WALKING YOUR DOG
Do you wonder what is the best way to walk your dog,
and why walk him/her at all? Here are some tips and tricks
that I hope will help you like they helped me.
Who Is Walking Whom?
It is one of the most common dog issues, dogs who are leading – even gleefully pulling and dragging - their owners after them.
But it does not have to be like that. By mastering the walk, you establish rules and boundaries with your canine friend along with their safety and the safety of the dog walker.
Daily walks with your dog help keep him/her:
In great physical and mental health.
At a healthy body weight.
Agile and flexible with good muscle mass and skeletal support.
Social with other people and pets.
Lessen negative behaviors like anxiety, aggression, barking, dominance and frustrations.
Have you ever seen sleigh dogs in action? Have you noticed how long their lead is? That length gives them more traction and power to pull, and you do not want that in your daily walk, that's why the leash has to be short (6 feet or less). The shorter the leash, the more control you will have.
NO retractable leashes because the leash can get stuck somewhere, or other people and pets can get entangled in it, especially if your dog is super happy to see them and runs around them!
NO prong collar because your dog can get used to it and pull anyways and hurt himself/herself.
For dogs who love to pull, consider using:
A well-fitted harness to avoid:
- damaging, stressing or straining the dog’s neck, throat, trachea, esophagus, thyroid glands or even spinal cord;
- nerve damage or paralysis;
- choking or coughing;
- injuries to the optic blood vessels.
A Halti or Gentle Leader. I have been using this for over ten years with my dogs; it does not damage their neck and it controls the pulling well. Some do not like it but the fun perspective of a walk or a car ride overcomes their dislike of having a harness on their face.
A Thunder Leash. This great invention works wonders on my 100lbs neighbor's dog Diego and is the only thing that allows me to walk him without being dragged around. It is a long leash that attaches to the collar and straps around his rib cage, resulting on a smooth walk with a shorter leash.
Freedom No-pull Harness. This is a WINNER! It was recommended by a professional dog walker and I got it for my neighbor's dog Diego since he is tied up to a dog run. His collar was replaced by that harness and it passed the test! It will give his neck a break from pulling and it made our walks "loose-leash". I am very pleased with this one.
Using these tools can help curb your dog’s pulling, but it will not eliminate pulling, especially with dogs who are larger, dominant, stronger and those with a high prey drive. Work with a local dog trainer or behaviorist to address - and permanently eliminate - any pulling.
The ideal would be that your dog walks besides or behind you on a loose leash. Keep this position throughout the entire walk; from putting on his leash to removing his leash. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it speaks volumes to your dog about who is in charge. Personally I do not mind having my dogs walking in front of me as long as they do not pull and they enjoy sniffing on their own internet turf.
Walking on the Road
We live in a rural area where I walk my dogs on the side of the road. When cars approach I tell them "car" and stop until the car passes us. This will hopefully teach them to clear away from cars in the eventuality they get loose and wander off. I like to wear very bright colors - I was into the "neon" clothes fashion back in the 80's so I love the opportunity!
Walking on hot days
I place my hand or bare foot on the black top of the road before I walk, if it is too hot I will stay off that black top and stay on the side of the road where there is earth and plants to walk on. If there is no earth or grass available where you live, it would be best to walk early in the morning before it gets too hot to avoid injuries to your dog's paw pads.
Take the Time
I give my dogs enough time to sniff and explore. Walks not only give them physical exercise, but they also offer mental stimulation through new sights, sounds and smells. For canines, choosing the place to “do their business” is a natural tradition and even a vital form of communication with other dogs in the area!
Dealing with an over-excited dog
Does your dog become overly excited when it's time to walk? I know about that one! I stand up in the backyard and watch them run around until they calm down and sit in front of me and let me put their leash on.
Ask your dog to sit and wait for you to put on his collar and leash before and after the walk.
When your dog begins to pull you, calmly use one of the techniques below:
Stop and stand still immediately until your dog focuses on you and comes back;
Stop and immediately walk in the opposite direction (without pulling your dog);
Take a few steps backward from your dog and say, “follow me.” When they begin to follow you, use a lot of praise to reinforce the wanted behavior.
You might not go too far the first weeks but it is worth the try.
I have a high prey-driven dog and I had to turn around and go home at times when he could not handle all the excitement we met on the road. Baby steps go a long way.
If you have a working breed, use a backpack (filled with their water, beans or rice) to give them a “job” to do! Working dogs are bred for doing tasks and need regular challenges to feel fulfilled. My Bouvier mix always had a big smile and was prancing when I put her back pack on with canned soup on each side.
To conclude, letting your dog sniff and explore is highly beneficial because it's like surfing the internet for them! The AKC article "3 Ways You Might be Ruining Your Dog's Walk", explains it well:
"They keep tabs on what's happening on the neighborhood by sniffing other dogs' scents and leaving a pee-mail on top of theirs."
Tired of confinement? That's how my dogs feel when they don't go on a daily walk; so I make sure I bring them on their chat-room pee-mail trail every day.
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American Dog Gear: Collars: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Well Pet Coach: Walking Your Dog – 6 Important Steps
Image Credits (in order of appearance)
Video of Max and Okawri by Kaly White