of you). Then quickly feed small tasty treats while the bike or dog pass. This achieves two objectives- 1) your dog learns to focus on you while in the presence of other dogs; and 2) creates a positive association (treats + dogs and bikes= nothing to be afraid of.)

        If your pup doesn’t have the opportunity to practice his crazy behavior around bikes and dogs, he will eventually stop having the urge to react. By having him sit in front of you and wait, you have given him a different and more appropriate behavior to engage in.

        Let me know if you have any other questions!

The very first AnimalSense class I took with my dog left an impression on me that will stay with me forever.

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