I can´t emphasize enough the importance of the walk. As you can see from my previous blogs you can understand that walking your dog correctly is crucial for a harmonious relationship. Here is the WHY:
Did you know that If you master the walk you´ve done 80% of your dog training homework?
Walking your pup is much more than just a way of exercising FIDO. It´s the best way to bond with your pup, stops him or her from getting bored, it’s a behavior training opportunity, and it teaches your dog how to behave in canine company. It also prevents a lot of problems from happening.
There are two ways you can walk your pup:
- With a loose leash and communicating gently
- With a tense leash and communicating by pulling, yanking and/or dragging.
I will focus on the first one in this blog.
Walking your pup with a loose leash and presenting the outside world in a relaxed and confident manner is the foundation of a strong relationship of love, trust and respect. Your pup will view the world in a relaxed and confident state of mind. He or she will also learn to trust and listen to you on a daily basis and in a relaxed manner.
“What you practice is what you become.” – note: Not who you are, but what you become.
The truth of the matter is that you walk your dog EVERY day and several times a day! or you should! That´s a lot of practice, so you need to get this right.
A good walk not only provides exercise. It also provides structure, mental engagement and socialization.
Note: Going for a sniff is not the same as going for a walk. There is no exercise or mental engagement involved when you go for a sniff. Don´t get me wrong, sniffing and exploring it´s an important activity for your pup, but there is no skill involved here. You can actually use going for sniff it as a reward after a structured walk.
Going for a sniff is like you hanging out with your friends in a bar or a coffee hang. You are definitely not exercising your body and most probably not exercising your mind either. It´s great to hang, but unless you are the DUDE, there are other skills you want to become good and engage with. Actually, even DUDE has some kind of structure and discipline playing bowling!!!
Going for a walk means going from point A to point B with no tension on the leash and without stopping, unless your pup needs ¨to go¨ of course. (pee pee or pu pu) not marking. don´t aloud your pup to mark every 30 seconds. Keep a nice flow and rhythm when you walk.
When does the walk start?
The walk actually starts when you grab the leash or take the first action to go for a walk with your pup. Why is this important? This is important because at that moment your a setting up the terms of the walk.
If you put a lot of excitement because you want your dog to be happy, expect exactly that: A LOT OF EXCITEMENT. hmm so you create a lot of excitement and then you restrain him with a leash?? Can you see where this is going to lead? Yep, pulling, barking, lunging …Think about it, you are going for a walk not to herd sheep. If you put out a lot excitement and then you restrain him or her with the leash, you are actually sending your pup to failure. Remember: THE WALK IS A CALM ACTIVITY.
A leash should mean relaxation and self control, not excitement and craziness. It´s a skill and a mindset on you and your pup. It´s simple: what you give is what you get back. See blog on Leash Communication
Now is this a rule that you should never break? Not really, because it´s not a rule, it´s just awareness. If you want your dog to get excited and to pull because you are in a search and rescue job, that’s what you do. But if you want a calm walk for you and your pup, set it up for success right from the beginning.
Mastering the walk will give you access to walk your pup with other dogs. This is a great opportunity to help your pup learn acceptable ways of socially interacting with them! THE EASIER WAY FOR DOGS TO BOND IS BY WALKING TOGETHER. They become a team!
Not mastering the walk and communicating with constant tension on the leash by pulling, yanking, and dragging can lead to Leash Aggression, which I will talk about in the next blog.
Also note that heeling is not the same as walking and has nothing to do with leash commination. Heeling is a ¨Dog Training¨ command which usually involves food or some kind of prey drive toy to keep your dog at all times on your side with no leash. It actually brings excitement into the picture and puts your dog into ¨working mode¨. It´s a great command, but I´ve seen too many times dogs that heel perfectly well and still have leash aggression. Do not get confused with this two different activities.
To wrap it up, I´d like to give this analogy of looking at leash communication as of ground work with horses. The difference is that with horses we need to learn the skill because they are ten times stronger than us. With dogs I´ve seen too many times people just avoiding the problem by putting a harness and restraining their pup by force. Your pup will not listen to you just becuase you are stronger. This might take care of liability (human problem), but it doesn´t take care of your pup´s problem, which is the tension on the leash.
I hope this will help you on your next walk.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, October 2017
Today is all about how to communicate with the leash and how to prevent and fix leash aggression.
How you grab and communicate with your pup through the leash is very important. Before you even touch the leash you should be aware and in control of your body and mental state of mind.
Acknowledge that a leash should mean relaxation not excitement. If your dog has this wrong you need to fix it. When you put the leash on your dog you are restraining his or her movements. Getting your pup all excited and then restraining him/her with the leash it doesn’t make any sense, yet a lot of people do it.
When you grab the leash you should be relaxed, confident and looking forward to a calm and pleasant activity with your dog. Here is how you can achieve this:
Call your dog. Make sure your pup comes to you instead of you going to him/her. Use a treat or a toy if you need to. Once he/she comes ask him or her to relax. Depends in the pup this might take a little bit of time.
When your dog is relaxed put the leash on.
Make sure there is never tension on the leash. Keep the leash loose at all times and if your dog decides to pull, do a tug to the side to break his or her balance.
When you do this use your dog´s energy not your´s. This way you will be able to do it with your wrist or even with fingers instead of yanking him/her using your whole arm. You achieve this by pulling a little bit to the side.
Do not yank or be forceful. Remember this has nothing to do with strength. Don´t pull him/her backwards and never maintain tension. Every time you do a gentle tug you have to relax when he/she stops. Is a tension-release move, not a tension-tension restrain. Your dog will not listen to you just because you are stronger.
NEVER REWARD FOR PULLING!
Ex: Don´t let your pup sniff something because he/she pulled. Or don’t let your pup greet another dog because he/she is pulling.
If you do, you will be teaching your pup that pulling gets them what they want. This kind of inconsistency creates a lot of confusion and stress in your pup, because sometimes you reward pulling and sometimes you get mad for doing so.
This type of human behavior is what creates leash aggression. And Leash aggression is always created by humans.
Remember that Leash Communication is a skill on you not on your dog. If you are not in control of yourself you won´t be able to control your dog.
As Plato said: “The first and greatest victory is to conquer self. To be conquered by self is of all things the most shameful and vile”
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, October 2017
I make hundreds of visits to people’s homes every year to help them with their dogs. There was one in particular that I will never forget.
Although I live in NYC, this time I was in LA, at the Pacific Palisades.
Her name was Rochelle and she had three dogs: a German Shepherd and two Vizlas. The main problem was stranger human aggression with the German Shepherd.
In other words, I can get bitten.
Rochelle explained that she’d worked with 3 other dog trainers already and they all literally gave up on Ellwood, the German Shepherd.
It took some guts to say “Yes, I can help!”
But I knew I could.
So, when I get there and I ring the bell the two Vizlas start barking and running towards me after she opens a glass sliding door. If you think that was the problem you are wrong.
Two seconds later she walks out the door with Ellwood, lounging, barking and pulling the leash full force towards me dragging the poor lady.
While I´m taking care of the Vizlas, and she is getting dragged by Ellwood which is clearly trying to eat me for breakfast, she starts shouting at me: “ As you can see I have a problem”.
I thought to myself: YEAH!, no kiddin´ you have a problem!
Anyways, I told her to walk back to her house with Elwood. And as soon as he relaxed a little bit, I didn´t wait one second, I got the leash and took him for a walk.
It literally took him 5 minutes to relax and trust me. And this is not me saying it, this is Rochelle´s comment:
I quote. “OMG! After 5 minutes with Gabriel, Ellwood was behaving and listening to Gabriel…”
That´s how important a simple walk can be.
After that, the training session went very smooth and we could work on Ellwood. Rochelle picked up pretty fast on the training and it was life changing for her and for her family:
Two weeks later I received an email from her:
“ … Gabriel you are truly a God send for Ellwood and my family. I no longer just write Ellwood off as the worst dog ever. He is the best dog ever! Thank you Gabriel! For everything. Ellwood, the girls and my husband thank you too. We have a quiet house with no more barking and shouting”
Get the important things right and the rest will sort itself out.
And that’s how powerful a simple walk can be. There is no magic here, but there is knowledge and deep understanding of how to bond with a dog. I use this technique over and over again with very problematic dogs and it always works.
Note: What you will learn here it´s way more than just dog training. You´d be amazed how much personal and spiritual growth you can gain by understanding the relationship with your dog by just knowing how to walk!!
I will be posting more blogs about how to walk your pup and the importance of doing it right!
I hope this brings you more dog wisdom and awareness in your relationship with FIDO.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, 2017
What does a wagging tail mean? Difference between excited dog and happy dog.
This is one of the most simple concepts which for some reason dog parents struggle more often than not.
What does a wagging tail mean?
A wagging tail means simply excitement. And excitement means excitement.
Let me put it in a different way so you can understand where I´m coming from. Excitement doesn’t mean happiness.
Your dog can be excited insecure, excited nervous, excited dominant, excited anxious, excited aggressive, excited overwhelmed, excited fixated, excited obsessed and of course excited happy. But your dog can also be happy and calm or happy and in control or happy and out of control. This last one usually doesn´t last very long. When your dog gets out of control the happiness usually vanishes soon because he/she will get in trouble.
So again, excitement is excitement and happiness is happiness.
Let’s start with a big missconception in regards of reading your dog´s body language. Wagging tail means excitement not happiness. Your dog can be wagging his or her tail and start an attack or a fight. Your dog can be wagging his or her tail and be fixated or obsessed with something, resulting in self injury, excessive barking or simply pure insanity. And of course your dog can be wagging his or her tail and be happy too. So just know and acknowledge that wagging tail means simply excitement.
Don’t assume that because you see a wagging tail means a dog is friendly or happy.
Besides from preventing fights or aggression, which are a lot of times started because we (humans) didn’t take care of the excitement before the fight, there are other issues and unwanted behaviors that are caused because of uncontrolled excitement. Such as jumping, excessive barking, nipping, pulling on the leash, leash aggression, destructive behavior, nagging, rough playing I could go on.
I see a lot of dog parents or even trainers using food to control their dog´s excitement. For example when jumping on guests or walking their dogs on a leash Here is the thing, food gets your dog excited. Redirecting excitement with food is not getting to the route of the problem. I also see dog parents correcting or punishing their dogs for jumping or pulling on the leash. Excitement is not something to be punished for either.
The only way to control excitement is with calmness. I won´t get into a lot of details here because I’ve covered this in other blogs. Check out: The Secret or Respect and Trust. But I´ll give you a big tip of how this can help you in a more practical way:
Before you start communicating or doing an activity with your pup think of what are you trying to accomplish. Is it an activity that involves your dog to get excited or to get calm. For instance if you are going for a walk on leash you want your pup to be calm not excited. Or if you trying to put your dog in a crate and close it your dog should be calm not excited. Usually I wouldn’t use food in neither of those situations. But if I want my dog to come to me when called I want he or she to get excited and come fast. In this case I would use food, a toy or or praise with excitement and play. So in this case to get your dog excited make sense.
Whatever activity you are doing where you expect your dog to listen to you, you want your dog to become your energy not you becoming your dog´s energy. If you have no control or awareness of your body language and energy your pup won´t listen to you. They simply can’t. The same way you wouldn’t listen or follow the lead of a drunk person. It´s not personal.
This has to do with bonding and communicating not with training and conditioning. The fact that your dog will do things for you because you have a treat in your hand doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is listening to you. Conditioning, training and imprinting behaviors it´s not the same as bonding and communicating. The first one is a method created by humans the second one is created by nature. In the first one you acquire a technique in the second one you acquire awareness.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, December 2017