Ask Professor Boo is our recurring, positive reinforcement dog training and behavior question and answer column. If you have a question that you would like to ask Professor Boo, please feel free to contact him.
Q: Our dog keeps getting sprayed by skunks. She’s a terrier mix and loves looking in culvert pipes and other exploring. We live in the country in Montana and there is so much here that a curious dog can get into trouble with. She used to not come when we called her but we’ve been training her with treats and she’s gotten so much better at coming when we call. We hate to have to keep her on a leash when we go for walks. Can you make any suggestions? Thank you, Jennifer
A: Hi Jennifer,
Many folks who enjoy walking their dogs off leash like to have a handful of distance commands. The recall is, of course, the most common in terms of getting the dog well under control at a distance. There are others that are a little less ridge and less restrictive for the dog.
- A distance leave-it. This could be used once your dog has learned leave-it so well that on that command, she will turn away from whatever it is she has found.
- Leave-it has to be rewarded with food in the learning stages, and then intermittently forever depending on the dog and the surroundings.
- A distance sit or down. These could be used anywhere or anytime you need to simply put your dog into a holding position. Once you can reliably request these commands at a distance, you can lock your dog down matter how far away you are.
- Some dogs do better with a stop command at a distance than the sits or downs, but essentially the stop command like the sits and downs, simply halt all actions until you tell your dog otherwise.
- The sit, down and stop all have to be trained in close where you can easily reward them, then using a long drag leash, you can begin to increase the distance you ask your dog to preform these until she is ready for the big leagues of off leash completely.
Hope that helps and remember, there is just something that dogs LOVE about skunks so keep that skunk wash handy.
And, hopefully the ideas above will allow you to not have to use it quite as often as we had to with Dante. He loved skunks!