Each year the number of dogs involved in road traffic accidents increases. This is in part due to the increase in cars on the road, but could be significantly reduced if owners could find a way to ensure that their dog ‘knew’ the dangers posed on our roads.
Sadly dogs will never be able to understand these dangers and unfortunately, dogs do slip the lead, jump the fence or make use of an open door to get too close to the road. But you can train your dog to simply not go near the road.
This can be done by you starting to walk five feet from the street with your dog heeling at your side. As you walk toward the street, give no indication that you are going to stop. What you want to happen is for your dog to automatically stop and sit, since he recognizes this as a street even though you continue to walk past the curb and out on the street. When you do stop, both of your feet are on the street though your puppy is sitting at the curb.
You need to give yourself some leash room because you are increasing your speed as you move into the street - so you're adding a little more distance between you and your puppy. You are adding more leash because you don't want to inadvertently jerk your dog onto the street.
If your dog follows you onto the street, turn around and pop the leash and issue a “stay” command. Later you can control him if he starts to enter the street by quickly turning around and issuing the “stay” command. Practice this on as many street corners as possible where safe. As your dog begins to identify streets on his own, you will notice that he will stop at driveways as well.
Next as you take your training further, you will step even further out into the street - a full car width away from the curb. Also at this level, you can drop the leash from your hands; however, make sure the leash is just in front of your feet so that you can quickly step on it just in case your puppy decides to bolt across the street.
You can use a ten-foot leash for this level - with a longer lead you can more easily step on it if your pup starts to run away. Make sure that you only practice this in a safe place, perhaps somewhere where you can see a good length each way down the road, ideally with traffic calming measures.
You want your puppy to get used to the idea that you are standing even further into the street and that he can't join you unless you give the command to bring him to your side and sit. If he follows you onto the street, don't panic or react with fear by screaming at him. This is a new exercise and his instinct will be to stay at your side.
Stay calm. Turn this mistake into a positive training session. Direct him back to the curb while you say "Back" as you initiate your movement backward with your left foot while your left hand chops the leash toward your waist. When his front paws hit the curb, say "Street," and when his hind legs hit the curb say "Sit."
Once your puppy is safely back on the curb, then step back out onto the street a full car width away from the curb. Because this exercise adds distance from your pup, he will increase his focus on you. This is what you want - to be seen as the leader of your pack on the street.
This exercise is not only good for dogs, but for owners as well. Many owners are nervous being in the street with their dog, so they tend to rush across the street. But rushing across the street sends a bad message to your dog. He is learning that it's okay to blindly rush across the street. And if he does it with you, he will do it on his own someday if he gets loose from you.
You can never guarantee that your dog won’t slip his lead or chase a cat whilst out walking, but being in the knowledge that you can control his behaviour in relation to roads with the power of your voice and good training rather than having to go running after him, could be the difference between putting your training to the test or a nasty accident.