Will this be your dog’s first summer in your home? Have your puppy spend some time in your back yard today to get used to the sights and sounds of spring. The reason to do this is to teach your puppy not to bark at people, dogs, and other distractions in your neighborhood.
What to do: Stuff your puppy’s lunch into a Kong toy (add peanut butter or wet food for an added challenge), other food puzzle, or a sealed up milk carton with holes in it to let the food fall out. Sit out in the yard yourself some of the time and occasionally sneak inside so that your puppy can also get used to being out there alone. Go back out before your dog or puppy begins to get lonely.
Stay relaxed: Your dog or puppy is also looking to you for social cues when something happens, so keep your breathing calm and relaxed. Even if your least favorite neighbor comes up to chat, avoid holding your breath, stiffening your posture, clenching your fists, etc. Keep your body loose, breathe out as the person walks up, and turn your body at an angle – facing them directly is a challenge in the canine world. This is especially important for older dogs, who are more savvy at reading body language.
If you don’t have a yard, do this on the front steps of your apartment or condo complex, or go to a nearby park. This can be done for houses, too. Maybe bring a blanket for your puppy to be on to avoid germs. If your puppy is fearful, move farther away from the foot traffic. If your dog is on leash, hook it to a harness and keep the leash loose whenever possible.
Repeat this exercise as often as you can, say once or twice per weekend for the next month or two. You can even just stuff all of your dogs meals into food puzzles and have him/her eat them outside. You’ll be glad you build this strong foundation of calm in the yard.
Don’t plan on leaving your dog alone while you are at work. Chances are, your dog will just learn to bark at passersby and won’t really get more exercise. He might even get teased by kids or develop thunder phobia. Leave your dog inside (puppies can be crated or in puppy-proof areas) when you’re not there for extended periods of time.
One more tip. If you have a neighbor dog that barks at your dog, you might put up an intermediate barrier, like an exercise pen, that keeps your dog away from the fence. That will build up a habit of not going nose to nose.