Teaching Your Dog “Manners” So Walks Can Be Problem-Free in OB

by on February 29, 2012 · 21 comments

in Culture, Environment, Ocean Beach, Popular

Molly. All photos by Louisa Golden.

By Louisa Golden / Special to the OB Rag

“And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.” (Rudyard Kipling)

Spring is nearly here and with the warming weather, OBceans can expect the local dog population to explode. Warmer, longer days mean that more people will be getting out and taking their dogs for walks. Strolling in the neighborhood with your First Friend is a great pleasure. Doing your duty to clean up after Fido is not. With a little management and planning, you and your dog can enjoy your daily promenade without the hassle.

Potty-less walking is convenient, relaxing, clean and great for public relations. Noise and filth are two of the biggest complaints the general public have against dog owners. Even if you pick up after your dog, others may resent seeing your animal in the act of using their lawn or sidewalk as a toilet. Being in control of when and where your dog eliminates means you can take your dog to public places without worry.

Relax at the coffee house. Cruise the isles at Home Depot. You and your dog can be worry free in all sorts of public settings. As with all training, teaching your dog to go on command will improve your relationship with your canine pal.

To achieve poop free dog walks, you will need to put potty-ing and sniffing on cue and keep certain dog handling techniques in mind. All that may seem like a bother, but the training is easy and fun. Even better, these foundation skills can be used in many different settings.

 Step One: Teaching your dog to “go” on cue.

Catch your dog eliminating in your own yard. As he goes, give whatever cue you want to use for going potty. Take care with your cue choice. Common phrases such as, “Hurry Up,” might not work well because you use them in everyday speech. Using common words as a potty cue can be confusing to your dog, who might end up piddling on your carpet when really all you wanted was your teenager to get a move on. My own dog, Miss Mollie Pink, understands the phrase, “Better Go Now.”

After your dog has completed his task, reward him well. Give treats, petting, playing and plenty of attention. At first, you will need to give him several minutes of celebration for his good work. Note this: Dogs cannot urinate and defecate at the same time. Your dog may need to urinate one or even several times before he can defecate. Reward each effort, and give a huge jackpot for defecation. The entire process may take as long as five or ten minutes in the beginning. Once your dog understands there is a benefit to going, he will likely be able to empty himself in less than a minute.

Never take your dog for walks until he has done his business. Once he has done his business, always take your dog for a walk (or at least give him treats, praise and play time). When your dog learns that after he has pooped, he gets to go out for a walk, you will find he will accomplish his task promptly.

 Step two: Put sniffing on cue.

Before producing waste, dogs sniff. Having sniffing on cue makes walking for exercise easier, makes your dog more polite and makes it more likely you will have a clean walk. While your dog is on a leash, catch him sniffing and tell him to, “Go sniff.” As he sniffs, praise him enthusiastically. After a few minutes, tell him, “Leave it,” or, “That’s enough,” or whatever cue you already use to let your dog know you want him to stop what he is doing and do something else. Once you have told him to stop sniffing, cue him to move on using your usual cue for that. “Let’s go,” or “Heel,” or whatever you generally say as you walk on. If your dog does not know the cues for leaving something alone or beginning a walk, teach those separately.

 Step three: Intelligent Handling.

Handling refers to how you manage your dog on walks (or any other  time, for that matter). Do you walk your dog? Or does your dog walk you? If your dog is walking you, your relationship with your dog will suffer and you WILL be cleaning up more often than you otherwise would.

The easiest way to start is by clipping on the leash (a real leash, not a thirty foot flexi-leash). If your dog is on the end of a six foot leash, you will be aware of what is happening at the end of your dog.

I know. Your dog doesn’t need a leash. He’s perfect and friendly and never goes far. Use the leash anyway. It is the law. It makes people who don’t like dogs feel more comfortable. It keeps your dog safer from all kinds of accidents and assaults. Most importantly for this article, it makes it almost impossible for you to miss the fact that your dog has just paused to defecate. Use a leash.

Once your dog has gone potty in your own yard and has the proper outfit for city walks, get moving. Walking faster is more natural for healthy dogs. Most dogs prefer walking about 30% (my guesstimate) faster than most people. Stepping up the pace will keep your dog more focused on you and less interested in sniffing. If your dog looks like he might like to stop and smell, keep right on going. He will come along, too, happy you have made a choice and willing to follow wherever you go.

As you walk briskly along, your dog in tow, do keep him on the sidewalks. Keep him off your neighbor’s lawns and shrubs. Just as it is rude for you to wander through your neighbor’s garden, it is also rude for your dog to wander through. If your dog wanders onto someones grass, just call him off in a pleasant voice and tell him he’s a good boy once he’s off. Catch him walking on the sidewalk and give him praise or even a treat. Soon, he’ll understand that he gets praise when he walks close to you and out of gardens.

If your dog manages to get his nose to the ground and start sniffing, regain his attention quickly. You can call his name, pat your leg, make  kissing sounds, whoop and run a few steps, suddenly go in another direction, or any number of things. Being able to control when a dog sniffs is key to preventing accidents on walks. It is also great when taking your dog to public places. You can prevent his slobbering all over store displays and other people’s belongings wherever you choose to go.

Once you are in a place where it is convenient for your dog to eliminate if necessary, release him to sniff. You have already put sniffing on cue. You can use that cue as a reward for focus and good behavior on walks. He may only choose to smell the roses. He may choose to leave a message for other dogs. The point is, you choose where and when he gets to do those things.

Molly and Louisa’s son on leash-free Fiesta Island.

Where should you let your dog sniff and eliminate if necessary? There are many options. At the curb in the street is the best, most legal option. Businesses often have ivy plantings outside. Service and guide dogs use these areas. Your dog can learn to use them as well. You can also seek out weedy, unkempt areas and overgrown alleys. Any of those options are better than letting your dog leave messes where people walk, sit, eat or play or allowing him to soil other people’s yards.

By the way, Gentle Folk, just because someone owns a dog does not mean they want to clean up after yours! A friend of mine tried to convince her neighbor and the neighbor’s two Chows of just this fact. Diplomacy failing, my friend released her Irish Wolfhound to “greet” the neighbor and the Chows when they came to make their morning deposit on my friend’s yard. The line on the hound drew him up about 10 feet short of the inconsiderate neighbor and her dogs. The charge of a seven foot tall hunting dog drove the point home. The Chows never messed in my friend’s yard again. Allow your dog to violate another’s yard at your own peril.

For Heaven’s sake, keep your dog out of tot lots. I know the sand looks good to Fido, but that is really, truly not the place for him to go!

 Step four: Pick up after your dog if an accident happens.

Take a bag on every walk. Even if you put elimination on cue, have your dog go before taking the walk and exercise perfect handling technique, accidents will sometimes happen. Be prepared and be responsible.

As you head back home, you might see someone (whose dog is not as well trained as yours) having an accident. Go ahead. Offer a bag. It is the courteous thing to do.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kate Donaldson February 29, 2012 at 9:32 am

What a great article! I’m going to start teaching some of this right away. I hate to pick up after my dog on walks (it’s not the picking up, it’s the steaming bag and the fact that my dog likes to go when there is no garbage can in sight). It’s much easier to take care of this in the yard. Thanks!!!

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avatar Paula Salter February 29, 2012 at 10:40 am

Great article — and what a great idea! Walks can be so much more pleasant when the “business” is already taken care of and we don’t have to carry a bag of poo with us!

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avatar MurphyDog February 29, 2012 at 10:51 am

fabulous article! Thanks for reminding Mom why putting elimination on a cue is such a great idea. I got the whole ‘go potty’ cue down…but still need to work on ‘hurry up!’ BOL!

Murphydog

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avatar Bobbie February 29, 2012 at 11:38 am

A clarification: when you wrote “release your dog to sniff” you do NOT mean to take off leash, it’s just a release from the ‘do not sniff” behavior.
Thanks, good article for the good of a neighborhood!
Bobbie
Three Goldens and a Border terrier

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avatar Louisa Golden February 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Oh, great point, Bobbie! Never take your dog off lead when on city streets. I meant exactly what you said. Let the dog relax from his no sniffing allowed default. He can do that while on his leash quite well!

Additionally, I would not let the dog who is sniffing as a reward pull me down the street to get to the next, great scent. “Go Sniff” means sniff whatever you want within range of the 6 foot leash.

Thanks for reading and posting!

Louisa

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avatar Sammi February 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Great article, I know a few people I’ll be sharing it with too!

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avatar Sandra February 29, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Great article. Covers some good points and is easy to understand.

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avatar Diana February 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Excellent article.

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avatar La Trenda February 29, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Great info. Especially about not using common words as your potty cue.

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avatar Diane February 29, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Great article! All very good ideas!

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avatar OB Mercy March 1, 2012 at 8:04 am

I wish more dog owners would follow this. I am experiencing OB dog walkers letting their dog poop on my front lawn as you mentioned, which I find unreal considering I live a block from Dog Beach and would think they would know better. I have even taken a cue from many of my neighbors and put a bag full of plastic baggies tied to my tree….to no avail. How can you live right there, have baggies right at your disposal, and still choose to ignore your dog leaving a poop in public? I just don’t get it.

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avatar Louisa Golden March 1, 2012 at 8:51 am

I’m afraid this article will only help those dog owners who are basically responsible. Irresponsible pet owners are notoriously difficult to train. They are less cooperative than cats by far. Your best bet is to try to manage the irresponsible owners’ dogs.

Dogs love to walk on grass, but will avoid uncomfortable textures most of the time. Consider adding an uncomfortable edging of rocky or woody (sharp, not fine) mulch. Make the mulched area as wide as you can. Dogs may ramble over a narrow strip of mulch and are more likely to avoid a wider one. A low fence is also quite effective. Even a line strung up at about 10″ with little bells that jingle when touched can deter most (but not all) dogs suffering with Bad Owner Syndrome.

I have found that Miss Mollie avoids mint and even nasturtiums. I’ve read that Coleus Canina, a relative of mint, will keep dogs out of your yard. You can also plant slightly thorny plants on the perimeter of your yard. Avoid plants with very long thorns though. Those pose a safety hazard for dogs, cats and children. Bougainvillea hedges are nice. Natal plum is easier to maintain, but not as lovely.

It’s a shame residents have to consider such measures. I wish all dog owners would be responsible for their pets, too.

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avatar OB Mercy March 1, 2012 at 10:19 am

Thanks for all the great suggestions Louisa. Unfortunately, I don’t own the place and I do not do gardening of any kind!

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avatar De and Ginger March 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Excellent article. Service dog users have been doing this for years, good that pet dog owners are catching on. Hopefully the owners that have never heard of such things will get the word. Happy and healthy dog ownership for all.

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avatar Patrisha T March 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Another great idea is to teach your dog to carry his own poop bag after use or even have him wear a backpack so that you can put his poop bag in the pack after use until you find a garbage can to throw it in. You can also keep plastic bags in the pack so you are always able to pick up after your pooch!

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avatar cahlo March 4, 2012 at 7:25 am

good article, thanx.

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avatar Kristina August 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Great for Cincinnati, OH suburb walking as well. Thanks :)

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avatar Choc Lab owner August 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Great article, but I was disappointed that you show great concern for dogs defecating on people’s lawns or walking in their flower beds yet you would post a picture of your son allowing your dog up on top of a picnic table where people place food and beverage. Not exactly what I would allow my dog to do, as I don’t allow him up on my kitchen table or furniture for that matter. Do you think this portrays good dog ownership values? Just my 2 cents.

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avatar Louisa Golden August 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

Interesting point. This particular bench is on Fiesta Island, which is a designated off-leash area. Rules posted (last I checked) at the entrance to the island prohibit anyone from brining food into the area. Further, this bench happens to be in the middle of the fenced area specifically set aside for dogs.

Given those facts, I would allow my dog on those specific tables again. Actually, I find them handy for dog training purposes. I use them for agility cues, for therapy dog cues and for obedience control as well.

I hadn’t really thought about this before you raised the point. Upon reflection, I realize that I do not allow my dog on picnic tables elsewhere. I had not thought it through though. It was just a reflex to avoid doing that. Even though picnic tables in parks are pretty filthy as a rule (birds, bugs and juice boxes), there is no reason for my dog to add to the mix! You are quite right about that.

Louisa Golden

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avatar Pamela October 18, 2015 at 10:08 am

I’m afraid this wouldn’t work for my dog. He’s a very sweet and attitudinal English Setter. He doesn’t get taken on many walks, which is sad, because he has to try to poop every 2 feet. He doesn’t sniff first. He just stoops and lowers his butt and walks that way even if he can’t go anymore. It’s so annoying and embarrassing. He’s a beautiful dog and I love him so much. I wish I could take him for a simple walk.

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