Being able to take your dog out for a evening walk can be a wonderful and relaxing thing for everyone involved. And it’s exercise for us too! With a little work, and a little patience, you can have your dog joining you, not taking you for a walk.
If you’re still new to training, or even if you’re a seasoned pro, we have a few tips to remember that will keep your forays into the outdoors a pleasant experience.
Here are the Do’s and Don’ts of leash walking your dog:
Bring an adequate amount of clean up supplies. Poop bags, treats (if you’re training) and possibly paper towels or wet-wipes.
Understand your dog’s triggers. Does your dog get really excited when a squirrel runs by? Do bikes frighten your dog? Maybe they LOVE to chase leaves that get blown about. Knowing what will make your dog excited or anxious can help you prepare for how they will react. Ideally, you will work with your dog to slowly eliminate the reactions they have to these triggers, however you can reduce the effect by being prepared for these situations.
Recognize your own emotions. Dogs have an intense connection with their handlers (the person on the other end of the leash), and if you’re nervous or frustrated, the dog will pick up on that. Remain calm, stay happy, and stay in control.
Be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for anything that your dog might find interesting or exciting, and try to spot those things before your dog does. The key to preventing their overly excited behavior is to not let them get excited. Redirecting their attention before they latch on to the blowing leaf, the other dog walking by, or even cars driving by, can help them to focus on you.
Be aware of other dog walkers. Not all dog walkers are in full control of their dogs, and here are a few tips to recognize what kind of walkers you’re approaching.
- Body language – Does the dog walker exhibit confidence, act as though their dog is an extension of themselves, or do they show nervousness and fear as they approach you? Remember, the dog will react to the world partially based on the emotions of their handler.
- The dog’s stance – Is the dog pulling as hard as they can on the end of the leash, baring teeth, panting wildly, and acting as though they have no interest in the person walking them?
- The walker’s verbal corrections – Is the dog walker yelling commands at the dog, or are they quietly, but firmly telling their dog a command? Shouting at a dog typically occurs when someone can not get their dog to listen to their commands.
Walk your dog when you’re frustrated, angry, or impatient. Getting your dog to respect and listen to you means that you have to maintain a level of control and fairness with them. If you’re unable to focus on them in a positive way, take yourself out for a walk to cool off first, then come back for your pup. Happy, positive moods will lead to better control of your pup.
Expect your dog to behave 100% of the time in a new environment. If you take your dog for a walk down a new street, with new smells, new dogs, new homes, and all sorts of new AWESOMENESS, they will likely be very excited. Overly excited dogs are harder to control, so recognize that there will be a “breaking-in” period for a new route.
So what else can you do to keep your dog under control?
Remember that you’re in charge of the route you take. If your dog starts pulling forward, change direction. If you come upon another dog walker who doesn’t appear to be in control of their dog, quickly and fluidly (without stopping or letting your dog focus too much on the other person) cross the street. You are in control of where you go.
Redirect the dog’s focus. Bring stinky treats along with you, and when you approach a house with a barking dog inside, hold the treat in your hand, encouraging your dog to focus on you – not the barking dog. If your dog is pulling forward, start jogging backwards while calling your dog to you. The rule of the game is, always be the most interesting, most awesome, most exciting thing in your dog’s life. If they’re focused on you, they’re not getting into trouble elsewhere.