Q: I have two Shetland Sheepdogs that refuse to walk whenever I take them out of the house. Every time I try to train them or help them get used to the outside environment, I end up having to carry them throughout our trip. Is this normal behaviour for Shelties? What can I do to teach them that it’s fun to play outdoors?
A: Shetland sheepdogs in general are very good companion dogs, pleasant temperament and highly sensitive to noises. Having said, given their small stature, owners have a tendency to shelter them and they end up inadequately socialised. Shetland sheepdogs are highly intelligent dogs as well thus they can learn fairly quickly from peers and senior members of the pack. Do not be too ready to just scoop the dogs up every time they refuse to walk, always be patient as they will adapt and make progress.
Given that you have two Shetland Sheepdogs, it is critical that you identify the more confident dog of the two. Start with one dog and this works to your advantage as you begin to build up their confidence. In addition, always look at the environment that may be causing your dog to panic and freeze, you may wish to choose a more tranquil environment.
A good practice begins at home; watch how you manage your dog on a leash. Observe your dog’s reaction and take note of their body language; head up high, forehead, ears and tail relaxed. Walking your dog on a leash can be practiced at home too. Walk one dog at a time, making sure that you put some structure in your walk, 15mins non-stop. Avoid being harsh with the leash and ignore any misbehaviour by keeping quiet, praise only when your dog walks nicely and confidently by your side. Another important element, never rush. As you stop, physically make your dog sit, proceed with walking when your dog is calm.
Plan your home practice carefully with stages; walking towards the open door but not through it; stopping at the door and sitting; taking a step through the door and coming back; increase the distance through the door. With patience and perfect practice, you should be walking your dog outdoors very soon. If unsure, feel free to consult your canine behaviourist trainer for desired results.