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