Mastering the walk
One of the great pleasures of owning a dog is going for walks.
We all dream of pleasant walks when we adopt a dog. And then we find out that our dog would rather go in all directions instead of the one we choose, that he would rather sniff everything in sight than walk one more feet, that he walks with us as if we were a dread that was slowing him down…
Walks become not as pleasant, so we tend to walk our dog less and less. Excess energy builds up in our dog, which makes every walk worse and worse.
Stop! Here are some advices for enjoyable walks:
1) Visualize how a pleasant walk with your dog looks like.
Would you rather that your dog heels at all time? Or are you OK as long as you have a loose leash in your hand? There are not “should” or “must”: You decide what seems right to you and your dog, and you keep these same expectation at all times. Consistency is key. And don’t worry about what people think if your dog walks in front of you instead of behind you. Of course he will not try to “dominate” you just because he leads the way. If you have such worries, it would be a good idea to work on your relationship with your dog before worrying about the walk.
2) Understand why dogs pull.
No, they are not trying to “fight you” or “drive you crazy”. Dogs pull, because they want to move faster! A slow leashed walk does not burn a lot of energy for a young healthy pup. And a leashed walk is often the only daily exercise that some dogs have. This is a part of the problem! Let your dog roam free or have a blast playing with his toys before you go for his walk. It will be easier for him to concentrate and stay relaxed during the walk.
3) Identify what motivates and what demotivates your dog.
When you train a dog, you can reward him or you can punish him. You can also do both, without any confrontation.
Now that you know why your dog pulls, you can reward or punish him accordingly. Reward your dog with treats, smiles, toys or a faster pace whenever the leash in your hand is loose. When your dog pulls to go somewhere, punish him by stopping. After all, he pulls to get there quicker so by stopping all together you are punishing him for the pulling without saying anything or confronting him. It is also nicer and less confusing to your dog than jerking on the leash.
It is true that the first training walks will not be a lot of fun. It will look a lot like stop and go and stop and go. But consistency is key, and quickly, your dog will get it: When the leash is loose, good things happen and we actually get to walk, but when the leash is tight, nothing fun happens. Remember to let your dog play before each walk and be a little bit crazy, otherwise it will be very hard for him to stay calm and understand what you are trying to achieve with this leash walk training.
Tools are just tools and do not replace training, but they can become handy for pleasant walks for both yourself and your dog. Here is a previous blogpost about them: https://www.ovenbakedtradition.com/en/dog/there-are-alternatives-to-choker-collars-for-owners-of-strong-dogs
Have a great walk!