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Why Doesn’t My Dog Behave in Public?

Dog chasing after tennis ball


Does your normally well-behaved dog turn into a crazed ball of fur as soon as you take them somewhere? It can be embarrassing when your dog won't behave in public. You probably feel like you might as well not take them anywhere, but what if your pup could be good?

If your dog is well-behaved at home but not in public, it could be due to lack of socialization, inconsistent training, or anxiety. Your dog's senses could also be overloaded by their new surroundings. It's important to set your pup up for success by training them early and in various situations.

Training a Dog

Reasons Your Dog Misbehaves in Public

It can be confusing when your dog starts acting like a wild child outside, yet they're so good at home. But before you get too frustrated, take a deep breath. It's not your dog's fault.

There are several reasons your dog could struggle to behave in public. Once you discover your pup's reason, you can start to change their behavior.

1. Your Dog Doesn't Know How to Act in Public

Your dog isn't trying to embarrass you on purpose. Promise. Fido might not know how they're supposed to behave in public.

If you've never taught them how to act when you're in different locations, they won't know what to do. Distractions and unfamiliar surroundings can make it tough for your dog to focus. Anything they learn while in the comfort of home can fly out the window once in public.

Also, if you haven't taken your dog to many places or exposed them to different situations, they'll likely act out in public. Proper socialization is a big part of raising a happy and well-behaved pup.

2. There Are Too Many Distractions for Your Dog

If your dog isn't used to going places, when you do take them somewhere, it can be an intense experience for them. Suddenly, your dog sees all sorts of new things, especially other dogs and people. 

Your pup also gets a hearty helping of all kinds of new and exciting smells and new sounds. All of these different experiences can overload your dog's senses. It can be a bit too much for an unfamiliar pup.

Pretty soon, your dog can't take it anymore. Your dog wants to get up close with every dog, meet every person, and investigate every sound and smell. Therefore, they start barking like crazy, pulling on their leash, and wanting to go everywhere at once.

3. Being in Public Could Stress Your Dog Out

Depending on your dog's personality,  instead of wanting to check everything out, they could be scared. When they're in a brand new situation, many dogs experience anxiety. This is especially the case with dogs that were not properly socialized when they were young. This stress results in a dog that might bark or misbehave because they're fearful. 

When your dog is scared, they might get overly excited, hyperactive, and have difficulty focusing. They might even freeze, refusing to go another step. Another possibility is your stress is making your dog act excitable or tense. If you tense up when you’re out in public with your dog because you fear the worst, this can backfire on you.

4. Maybe Your Dog Isn't as Well Trained as You Think

Another possible reason for your dog's undesirable behavior in public is that they aren't as well trained as you think. You might think they follow your commands well, but do they really respond consistently?

Have you tried delivering commands in different situations? Be realistic about your pup's abilities. It might be that some further training is necessary. If you’re unsure about your abilities to train your dog properly, you can find a professional trainer to work with.

Giving your dog a treat

Tips for Taking Your Dog Out in Public

Keeping these reasons for your dog's public mishaps in mind, here are a few ways to improve the situation. 

Practice Everywhere

When training your dog, make sure to practice in a variety of settings. You can start out at home with limited distractions. But once your pup performs commands consistently, change the environment slightly. 

You could try a few sessions in your front yard to start. Then, once your dog performs consistently there, perhaps try a public park. Then, you can work up to places like an outdoor restaurant, store, and other locations.

Socialize Your Dog Early 

It’s important to socialize your dog early to maximize their ability to adjust to various situations. Before 14 to 16 weeks of age is when it’s most critical for puppies to undergo socialization experiences. Bring your pup to the pet shop, a dog-friendly store, the park, a friend’s house, etc. 

If you don’t take your dog anywhere, how can you expect them to miraculously behave in public? However, if you miss this critical time period, it’s not too late. You just need to be cognizant of easing your dog into new situations.

Keep Public Outings Short and Sweet in the Beginning

If you’re just starting out to train your pup how to behave in public, start out simple. Keep your outings brief to maximize the potential for good behavior. Also, keep your distance from other people and dogs so you don't overwhelm your pup.

As your dog has success, you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend out and about. Make sure to have treats on hand to reward desired behavior promptly. You want to catch your dog being good so you can mark the behavior immediately.

Up the Ante with Positive Rewards 

Since positive praise and rewards are essential to helping your dog learn desired behaviors, make sure you pick some good ones. When a dog is out in public, distractions can make it harder for them to focus. You might even find your dog is too excited to pay attention to the treat in your hand. 

Therefore, really up the ante with some irresistible rewards.  Find something your dog absolutely goes ga-ga over that you don’t give them all the time. Reserve these extra-special treats for public outings only. 

Bring along a distraction if you’re going somewhere where you expect your pup to remain calm and still for an extended period (like an outdoor restaurant). You can give your dog a lick mat or an interactive toy to keep them engaged and entertained.

Stay Calm and Be Patient

As with any type of training, staying patient, positive, calm, and consistent will pay you back in spades. Eventually, your dog will understand what you expect of them, and they’ll start to act accordingly. 

Likewise, remain calm and casual when you take your dog out in public. Remember, pups can pick up on their owners’ stress, which can make them act in less-than-desirable ways.

Are you ready to take your dog out for a day on the town? When you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be enjoying an outdoor patio lunch with your pup in no time. Check out our blog to find all sorts of valuable resources on taking care of your pets. It’s all about educating yourself so you can give your pets the very best.

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