Taking your dog for a walk may sound easier than wrestling a tornado with nothing but a teaspoon; in reality, you may prefer the tornado. Unless you’re a nun and your dog’s name is Maria, here are some useful tips to keep in mind when pooch begs for his daily romp.
There are two types of walks – those on the lead and those off the lead. The ones on the lead, require staying close, not pulling ahead and stopping before roads. The second walk – free run, sniff and greet – only happens when they’re let ‘off duty’.
Our dogs already know how to sit, how to walk and how to stop. They don’t know our words for them yet. We need to teach them the connection between our strange sounds and the actions we want them to perform. Consistently use the same word for the same simple behaviours until they become familiar.
Sit your dog next to your leg with the leash attached. As you step forward, give the command ‘heel’ – or whatever word you’re comfortable with for this action. If your dog gets up and follows you, reward. Change direction after a few steps, at first following the leg your dog is on. This keeps him next to you as your leg pushes against his body. Say his name to get his attention, give the leash a light tug and repeat the command. You can also hold a treat in front of his nose to keep him moving. Keep walking, keep changing direction and keep the leash loose. Repeat as often as possible, progressing to using both left and right turns.
Some smells and sounds simply beg to be investigated, but your dog should understand that walking with you is a responsibility. If he wants his treat or get to the park or beach, he must behave. Pulling your arm out its socket is not acceptable. If he tugs at the leash, stop. Do not move any closer towards your goal. Gently but firmly, get him to sit down next to you. Repeat the ‘heel’ command and move forward. Stop and begin again when needed.
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One of the dog’s least sensitive areas is the base of the neck where the collar usually rests. He may take a while to understand why you get so upset when he pulls at the leash.[/box]
If you practise this absolutely every single time you come to the edge of a pavement, you may save your dog’s life one day. Treat roads for dogs like you would teach a child – it’s a big deal, it’s dangerous and scary. Only cross when given the ‘all clear’.
When we arrive at our free-run destination, I remove the leashes and tell my dogs to wait. I then tap their shoulders one at a time as I say their name. That’s our signal for ‘go’ and it ends our more formal walk in a clear, simple way. They have worked hard to deserve their doggy nirvana and now different rules apply. Let the games begin!