This Little Doggy is a supremely happy little lady. The life and soul of the party, she thinks that absolutely everyone wants to say hi to her. And, you know what, she’s pretty on the (cute little liver-coloured) nose with that. For now. Puppies are just so cute, the sight of one bundling up to you, full of wag and with every limb going in circles, is enough to make even the hardest heart melt a little.
Sadly, that cute little puppy grows up and, in the case of Labradors, grows into a big dog! Way before emotional maturity is reached, they become large enough to make those same people flinch as the puppy-brain-in-a-dog-body bowls towards them.
So, we’ve already started work on the Squidge ignoring people. People that walk past, or people that we pass, all have to become just background noise. This is pretty easy to achieve with a clicker and a bag of tasty treats. There’s a great exercise called “Look At That!” which is described in the wonderful book Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. Every dog owner should read this book, seriously. I use LAT all the time with all my dogs, for things they find scary or exciting. The idea is that you condition your dog to be able to watch the “thing” calmly, rather than having to distract them all the time, such as you would with the alternative “Look At Me”.
Here we are practicing. Every time she looks at a person, she gets a click and treat. After a while, I can delay the click and wait for her to look at me. I want her to be able to watch calmly, but keep some focus on me and only say hi when released to do so. This is our third go at this, and you can see she’s doing supremely well – at least, I think so! From pulling towards every single person, to being able to perform some basic behaviours with someone running past. My little chocolate superstar.