Try this trainer's clever tip if your dog is obsessed with wildlife when you go walking together

Dog stood beside tree looking at squirrel
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For many dogs, wildlife can be a real distraction. From squirrels to birds to rabbits, small animals will often catch a dog’s eye, and many dog parents will know just how frustrating it can be when your pup decides they would like to chase one!

If your dog’s obsession or fascination with wildlife is having a real impact on your walks, even if you’ve got one of the best dog leashes, what can you do? 

Well, the team at Happy Dogs Training, founded by certified dog trainer and animal behavior expert Piper M Novick, have got some advice to share in a recent Instagram post. Why not give it a go?

As the team explain, we’ll often discuss the importance of reinforcing check-ins, but what if your dog won’t check in in the first place? A high prey drive in dogs, or a fascination with wildlife, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if your dog is easily distracted and won’t check in, it can be annoying at best but potentially dangerous at worst. 

In the video, trainer Benah Stiewing is working with a dog, Hazel, who has a long line in an environment where there aren’t any real safety concerns, so he doesn’t need to come when he’s called.

What Stiewing does when Hazel moves past her is step on or grab the long line. She uses the long line to restrict his access to reinforcement until he can offer engagement.

“Attention to handler equals access to environment,” they add. “Some dogs, especially those bred for hunting, are highly reinforced by their environment, and are less likely to offer check-ins naturally. To compensate for this natural propensity, we make check-ins happen!”

Hazel is so excited to run, search, and track, that it can become a little overwhelming. Once he realizes that he’s restricted, he shakes off, and actually benefits from the break. 

It’s great for your pup to have plenty of freedom on walks. Allowing them to be on a long line when it’s safe and practical to do so and letting them sniff around will provide them with plenty of physical and mental stimulation, and could improve their behavior, too. 

However, it’s important that, even if your dog doesn’t offer check-ins often, you make them happen. This might mean bringing some tasty treats with you, or one of your pup’s favorite toys. But either way, it’s important to wait until your dog offers that engagement!

If you’re struggling with your pup while they’re on a long line, you might find this article useful: Three of the most common loose leash walking mistakes (and how to fix them).

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.