I was at a new Home Dog Training session with a client in Gainesville with his Australian Shepherd, Lucy. In my client’s eyes, Lucy’s biggest problems were her jumping, nipping, and counter surfing. We were able to take care of these problems during the first session by establishing my client’s leadership in their relationship and teaching my client how to get Lucy’s attention when she was doing something wrong. Things were great and we were finishing up for the day. I asked my client if he had any ideas of what he wanted to accomplish at our next session and he said that he would have to think about it. He was just so excited about Lucy’s new behavior. As I was walking through the door to depart, he asked me “I think that Lucy is pretty good walking, but could you give me some quick tips I can think about before we meet again”?
Many people think that all you have to do to walk your dog is “to walk your dog”. This is similar to people thinking that all you have to do to play golf is to “swing the club”. Although visually accurate, neither of these statements is correct. Since this is not a golf lesson, let me focus on the dog walking.
Since my client asked for some quick tips to get him going before our next visit, I provided him with a simple list of “just do these” actions:
- Leashie-Leashie-Walky-Walky-Crazy-Crazy. The first thing we don’t want with a walk is to have it start out with a crazy, adrenalized dog. Most dogs love to go for a walk and go crazy when they see the leash (note the strange phrase above). This is because the only time they normally see the leash is when they go for a walk. They associate the leash with the walk and get excited. I told my client to put the leash on Lucy at completely random times and then not to pay attention to it. Lucy will go crazy the first few times, but will quickly realize that every time she sees the leash she isn’t going for a walk. The leash will no longer create adrenaline and she won’t be going crazy at the start of the walk.
- Make sure you go out first. When my client and Lucy go for their walk, leadership must be firmly established from the start. A leader always leads and whoever steps out the front door is the leader. I told my client that he should have Lucy sit at the front door as he opens it. He should step out the front door while facing Lucy. Once he is outside, he can “invite” her to join him outside. This clearly shows Lucy that he is the leader and she is the follower.
- Never start the walk as a run. Again, I told my client that he had to be the leader. He needed to give the orders. He needs to start the walk calmly and on his terms. In order to accomplish this, he needs to put Lucy in a sit. He can then make sure he has the leash firmly in his hand, check for any problems he may see approaching, and then start to walk as he gives the “Walk” command to Lucy. She has now given him focus and obedience. She has told him he is the leader and he is in charge.
- The Leader knows all. I told my client that walking is more than just walking down the street. As Lucy’s leader, he needs to keep her safe on “his walk”. In order to accomplish this, he needs to constantly be looking for problems ahead. If he sees a crazy dog, loud machinery, crowded sidewalk, or anything that might pose a potential safety issue or scare Lucy, he needs to plan what he will do to mitigate the problem. That is his job. If his advance observation actually turns into an issue, he is ready to act and keep Lucy safe. I told my client that this rule is “a biggie”. If he fails in this one, Lucy will not want to walk with him or be fearful or aggressive on walks.
- Sit when you stop. There will be times when my client needs to stop on the walk because he meets a friend or comes to a street corner. It is always best to have Lucy sit. This assures that she will not bolt and pull my client down and also shows that she is in a trusting, submissive position.
- Never have people approach Lucy to pet her. People are weird. When they ask to pet Lucy, she might not want them to touch her. If they approach her, that, in itself, is an aggressive act. Lucy may jump, nip, or even bite. Always allow Lucy to approach the person who wants to pet her. If she doesn’t want to approach them, she will let you know. I told my client that he should never force Lucy to go to someone on the street.
- Keep the leash on until you are back in the house. So many people have finished up a great and safe walk only to unleash their dog at the front door while they are fumbling for their keys. Something could easily happen in those few seconds that could cause the dog to run off. I told my client that he should never take Lucy’s leash off until they are inside the house and the door is closed. That is the only time that he knows that Lucy will be completely safe with the leash removed.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over fourteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.