We all want a dog that walks calmly by our side without pulling or lunging. It is one of our most common requests and certainly makes for a more enjoyable and rewarding experience. We believe it is critical to have your dog under control on a walk. Done properly walking combines exercise and leadership, and can be very satisfying and rewarding for both you and your dog. It focuses your dogs mind, burns energy and creates a calm and happy dog.
Migration (travelling as a pack from A to B) is very important for dogs and they spend a large amount of time doing it in the wild.
In this article we give you 7 tips to help you achieve a calm happy and problem free walk with your dog.
Don’t overstimulate your dog.
We want a calm walk, so this is the way you should introduce the activity. As the leader you need to demonstrate to your dog what state of mind you would like the pack to have. Using a high pitched voice and asking them if they want to go for a walk in an overexcited way is counter productive and confusing if you then want them to walk calmly. Clients are often surprised when they realise how much they are contributing to their dog’s overexcited state before they even head out the door.
Get ready for your walks calmly and confidently, no rushing, or you will see your dog start loading up with energy. Help your dog become and stay relaxed through example. (Remember you can be happy and mentally relaxed at the same time, happy doesn’t mean you need to be ‘worked up’). When your dog is calm, attach the leash calmly and don’t “start” the walk until you have achieved a relaxed energy. This may take some time initially but it is worth the trouble to insist. Remember your energy is passing down the leash so stay relaxed and confident. If your dog jumps about excitedly, biting or pulling on the leash they are telling you exactly how they are going to walk out there and also how they feel about you taking charge of the activity, so take your time and get this right.
Make it clear it’s your walk.
You should make the decision to move forward or stop, not your dog. Remember not to walk off until your dog is calm and passive and you are ready to move. It begins at the front door, not once you’ve hit the driveway. If you want your dog to know that make the decisions about when to stop, start, where you are going and how fast you are getting there, start this way from the moment the leash goes on.
Don’t let your dog walk in front of you.
Dogs in their natural habitat don’t walk in front of their Pack Leader, just like you wouldn’t walk in front of your boss if you were walking somewhere together. When a dog walks calmly by your side he is showing you trust and respect, and you are giving him the gift of leadership. Walking behind your dog puts them in charge and often leads to anxious and problem behaviour. You will be surprised at the change in your dog’s attitude when you get this right.
Walk the walk.
Confidence, body language, energy and certainty is what your dog is looking for. Your dog will only follow and respect you if you have certainty about what you are doing. You are perceived as either a more powerful energy or as a weaker energy – this is a natural, universal law. Nature follows and respects powerful energy and dominates and targets weak energy. Survival of the fittest. It’s nothing personal, so play along. Actions speak louder than words here. Your dog feels your energy and state of mind through the leash, so walk like someone that you would follow.
Keep a short but loose leash.
This is a common reaction to being pulled on but is counter-productive. If you pull a dog back you often actually intensify their behaviour or the state of mind they are in. They pull harder. It is called opposition reflex. Maintain a reasonably short but loose leash when asking for a heel postition. Forcing your dog into position doesn’t count and makes for a stressed walk. They should be by your side willingly. Leash corrections are fine, but they should be ‘short and sharp’ so you can communicate “don’t pull” but then release immediately.
Focus on yourself and where you are going.
Focus on yourself, where you are going and how you are feeling, not on your dog. When you are looking at and focusing on your dog you will miscommunicate who is in charge. Think of a boardroom, it is very clear where the ‘power’ lies by where and whom the focus is. In much the same way, when a dog is focused on you, they have accepted that you hold the power in that activity or in that moment. Leaders don’t focus on what everyone else is doing – they focus on where they are going. It is your dog’s job to be focused on you. This has great benefits for the dogs mind, providing purpose and challenge as well as opportunities for self control and concentration.
Don’t let them stop whenever they want.
As a leader it is both your privilege and your responsibility to decide what is appropriate and when. Stopping and smelling should happen when you decide, not whenever your dog wants this. Consistency is important, if you let your dog choose things like where he wants to sniff and wee, he won’t understand or accept why he can’t also choose to jump on people walking past or run over to every dog he sees. Who is in charge of this walk? We encourage you to give your activities some structure, which gives your dog direction and teaches them to wait for permission. Reward a job well done – first ask your dog to walk calmly by your side, then give them the freedom to sniff, investigate and play on your terms. When they have finished, or when you decide, ask them to return to calmly walking by your side to settle them again and re-establish leadership.
Maintain this relaxed, respectful attitude when re-entering your home environment at the end of your walk. It is important that while you have them in a calm, passive state that you bring this back into your home environment. It’s counter-productive to take the lead off and allow or encourage your dog to rush back up the driveway or into your house first. This just says to your dog “ok we’re home again and you can be in charge or hectic here”. Again you will be surprised what a difference something as simple as this can make to a dog’s attitude.
To help you achieve harmony with your dog, we have the best dog trainers available in most capital cities.