Last Wednesday I was at a new Home Dog Training client in Lithonia working with him and his German Shorthaired Pointer named Timmie. Timmie was just under two years old and had never received any formal training. My client and his family had brought Timmie home from the breeder when he was twelve weeks old and had always provided him with a loving, wonderful home.
The problem they had was that Timmie was taking advantage of them. I quickly taught them how to let Timmie know that my client and his family were “the bosses”. He still got all the love and attention as before, but it was now on my clients’ terms and not his. The later part of our lesson focused on walking. Again, they said that Timmie would always pull and never paid any attention to them. I told them that this was a common problem and we began our “walking exercise”. I would like to share that with you too…
When walking your dog, you must always remember “who is walking who”. Many times when you go for a walk with your dog, he is really walking you. This is not a good thing. You must be in control when you are in public with your dog. The first thing that you must remember is that walking your dog requires a lot more than just “walking your dog”. These are some of the things that you need to remember:
The Leash: I always tell my clients to walk their dog with a leash. Even though many people will say “Oh, my dog never runs off”, I like to remain on the cautious side and always make sure I am in complete control. Even while you are still in the house, some dogs go nuts when they simply “see the leash”. This is because of their anticipation of the walk. You have taught them that “Leash means Walk” and that means that “they go nuts”.
You must break this inappropriate situation by teaching them that “the leash means nothing”. Put the leash on them at different times during the day and do nothing. Put it on them and practice some “inside commands” like Sit or Stay. Click it on and immediately click it off.
By providing multiple, indiscriminate actions immediately after clicking the leash on them, it will break the lesson that “Leash means Walk”. You have now taught them that the “Leash means nothing at all”. They will no longer go crazy when you put the leash on them when you actually go for a walk.
The Front Door: You don’t want to just open the front door and have your dog run out ahead of you. It is very important that you confirm that you are in the driver’s seat from the beginning. Have your dog sit and stay for you at the front door.
Open the front door while your dog continues to sit and stay. Step outside while your dog is calmly focused on you and remaining on the inside of the door. Next, invite your dog out and command him to sit on the outside of the door. When everything is calm and your dog is focusing on you, start your walk. Do this in reverse when you come home and are going inside.
The Physical Walk: When you and your dog are walking, you must clearly communicate that you are the leader. As the leader, you must convey your rules regarding how you want your dog to walk with you. I deviate from many dog trainers on this point because I define “the walking rules” as what you want and not what is described in some dog training manual.
With this said, I normally offer some guidelines as thought starters. The main reason you take your dog for a walk is to have a good time outdoors. So, I ask myself (and my client), what would define a good time when walking their dog. If the dog is not pulling the leash and easily gives me focus, I am happy with that.
This means that he doesn’t have to be exactly at my side or even on only one side or the other. If we are both “strolling down the path “and enjoying the outdoors and each other’s company; everything is great.
The Breaks (Potty and Sniffie Time): Remember that you are always the one in charge. It is completely up to you to decide when the walk pauses and you give your dog a little break. When you want to, stop and have your dog sit. Next use a singular verbal command such as “Free” to allow your dog to hang out and do his thing. When you are ready to continue, issue “Come” command to have your dog return to your side. Now you can start your walk again.
Being the Boss: This means many things. When walking, the most important aspect of “Being the Boss” is that you are the one in charge of keeping your dog safe. You must always be aware of your surroundings and must always anticipate any issue that may cause your dog to become afraid or be placed in an unsafe situation.
If you see an issue approaching, you need to proactively take steps to mitigate the problem and keep your dog safe. Your dog will quickly understand that he will always feel secure with you when the two of you are out “in the real world”. This will help to keep him calm and focused on you.
Remember that walking is more than just walking. It is about distinct activities that allow you and your dog to bond while you are reaffirming that you are the leader. Try these suggestions and you will see how your dog calms down and your walk becomes great.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over seventeen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.