Using a “U-Turn” to Leave Trouble Behind

Excerpted from Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen London, Ph.D

A “U-Turn” is a great tool to have in your training repertoire. A U-Turn is exactly what it sounds like: You and your dog are walking forward, and on your cue, you both instantly turn 180 degrees and move in the opposite direction. Your dog turns because he knows your cue means: “Quick! We’re going to play the turn-around-really-fast-and-go-the-other-way game!” Your dog doesn’t turn because he hits the end of the leash. That would increase the tension and could elicit the very behavior you’re trying to avoid. He turns because he knows the game, hears the cue and almost without thinking, wheels away from trouble.

Like Watch, the action itself is simple, but it needs to be mastered to be truly useful. And like Watch, a U-Turn is another behavior that is incompatible with your dog barking, lunging or stiffening. A U-Turn differs from a Watch cue in that you use it when you know your dog will be too aroused to perform a Watch or has already barked or lunged at another dog. The goal of a U-Turn is to get you out of sticky situations, and if you and your dog master both the Watch and the U-Turn, you’ll be able to handle most of the situations that life can throw at you.

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