Lower your dog’s stress levels during training with this one genius tip from an expert trainer

Woman training her dog at the park
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Let's be honest - training your dog can be a challenging task at the best of times, so it's not hard to see how it can be derailed entirely by a well meaning passersby wanting to stop and pet your pup while you're in the middle of trying to teach them a new skill.

Many of us struggle to know how to put a stop to unwelcome interactions without coming across as rude, but alongside having plenty of the best dog treats to hand, one of the quickest and easiest ways to set your canine companion up for training success is to send a clear message that your dog can't be approached.

So, how exactly do you go about doing that? Well, according to Juliana DeWillems, owner and head trainer at JW Dog Training & Behavior, it's all about being proactive. In a video shared to Instagram, which you can view below, she outlines how to signal that your dog is off limits and why it's so important.  

"We know how frustrating and sometimes dangerous it can be when people walk right up to your dog and try to interact with your dog without asking," DeWillems explains. 

After thinking through how best to approach this in relation to her own puppy, DeWillems trialled an idea which she was surprised to discover was super effective in getting people to leave her pup in peace during training sessions.

"We proactively put 'DO NOT PET' and 'IN TRAINING' gear on our dog before heading out for a training session where we didn't want people to interact with him and it helped so much," DeWillems says in the video.

She goes on to explain that while people would still look (after all, her puppy is adorable!), they noticed the bright 'DO NOT PET' leash and stopped themselves from reaching down to give him a pet or a cuddle.

"Sometimes it would spark conversation, sometimes it wouldn't," DeWillems explains, "But it was one helpful barrier to prevent unwanted interactions." 

While some people may still try to engage with your dog, DeWillems says the situation becomes that much easier if your pup is kitted out in clothing with a strong message that you can then use to politely yet firmly stop the interaction.

"You don’t owe anyone an explanation or an interaction. Your dog’s well-being comes first before the desires of a stranger. We know verbally advocating for your dog or telling a stranger what to do can be uncomfortable, which is all the more reason we love the physical gear to do some of the talking for us."

DeWillems goes on to state that there are so many benefits to having people ignore you and your dog when you're out and about. "Whether you're training real life skills, and the environment is distracting enough without adding in a bunch of attention from strangers, or your dog is nervous and can be reactive, advocating for your dog can be really important and having a visual to help you do that can make all the difference."

If you want to lower your dog's stress and anxiety levels during training and give their focus and engagement a boost, DeWillems tip is well worth considering. For more useful training tips, be sure to check out our guides to how to crate train a dog and how to stop a dog from jumping up

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.