Dog gurus like Cesar Millan often talk about the importance of a regular dog walking regimen. Walking your dog is: great exercise for both, you and your dog. It’s a good way to socialize your dog. It helps establish a stronger bond between you and your pet, and it can help burn off the excess energy that can be the root cause of behavioral issues. However, there’s often more to walking a dog then meets the eye. Especially, if you have a strong-willed pooch who likes to control the entire walking experience.
Before You Leave
Even before you leave the house, there are things you can do to help get control of your dog. These simple activities can help you set the entire tone of the walk. First, encourage your dog to behave during your walk by beginning the walk with an event that cues your dog into paying attention to you. Begin by having your dog sit and then leash your dog when he is behaving.
If your dog is too hyper, and is bouncing off the walls every time he even sees the leash, then you have some work to do; start by leashing your dog and while holding the leash completely ignore your dog. When the dog becomes calm, praise him, if the excitement returns, restart the ignoring treatment. Soon your dog will learn that being calm when leashed earns him praise. Remember, dogs are sensitive animals if you make a big deal out of preparing for the walk they will get very excited.
Going Out the Door
Even something as simple as who gets to go first means something to your dog: become the leader. When you go out the front door make sure you precede your dog. In your dog’s mind, the first one out of the door is the boss. This is a simple, but effective way to control the beginning of the walk and get your dog comfortable with the idea that you are in command. Whenever you precede your dog use the command, “Heel,” this will teach your dog the word heel means you want to go first.
Controlling Your Dog
When your dog is being walked on a leash, it is important to be the boss. Don’t let your dog run things. If you do you could be inviting a host of behavior problems such as: pulling against the leash, jumping up, barking at strangers, growling at children, etc.
Hold the leash comfortably in your preferred hand and have your dog walk beside you. Try to keep your hand held above your dog’s head, and you will have better control. Don’t let your dog drag or pull you, and keep some slack in the lead. If your dog feels tension in the leash the natural tendency will be to pull against the tension.
If your dog becomes distracted, or starts barking at something, turn your dog’s head away from what he’s looking at, for most dogs out of sight, really is out of mind. Furthermore, don’t let your dog stop to sniff, pee whenever he/she wants to. If you dictate the stops you will further establish your dominance and maintain control during the walk.
If your dog likes to drag you out the door and down the street against your will, start with the ignoring treatment described above, then begin by walking your dog around the inside of your house. This will help you and your dog learn to work together. After your dog learns good leash manners indoors begin with a short walk outside. You can use a fenced backyard to continue learning to work together. Once you feel comfortable in a fenced setting, take your dog out for a short walk without a fence. If your dog starts to pull against the leash, stop and have him sit and stay for at least ten seconds. The pauses will help you to regain your dog’s focus and re-establish dominance over your misbehaving pooch.
Non-verbal leash commands:
Start Your Dog Forward: Use a gentle tug to start the dog walking as your walk.
Stopping Your Dog: Use a gentle tug back and always ask him to sit.
Choosing Your Dog Walking Gear
When walking your dog you’ll need more than just a good pair of walking shoes. Purchase a comfy collar or harness for your dog and a suitable leash for you. I like to think of the leash as being a tool for working with my dog, which is why I make sure the leash is comfortable for my hand. Do not use a worn leash that might break and always make sure your dog’s collar isn’t too tight. Besides being uncomfortable, a tight collar can actually hurt your dog. Make sure you can fit at least two fingers inside the collar.
Other things that can help make your walk more comfortable include:
- A Dog Backpack (for hiking)
- Sunblock Lotion
- Insect Repellent
- Windbreaker or Fleece
- Walking Hat
- Biodegradable Potty Bags
Ensure you get the most out of your walks by having everything you’ll need. Click on the above links to order your dog walking essentials.