Does your dog hate skateboards? If your dog was not introduced in a positive way to skateboards and other loud moving things with wheels when he was young, he’s likely to lunge and bark at them when he is older. Most dogs, especially the working breeds, are sensitive to noise, movement, and things entering their territory. Skateboards make lots of erratic sounds that build up quickly. And they often carry loud and unfamiliar young men. So, its understandable that to a dog that they are scary. They can also be exciting to the dog who loves to chase things. But that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying or even dangerous.
What can you do about your dog’s skateboard reactivity?
Start early. The best thing you can do is introduce your dog to skateboards when he is avery young puppy following the steps below. These will also work with an older dog. It will just take longer and require higher value rewards.
Make Skateboards Familiar and Fun. Get a skateboard. Put it where you dog can see it, approach it, sniff it, and even stand on it. Then, go get some great treats or a fabulous bone (fabulous like a marrow bone or a chicken-stuffed kong). Roll the board around while he is chewing the bone. Move the board around while you and the dog practice sits (and use great treats). Put yummy treats on the skateboard where he can get them. You want him to thinks the skateboard predicts great things. Put the away when you are not using for training. Sequence is important — board comes out first, treats come later.
Be the reward. My dog is happy when she hears skateboards coming. Why? Because they bring one of her favorite things to her — my son.
So, try this if you are physically up to it. Go outside. Find a friend to hold your dog on a leash. Then go down the block where your dog can’t see you. Then, ride a skateboard to him! If you aren’t a skater, don’t ride it, just push it along or drag it on a string. But make sure you are making some skateboard noise! Don’t talk while you approach, but when you start getting close enough for your dog to see you and the board, leave the skate board behind and say hi to your dog and give him the best praise and treats. Your dog may not recognize you at first (dogs have much worse distance eyesight than we do, generally— 20 feet is far for them) so when you get to your dog slow down, and give him a chance to see that its you on the board. Gradually get closer to your dog with the board. Do this with any of his favorite people. You will have to repeat this many times but gradually your dog will change his feeling about skateboards.
Practice sits, look at that and turn and go’s. Your dog needs to learn what you want him to do when skateboards are around. Get that skateboard of yours and start practicing sits near it. Then make it harder. Have a friend roll the skateboard past you the dog while the dog sits, continuously giving him treats in the sit position and tell him he’s a good dog. If the dog cannot maintain his sit you are rolling to skateboard too close to him, your treats are not good enough, or he is not hungry! Unfortunately, sit isn’t always fun for dogs or people — it requires a lot of self control, which many dogs do not have. So you can also teach your dog to play games when skateboards are around. You can teach your dog to touch your hand, for example. If you want to get even more advanced teach your dog the “look at that” game. This game teaches the dog to look at something and then look back at you for reward. It’s a game that helps him relax around things that make him excited or scared.
Management. If your dog is too much to handle around skateboards, try walking him where and when he will not see them. Go behind a bush or tree or cross the street if you need to. The “turn and go” (a fast u-turn) is an on-leash behavior that every person and every dog who walk in an urban environment should know. The ASPCA has a great write up on this skill. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/teaching-your-dog-do-u-turn. You may also try using head collar or front-clip harness to give you greater ability to handle your dog.
Protect your dog. Ask skateboarders to pick up their boards and give you some distance. Use a happy voice when you do – if you are angry about skateboards your dog will probably know it and be angry too.
Counter conditioning and desensitization. These terms come from psychology and describe how you get your dog to like things that he hates and how to get him used to things so that they don’t bother him. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/desensitization-and-counterconditioning — exactly what your dog needs to get over his skateboarding issues.