By Melanie Benware
One of the most important things we can do with and for our dogs is walk them, not just any walk, but a proper walk. My definition of a “Proper Walk” is when the human and the dog are moving, side by side as one, without tension on the leash. This is not a potty walk, or a stop…sniff….start again walk but an exercise walk. A proper walk should be exercise for the mind and body. When done this way it is an amazing bonding experience.
Life without tension
Isn’t this what we all strive for in our daily lives? Now, let’s look at our four legged friends. Can you imagine the feel of constant tension from a leash? Always being pulled back or forward? Imagine the frustration that would cause…but I will cover that in another article. The proper walk will not be achieved if your dog is pulling on the leash and constantly distracted, so teaching them to walk on a loose leash, beside you, is the first step.
Having a new pup or dog drag a leash around the house, while supervised, will get them used to the feel of the leash and learn that it is not always a source of pressure. A common mistake that a lot of owners make is letting their pup chew on the leash or carry the leash in their mouth. Although this may be “cute” as a puppy, it can teach the dog to fight the leash or take control of the walk.
Now, there are many tools out there to help you teach your dog to walk nicely on the leash. I personally prefer the prong collar because of its easy communication with the dog, gentle pressure that it applies without doing damage to the neck, and its ability to go from no pressure to correction back to no pressure very quickly to avoid frustrating the dog. But whatever tool you use (gentle leader, flat collar, harness, martingale, etc.) it is important that you know how to use it correctly and that you apply the least amount of pressure possible and yes, all of those tools apply pressure.
On with the Walk
Now that your dog is not pulling on the leash it is all about the walk. For me, a Proper Walk means that my dog and I are moving in unison as I lead the way. I’m not talking about a perfect “Heel” position, but I want my dog walking beside me. I let my dogs sniff, but I want them to sniff AND keep pace with me. I don’t mind if they look around but I want them to stay with me. This is a very subtle way for me to show my dog that I will lead him through life properly. Whether it be in public, the Vet’s office, at home or on some wild adventure. I want my dog looking to me for guidance and trusting that I will not steer him wrong.
By learning this dance you gain confidence in your dog while she learns to trust you. This will now open up a world of possibilities. Instead of just walking through your neighborhood…visit parks, dog friendly restaurants, the river, breweries, wineries…you would be amazed at how dog friendly the Richmond area is. But if your dog is dragging you around instead of wanting to stay by your side, honestly, how often are you going to take her with you when you go?
By going on regular walks and outings with your dog you are exposing them to the world. Dogs, kids, people, sights, sounds and smells. This is not only good for their mental development but also for their social wellbeing and physical health. Know your dog’s limits. Bogart, my 2 year old Bullmastiff, is not going to be able to do nearly as much physical exercise and Mongo, my 2 year old German Shepherd. I have to balance their individual needs to make sure that each of them is getting the time, attention, exercise and bonding that they need.
It is because of this that as I move through my house I have 4 shadows that follow me. The power of the walk effects how they are at home. They WANT to be with me, no matter how comfortable they are, when I leave a room they get up and follow, only to lay back down in the room I settle in. They are happy and content and for me, that is the most important part.
It is time consuming, I know, but even if you only have time to get them out for a walk on your day off, it will still make lasting changes to your relationship. Stick with it, you are their world, they do not understand that it is too cold, too hot, too wet or that you are too tired and busy. Find a way to work it into your routine and I promise, you will not regret it!
Did you Know
Holiday Barn offers Pack Walks to our training graduates!! We meet up at local parks, Cary Town, Stony Point and more and use the Power of the Walk to socialize our dogs while exposing them to countless distractions. This give owners and dogs a chance to practice their skills while meeting other dog friendly people!
Not a Training Graduate
Don’t worry, if you aren’t a training graduate but you think you and your dog would enjoy our Pack Walks. Contact Amanda (South of the River) or Schylar (Glen Allen) so they can assess your dog’s leash and social skills. We would love to have you join us!