Imagine; you take your dog for a walk around the neighborhood. She walks calmly by your side, doesn’t pull at all, and doesn’t go crazy when you pass by people and other dogs. Do your walks look like this? You rock!
But if your walks don’t look like that; or maybe are the exact opposite of the leisurely walk described above, then I have some advice for you. If you struggle to hold on to the leash as you walk your dog, if she barks and charges at any animal or person you see, then YOU are the person I’m writing this for. My advice?
STOP WALKING YOUR DOG AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD!
Yep, that’s step one. If you’re getting all sorts of unwanted behaviors from your dog on the walk, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and hatch up a new plan.
I want you to think of the walk with your dog as if it's a football game. Imagine throwing your kid on to a football field for her first game without sending her to practice first. It’s not going to go well. But you wouldn’t do that. Of course you'd send her to practice before expecting her to play a game with any sort of success. In practice, her coach would teach her the rules, show her how to throw, catch, and be tackled, and would teach her that the game is FUN.
But with our dogs, we just throw them in the game and expect them to figure it out - sink or swim dude. You need to focus on teaching your dog what you want her to do before you walk around your neighborhood. If you want her to walk nicely on leash, sit when you say so, and pay attention to you; then you need to practice.
For dogs, practice is best done in the comfort of your own home, where they are comfortable and not overly distracted with people and other animals running all around. I start most of my training in my kitchen, because that’s where I keep my dogs food and that’s where they are most likely to be interested in me, cause they gotta eat.
Once I’m happy with how my dogs training looks in my kitchen, I start to practice in all the other rooms in my house. From there, I’ll go work in my yard. I don’t even dream about walks around my neighborhood until I casually stroll around the yard with my dog on leash; getting her to sit and come and pay attention. These training sessions are short, probably shorter than your walk. And they are far more mentally stimulating than your walk, because I’m asking my dog to focus. If you’re worried that your dog needs to walk for exercise, well, more bad news. Just walking around the neighborhood is not great exercise for the body; it’s more an exercise for the brain. If you really want to tire your dog out, they need to run. I incorporate running in to my training sessions by throwing a toy and playing tug in between training games.
Training needs to be fun for your dog, they need to get something out of it. They will not listen because they “love” you…sorry. Over time they will listen because they respect you, but in the beginning it’s a lot of food and toy games to keep them engaged with you. I have a short YouTube video on puppy engagement, which is a great place to start training with dogs of any age.
Stop throwing your dog in to the game. Instead, teach her the rules and show her how much fun it can be to listen to you; because you deserve a good dog.
About the Author: Jen Banks has been training dogs professionally since 2008. She started her own pet dog training company in 2014. Owner and trainer at Banks K9 Solutions in Fitchburg MA, she provides group classes and in home training for family dogs.