For many of us, one of the pleasures of dog ownership is the daily walk – it’s a great time to enjoy and share some fresh air, some easy exercise and a nice pause in the day. Sometimes, however, the reality doesn’t measure up – your best friend has a mind of their own of course, and sometimes their will isn’t the same as yours. That’s completely okay and reasonable, but we don’t want your usually calm and placid pet turning into a sled dog, pulling on the lead this way and that, and you along with it.
So, how do we correct this behaviour? Below are some practical suggestions to help make sure the morning walk with your dog is an enjoyable experience all round.
- First of all, try shifting your thinking from rushing for a purpose, travelling from A to B or for undertaking a defined unit of ‘exercise’ to taking your dog for a pleasant walk. This is how many dogs like to be walked: casually, allowing them to be just who and what they are… dogs!
The dog’s main sense is smell so on a walk, encourage them to go along slightly ahead or behind you and have a sniff.
This throws your best friend’s mind into overdrive: and they love it! They’re gathering heaps of useful information about their environment and the bonus is that with all of this stimulation, they’ll feel very fulfilled after their time out. Many say that casually observing the markings and smells of other dogs leads to greater acceptance of the world as a shared space; that it helps prevent your dog from becoming territorial. Remember that one of the main calming activities for a dog is sniffing. So, when you find yourself pulling your dog along, remember to stop to smell the roses!
- Make the lead work for you: Don’t expect your dog to immediately understand what you’re trying to achieve when lead walking. Remember that every walk is a training session, for the both of you! It’s a good idea to work in verbal cues which they’ll pick up quickly, particularly if they receive a gentle pull on the lead to signify what you’re trying to achieve at the same time. Better yet, encourage and reinforce good behaviour and the desired response to your instructions with a tasty treat. A small training treat, such as a broken Milky Stick or a piece of one of our Chicken Sticks, Duck Sticks, Salmon Sticks or Liver Sticks are perfect for this purpose. The positivity of receiving a tasty morsel tells your dog that they’re doing the right thing, and that we’re thankful for it!
Remember also that no dog likes to be dragged about on a lead or have the undue, intense pressure of a big ‘yank’ of the lead. Be sure to prioritise gentle consistency of the lesson, over delivering an ever-stronger negative message if things don’t go your way.
- Launching the walk: For the first five minutes of the walk, your dog will likely be excited. Try the steps above, but if either you or your best friend is becoming stressed, or if communication isn’t flowing between you to ensure you’re both in a relaxed, casual state, then don’t be disappointed to bring the walk to an end. There’s nothing worse than allowing stress (which can build to become full-blown anxiety!) to lessen the close relationship you have with your dog.
- 4. Build in time for a rest afterwards. When you and your dog return from your walk, you’re both going to be full of the recent smells, sounds, sights and often tastes of the outside world. Your brains will be full of heaps of new information and your bodies possibly a little exhausted. It’s best that your best friend doesn’t return to a loud, busy, distracting and mega-active household once done with a walk, as home or a resting area should be a reprieve. Head back to a quiet space and predictable circumstances; be pleased with the fact that you’ve taken in some quality time together, and have your dog’s bed or blanket nearby. Another calming activity for dogs is chewing, so think about having a long-lasting treat (rawhide treats work well) or favourite toy that occupies your friend ready to go on your return.
All in all, as with every other experience with your furry friend, remember that these times are precious, and fun!