A big part of my training philosophy is to get a dog used to working near and around distractions as early on as possible. While this may seem counter-intuitive at first (why would you want to train your dog in places where he is less focused?), over time it achieves great attention and work ethic in the dog.
As an Albuquerque local, I am always on the lookout for new dog training places. This post will provide you with a list of my favorites, as well as dive a little deeper in why and how you should train in public places with distractions.
Training Your Dog All Over The City Of Albuquerque
Why is this necessary? Every puppy who starts out training in public will be distracted, and possibly not a whole lot of fun to train. In fact, if you have a puppy who is not insanely curious about the world around him and trying to interact and explore everything and anything, I would be worried that something is not quite right.
Dogs are innately interested in everything, especially things/places/people that are new and unknown. (Check out the podcast to this topic: Your Dog, The Experience Junkie).
This characteristic makes it difficult (and at times near impossible) to properly train your dog while out and about. Luckily though, we can reduce the dog’s tendency to be distracted by a great deal by providing him with repeated experiences of training among distractions.
What Happens If I Don’t Do That?
If you skip training your dog in public, unfortunately a vicious cycle can develop:
Your dog is so highly excited when you finally do take him out that he might be uncontrollable. At the very least he will not be fun to handle – pulling on leash everywhere and showing no interest in you whatsoever. Perhaps he is barking and lunging, too.
Since this is no fun, you then take him out less often. The next time he is in public, it will have already become a rare occurrence for him and therefore even more exciting. He will behave even worse…and so on.
Rarity Leads To Obsession
For every dog (and probably many other animals), having highly restricted access to resources can lead to obsession. This is a natural process: The dog realizes that there is something he can only have very little of, and he tries to make use of it as fully as he can when it is finally his chance.
Another example of this are dogs that love to eat little scraps of fruit or vegetables while you are cooking. While they might not choose to eat a slice of cauliflower if they were given it in a training situation (what a disappointing reward!), seeing their owner cut up the vegetable on the counter and knowing it is a rare and special treat will make dogs compete for the first bite!
Quantity Over Quality
When it comes to training in public, it is quantity over quality. You could have the best training skills in the world – as long as you do not use them regularly and consistently, your dog will not improve his public behavior much. Once a week will not be enough for your dog to learn that being in public places is common and no big deal.
Ideally you want to aim for a bit of an outing every 2 days!
How Long Should Public Training Last?
The good news is that while it needs to happen frequently, training out and about does not need to be time-intensive. On the contrary, staying too long during your outings might burn your dog out. After all, being among many people, noises and distractions wears him out mentally!
Even 15 minutes will be sufficient if you take care to train in public frequently. Once a week for 15 minutes will not be enough – but going every day or every other day for that time frame will make a big difference in your dog’s behavior within a few weeks.
I Don’t Have Much Time…
If your schedule is packed and time is limited, your public trips don’t always need to go to special destinations. Even walking down the street to your neighborhood park, a nearby post office or coffee shop will get your dog used to behaving well among people and distractions. Again, quantity over quality – even a trip to your neighbor next door is better than staying at home for your dog’s training.
What Should I Take With Me?
When training out and about, you want to be prepared! Here is a list of things to pack:
- Collar/harness, leash and potentially a long line
You need to be able to physically control your dog of course, so pack his collar or harness and leash. If you have been training more in public and are ready to transition to some more freedom for your dog, also take a long line that will allow you to let him range a little further in locations such as parks and open spaces.
Take a lot of treats. When you think you packed enough, pack some more. You do not want to be in a situation where your dog is doing really well paying attention to you and then you run out of treats and therefore possibilities to reward and show him how well he is doing!
Small, chewy treats are best. Do not use large, crunchy treats such as milkbones or big dog cookies. They interrupt the flow of training, drop a lot of crumbs and some dogs don’t even like them enough to eat them in public.
- Water and bowl
It gets hot in Albuquerque summer – make sure to take some water for your dog if it looks like temperatures will be high. Dogs cannot sweat and have to rely on panting to regulate their body temperature. If they do not have enough water, they will overheat. Especially if your dog has a darker color and/or a thick coat, make sure that he does not get too hot and only take him to shaded areas during the hottest hours of the day.
- Poop bags
Of course, make sure you carry poop bags for potential accidents. This does not only apply to when you are heading to a park! Dogs poop in many locations.
One of my day training clients used to have the habit of pooping straight in the doorway of Home Depot whenever we went there to train in public. I quickly learned to take poop bags and wipes and make sure she went before going in (but even then she often managed to squeeze out a little more…).
Another Word About Heat…
Albuquerque gets hot. We tend to underestimate how warm it really is for our dogs because we have one big advantage: shoes. Dogs’ paws are prone to getting burns on our pavement during the summer as our intense sunlight heats it up rapidly.
Before taking your dog out on a walk, take off your shoe and test for yourself whether the pavement is comfortable to stand on. Please also note that different surfaces will heat up at different rates: a grey sidewalk will be less hot than black asphalt, and that will be less hot than a metal surface. Dogs don’t always show pain very well so do not rely on your dog to tell you when the surface gets too hot!
As a rule of thumb, in the summer months the pavement is usually too hot for dogs between 11am and 3pm.
Does Your Dog Not Take Treats In Public?
Now you are ready – you got everything packed and want to take your dog out and about. However, he refuses all the treats you want to feed him! This is an issue as we do not really have anything to offer our dog if he refuses to take treats. Furthermore, by not eating our cookies and instead engaging with the world around him he learns that this is an option: Ignoring you and paying attention to everything else instead.
You do not want this to happen! Here is a video explaining how to help your dog enjoy your treats anywhere:
If this does not work and he still refuses to eat your treats, you want to move away to a less distracting situation and place where your dog is able to interact with you.
But now, let’s get to our list of dog training destinations in Albuquerque!
Here are some parks of the city that are fantastic places to train your dog. I use many of them – for my clients as well as my own dogs!
Located near Downtown, this park does not feel like our Albuquerque desert at all. Huge trees providing a lot of shade, rolling hills and lush grass make this a wonderful place to relax with and train your dog.
This park is frequented by disc golfers – so if your dog is motion-sensitive and reacts strongly to flying frisbees, make sure you keep him out of the way of players.
On weekends this is often a place for birthday parties. If your dog needs to be around people and the occasional other dog, Roosevelt Park is a great location for training.
Sister Cities Park
This park is located in near Academy in Northeast Albuquerque. It has a lot of shade in the summer and great visibility – you can see the whole park from any place. This is a great place for training dogs that might be reactive to others dogs as you will be able to tell when a dog appears far away in the distance, probably way before your own dog sees it. Being proactive and scanning your environment is important when you have a reactive dog!
There is also a playground which can be a novel distraction for dogs, especially the ones that do not live with children.
Academy Hills Park
Another park in northeast Albuquerque, this one offers less shade and is a better choice for early mornings, evenings or the cooler months. It is very big and again offers great visibility for reactive dogs. The incline (the whole park runs up a hill) makes for a fun workout for dog and owner, as well as giving your dog a novel coordination and body awareness challenge (in our day-to-day life our dogs rarely have to walk on anything else than even ground).
Here is a fun game you can play at the park with your dog:
Not a lot of stores allow dogs, but there are some that do. They are a great place to take your dog during hot summer months (or very cold winter weather). Make sure to keep an eye out for other people – your dog should not attempt to sniff every stranger’s crotch and shoes. Only let him greet the ones who are open to it!
Hardware stores welcome dogs and they are a fantastic place for socializing and training your dog in public.With their large floor plans you can walk your dog for quite a while, even by just taking each aisle once. The variety of scents (wood, plants, flooring etc.) is interesting for your dog. If you find some empty pallets, you can encourage your dog to step up on them as a trick.
Watch out that your dog does not mark in the store. Some dogs also pee when they feel stressed or nervous. Keep your eye on the dog at all times!
Pet stores usually allow dogs to come in. If you are headed to the pet store anyway to pick up some food or chew items, make it an adventure and take your dog along!
Again, keep an eye out for marking behaviors. Most pet stores have little clean-up stations with wipes as dogs tend to have accidents inside frequently. It is best to avoid them though, of course.
Get a special treat for your dog on the way out to make the experience extra positive and fun for him!
Nothing is better than taking your dog with you to have a cup of coffee, a cool beer or a nice meal. There are a number of restaurants with dog-friendly patios around Albuquerque that are perfect for training your dog in public. When first taking your dog, you might want to take a chew or filled Kong along with you, so that he has something to do while you relax.
(Some dogs get bored quickly and voice their opinion about whether you should get going again!)
The more often you go and the more often your dog experiences that he can just lie down and relax, the more natural this will become for him. In order to build these good habits right from the start, make sure that your dog does not rehearse being obnoxious – we do not want him to associate being at a patio with barking and jumping around.
You can also take a blanket or mat that your dog associates with calmness to further help him chill.
Everyone in Albuquerque knows Flying Star and the great food they serve. Now you can enjoy alongside your dog! The restaurants are very dog-friendly and not only allow dogs on their patios, but also offer them water and a treat.
Check out the locations on Rio Grande and Coors, close to the river. They are a great place to go after you have taken your dog for a hike in the Bosque or a swim in the Rio Grande river.
Here are some places that do not fit the other categories.
Uptown is not just fancy and neat, but also a fantastic place to get your dog out and about among shoppers.
You can start out during on weekday mornings when there is hardly anyone there and your dog can get used to being at this new place. Uptown gets busier on weekday afternoons and of course on weekends. You will probably see some other owners training their dogs then as well!
I like to get my dogs a Puppucino at Starbucks (a cup of whipped cream) after walking around as the “grand finale” of the outing.
During Christmas time Uptown is extra busy, you can train there at that time for maximum exposure to distractions!
We are lucky to have a beautiful stripe of nature right in the middle of Albuquerque. The Bosque offers many miles of hiking trails and river shoreline for your dog to play in. You can use a long line for your dog’s swimming adventures to make sure that you do not loose him. Watch out for water fowl – many dogs enjoy chasing those but should not be allowed to.
The airport offers many novel surfaces, sounds, scents and sights. Has your dog ever used an elevator? Has he every seen an escalator? How about the baggage claim? Take him to the airport when picking up friends and family that come to visit you, or just because for a fun outing.
Many dogs are quite timid the first time there as it is a very different environment from what they are used to. Do not force your dog to do anything he is uncomfortable with and use many treats (and, if he likes them, toys) to show him that this place is not so scary after all.
What About Dog Parks?
Dog parks are a difficult topic. There is no definite answer to the question whether or not you should bring your dog to a dog park. It depends on your dog, the park you want to take him to, and even constantly changing factors such as the other dogs at the park, the time of the day etc.
Here are some key elements to take into consideration:
Your Dog’s Social Skills
Dog parks are full of young, energetic, bold dogs. Few people take their older, slower couch potatoes to the dog park. Typically, the “wildest gang” at the park will consist of dogs under 3 years old that are highly motivated to play, run and romp.
Your dog should not be offended by this. While it is questionable whether the young dogs should behave as boldly and – at times – rudely as they do, there is nothing you as an owner can do to change their behavior. It is your call to assess whether your own dog will feel ok with this, or if he will react in a snarly way. There are many socially very well adjusted dogs that are not happy in a dog park. They do not appreciate being jumped on or constantly motivated to play. This is normal for an adult dog and he does not need to feel good in a dog park – if he does not, just do not go there.
If however he enjoys a wild play time every now and then, go for it.
The Other Dogs At The Park
As we already said, other dogs at the dog park will be wild and rambunctious. Some dog parks however have better groups of dogs than others. Typically, dog parks that are frequented by the same people have a group of dogs that function well together. They have already figured out each other’s rules and play preferences, and they also see each other enough to not be completely over the top every time they get together.
These parks will likely be a better place to take your dog (and perhaps integrate him into the dog park group) than parks that have no groups and constantly changing dogs. Every new meeting with another dog can be a little stressful for your dog, so if all he does at the dog park is introducing himself to other dogs he may not enjoy himself as much. Dogs like consistency and predictability.
The Time Of The Day
Some owners take their dogs to the dog park after the dog has spent all day at home while the owner was at work. These dogs tend to be a bit over the top – especially if they were crated – as they just waited the whole day to finally get out and run! I do not recommend taking your dog to the dog park during the evening hours for the first couple times you go. During the day (or in the morning) dog parks tend to have lower energy level than it night.
The smaller the park, the less space the dogs have to remove themselves from situations that might escalate and use their body language appropriately. Parks that have a lot of corners or narrow passages are also not ideal as dogs might feel trapped and lash out. The more spacious the park, the better.
Now you are all ready to go and start training your dog out and about in Albuquerque.
Have fun, and happy training!