Hi everyone, Kathy and Sarah here.
Welcome back to a new episode of Dog Sense.
Today, we'll be discussing something every puppy owner, at some point, wonders about: How to prevent their puppy from picking up/ eating everything while on a walk.
We often say that puppies are like toddlers, which means that they love nothing more than picking up random stuff on the ground and trying to eat it. And in the canine world, goose poop and chicken bones are haute cuisine!
Of course, that's pretty dangerous, especially when you're on a walk and your pup is trying to pick up everything and anything within reach.
What can you do about this?
Sarah and I give you our tips and tricks in this week's episode of Dog Sense, so tune in now!
Our Tips and Tricks
This is a question we get asked often. This is because every puppy owner goes through this at some point.
Puppies explore the world with their mouths for entertainment and information gathering (probably because they can’t use iPhones haha). Which means that yes, your new pup will try and pick up everything while on a walk.
However, just because this is natural behavior doesn’t mean it’s okay, and that’s why I’m here to give you my best tips and tricks to help you manage and navigate this stage.
I hope that last word - ‘stage’ - lightened your mood a bit. Because a ‘stage’ is something that (with training!), they will move past (and then into a new one, but that’s another episode). So you want to nip it in the bud right away. It’ll take a bit of work on your part, but as long as you’re consistent, your dog will learn.
Here are a few things you can do to train your dog not to be the canine equivalent of a goat:
To change their focus from the ground to YOU, you’ll have to make your pup NOTICE you exist while he’s on a walk. Chances are, he’s more interested in the world around him than you. And that’s probably because you’re a little ….’boring’!
One way to become the main attraction is by taking his favorite food / treats with you when going on a walk. Take a Ziploc bag of your dog’s meal, and feed him during his walk. By doing this, you’re teaching him that interacting with you scores him some awesome food!
Because, seriously, it’s you versus the environment, and without food, your dog will always think a random chicken bone or a squirrel are more interesting than you.
Learn the Blocking Technique
Blocking is one of the easiest techniques you can use to stop your pup from gobbling up everything on his path. You’ll basically do your best imitation of the gate that comes down in front of a road when a train is about to pass through.
Here’s how you can use it: Let’s say you’re on a walk with your puppy, you’ve got the food he loves, you’re being engaging, and you’re trying to make sure you keep your dog’s attention off the ground and on you.
However, your dog will still try to interact with the environment around him, and that’s okay, but when he’s heading for something you don’t want him to grab, use your foot (the closest one to him) to block in between your puppy and whatever he’s going for.
Then take your foot away, and let your puppy make a choice. If he doesn’t go for it, say “Yes!” and reward him to build the value of making the right choice. But also give context clues. This means if your dog goes for it again, block him with your foot, then repeat the process.
As long as you’re consistent, your puppy will learn that he shouldn’t pick up random stuff from the ground. And once he’s trained on commands such as “Leave it” and “Come”, you’ll find that blocking is something you rarely, if ever, need to use.
You want your puppy to think you’re the most fun thing on the walk. So, play a lot of fun games during your walks, and make sure to interact with him as much as possible.
However, you should also honor the fact that some dogs are simply very oral. When I lived in Florida and I had my Golden Retriever Opal, I bought her a stuffed toy to keep in her mouth during our walks. She only got the toy on her walk, which means she never let go of it while outside.
Opal would carry that stuffed toy her whole entire walk, and if it was really hot and she needed to pant, she would stop, drop it, and pant while standing by it.
So, if your dog is very oral and loves to carry things, you can use this technique. Give him something you approve of to keep in his mouth during a walk, this way he won’t be picking up everything he sees.
Use Body Handling Techniques
I do a lot of body handling with my dogs. One of the games I teach is “Open”. “Open” is my favorite exercise for letting your dog know that it’s cool to put your hand in his mouth if he's picked up something that you’d like to remove.
You never want your dog to guard what he has, which is why you need to associate your hand in his mouth with something positive.
You can also use body handling with very fast or small dogs who will make it to the ground before you can block them. You can also use head collars for them. Yes, I know, they’re a pain in the neck, and sometimes, it takes a little while to teach your pup that they’re not forever, but they’re helpful.
If you have a dog who does resource-guard, you can also use a muzzle until he’s trained. Muzzle conditioning is important in general, since you might need one for when your dog is injured and needs to be examined by the vet.
Muzzles don’t always have to be uncomfortable. There are a lot of places that make super cute, super comfortable muzzles. And if you have to use them to keep your dog safe, well, that’s just how it is.
Keeping your dog from picking up everything and anything that’s on the ground can seem a bit overwhelming at first. But, with good training and consistency, your puppy will learn not to do it!
How about you? Any tips you can share with us? Let us know in the comments below!