I personally have never had a dog who reacts towards skateboards. However, many of my friends have had this issue with their dogs and since I live in downtown Toronto, a day does not go by in the spring, summer and fall where I don’t see a dog freak out as a skateboard rolls by. Dogs being reactive to skateboards is common since skateboards seem to pop out everywhere there is pavement.
While some dogs see a skateboard and react with their prey drive, others react in fear. A number of factors make dogs anxious towards skateboards. The wheels hitting the pavement make a unique sound that is loud and sounds a bit like a growl. Skateboards move fast and usually have a stranger on top of them moving in a very unusual way.
Because I have been asked for advice on this issue by a number of dog owning friends, here are my tips and techniques that I would use to help your dog become more comfortable around skateboards. I must mention that all dogs, whether comfortable around or reactive towards skateboards, must be leashed while in the presence of them as accidents can easily happen injuring both the dog and rider.
Please note that I am not a certified dog trainer. I’m simply an experienced owner and Canadian Kennel Club member. In this blog, I’m sharing the techniques I would use to help a dog overcome their issues with skateboards. Certain cases may have to involve a professional dog trainer or behaviourist.
An easy way to save yourself a lot of trouble (and some embarrassment) is to socialize your young puppy to skateboards. Let them have a sniff while the board isn’t in motion, then you’re your hand to move it around in front of them, and eventually get on it yourself and show them the object is nothing to be afraid of.
Avoid at first
Initially, the first thing I would do in making a dog less fearful of skateboards is to avoid them at first. Stay away from busy streets, green areas with skate parks and paved school yards. I would keep treats on me during walks so that I could pleasantly and easily change directions if I saw a skateboarder coming by.
Introducing the board
While avoiding skateboards out in public, I would YouTube the sound of a skateboard rolling on pavement. While remaining completely calm, I would start with the volume low and increase it slightly. With treats and calm praise, I would reward my dog for remaining in a peaceful state.
Once the sound is eliciting no more reactions from the dog, I would borrow a skateboard and bring it in the house. Without moving it – I would allow my dog to check the board out. First, I would leave it upside down with the wheels up and then flip it over. Once these two steps were going well, I would then put treats on the skateboard while it is still. Then I would eventually begin to move it in the home and then outside on the driveway or on the deck.
Change the association
Once you have very patiently tried to desensitize your dog to skateboards, you’ll want to get out in public and begin to change the association. It’s important to mention how important a confident state of mind is while walking or training your dog. Nerves go right through the lead, so be calm and collected while out in public. If you’re nervously awaiting your dog to freak out, they will feel it. It’s important to have a “we got this” attitude.
You might have noticed while out walking your dogs that some owners are giving their dogs treats as they pass you. Chances are these owners have learned a dog training trick which is to change the association. Instead of barking at other dogs these dogs have learned to look to their owner for a treat when passing by. This also can work when it comes to a dog reacting to a skateboard.
I’d get my hands on some treats my dog really loves and then get a friend or family member to work with you on the skateboard. To begin, I would keep the skateboard as good distance away and start giving the treats. Day by day, improvement by improvement I would get the skateboarder to come closer and closer. This part takes time, don’t try to rush your dog. If a freak out happened, I wouldn’t get discouraged, I would just have the skateboard take a few steps back and we would try again.
With some tricks, treats and loads of patience, you can get your dog to tolerate skateboards. Just remember to keep your head up, your pocket full of treats and that this process takes time so be patient.