Creating a good dog walking experience

Ahh, nothing better than walking a dog on a lovely spring day. How about we all go together? What? Can’t? The dog “doesn’t like other dogs? People either? The dog’s leashes will get all tangled up and cause a minor disaster? eh, too much work, you’re right, let’s just skip it and let them out back.

So SAD! There is a sense of peacefulness that comes from walking with a group of dogs that can’t be matched. Dogs are pack animals, meaning they like to be with other dogs. Some of them just don’t know that or have forgotten. We are sort of pack animals too, we like to be together. So getting your dog to have nice leash manners is a skill that helps you both fulfill this urge to be together with your own kind in a productive, peaceful way.

Ok, so what are “nice” leash manners? Nice means: no pulling, no tripping me up, no tripping anyone else up, no growling or snapping at other beings, no incessant stopping to sniff every little thing, no lunging after the neighbor’s cat or the neighborhood rabbit or squirrel or deer or elephant (I don’t know where you live), no barking at anything, and generally enjoying being together.

Placement has a lot to do with fostering “nice” manners. A dog in front is a dog in charge and if that dog has anything other than a laid back, pacifist sort of personality they shouldn’t be in charge. Most dogs, nearly every single dog I’ve ever seen are much happier with you in charge of the walk. Really, much HAPPIER. Don’t confuse excitement – that frantic panting jumping barking energy for happiness. A happy dog is a calm dog that looks content. A hyper dog isn’t happy, he’s crazy. We don’t want crazy people leading us nor do we want crazy dogs leading us.

6wk puppy graduation

6-week Puppy Class graduation walk

So, keep your dog at your side. Draw an invisible line from your knees out to either side of you and that is the line the dog should stay behind at all times. Walking like this gives a dog a job, a sense of purpose. Try it yourself…when you’re out walking with a friend try to keep yourself behind their invisible line. It takes mindfulness of what you are doing and that is what we are after with out dogs. It is a mental. challenge.

Now, doing this can be difficult. A dog who is used to leading isn’t going to give up that position instantly. Mostly because they have been conditioned to walk there – it is what they know. You have to show them a new way. If you’re consistent, soon that will be what they know. To keep them at your side you have to shorten the length of leash between you and your dog. For that reason, I always suggest using a simple nylon, one ply, 1/2 inch leash no longer than 4 feet. And I suggest tying a knot in the leash where your hand should fall. That way you always know if you’re holding the leash in the right spot. People who train with me always get their leashes tied. It’s just my thing.

So, having the leash shorter helps keeping your dog closer but they will likely still pull. This is where training aids come into the picture. A dog with a good training collar or harness is a dog that understands with his body what you are trying to tell him. I always go with the least powerful tool needed to get the desired result (a decrease in pulling to a tolerable level). The least powerful tool I use a martingale collar, then either a prong collar or a gentle leader harness. See: Collars, harnesses and leads. Both the prong and harness are similar in power and both are equally effective although their effeictness varies with the dog. I’ve seen some dogs who completely ignore a prong do great on a harness and visa versa. I don’t like choke chains or head halties all that much. Both can cause serious injury when used carelessly. They can be effective but take a bit more knowledge to use safely. All of these products are tools and as such you need to learn how to use them effectively so you don’t hurt your dog. Please seek out someone who is knowledgable in their use to help you fit your dog correctly. I can’t tell you the number of really nice and thoughtful dog owners I’ve seen who have their dog’s training collar fitted incorrectly!!

Now, you have placement correct, you have leash length correct and you have the tool to help your shoulders survive the training period. Now, make sure you change YOUR relationship to the leash! Most dog owners of dog who pull are as conditioned to feeling strain on the leash as the dogs are!! If your dog is on a leash there should be NO TENSION in the leash. If there is, give a short, sharp, easy (especially if your ‘re using a training collar) pull up on the leash until the dog backs up. Use a sound as a warning and soon the dog will back up just when you make the sound.

Perfect! Now all you have to do is commit to walking your dog for at least 45 minutes every day in this manner. You may think I’m joking but I’m not. Consistency is key here and the length of time is important. Most dogs will challenge the new state of affairs for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the walk and then fall into the rhythm of the walk. Then you have time for some good practice walking as a team. Expect the first part of the walk to be harried but look forward to the latter half. And did I mention that this walk does not include sniffing breaks? If you feel your dog must have one, insert it somewhere after the first 30 minutes of the walk if you can. Tell the dog to “go sniff” or “go potty” or something like that and then let them do their business. Then tell them “close!” or “with me” or “let’s walk” and bring them in and go again.

Practicing this will give you a dog that is a joy to walk with, whether alone or in a group. Happy walking!!

And oh my god I want to train Franklin how to use one of these!!

And oh my god I want to train Franklin how to use one of these!!

May 5, 2009 • Tags: , , , , , , • Posted in: behavior, dog ownership, recommended products, work your dog

3 Responses to “Creating a good dog walking experience”

  1. Karen - May 5th, 2009

    I use the Martingale collar all the time for my collie. It never slips over his head and it is a gentle method to keep him from pulling. Find out how to fit A Martingale Collar

  2. Pet Supplies - May 6th, 2009

    Remote Shock Collars are one of the most effective, simplest and most humane training aids available. Remote Shock Collars are placed on a dog’s neck, allowing a trainer to deliver small static corrections of varying strength by remote control. The correction the dog gets from the remote dog training collar is no different than static from walking on carpet. The benefits of working with a remote dog training collar is the trainer can immediately correct a dog’s mistakes at a distance far greater than leash training allows. A Shock Collar is a safe, effective and humane way to train your dog.
    A Dog Training Collar is a safe, effective and humane way to train your dog.

  3. admin - May 16th, 2009

    I am no enemy of electronic shock collars, used correctly and when necessary. But to use a shock collar on a controlled walk seems a waste of technology. On a controlled walk your dog should be at your side or slightly behind you, perfect distance for a good old fashioned 4 foot nylon leash. I agree that an e-collar is useful when your dog is off leash or for certain training situations but I disagree with the notion that it is useful for walking.

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