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 nicely. Clients are often embarrassed when they realise how much they are contributing to their dog’s overexcited state before they even head out the door.
Get ready 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 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.
Walk off first.
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 then when you are ready to move off, just go. You make all the decisions about when to stop, start, where you are going and how fast you are getting there, not your dog. You must earn their trust and respect by being an effective leader who makes decisions on the packs behalf. Have a plan and focus on where you are going.
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 confidently and calmly.
Confidence, body language, energy and certainty are the most important issues here. Your dog will only follow and respect you if you deserve to be followed, and to your dog you are an ‘energy’ – put simply you will be perceived as either a more powerful energy or as a weaker energy. They don’t care that you own them, or that you are being nice, or you have a respectable job. You have to earn their respect. Remember again, your dog feels your energy and state of mind through the leash, so walk like someone that you would follow.
Always keep a loose leash.
This is a common problem that we encounter. If you pull a dog back you actually intensify their behaviour or the state of mind they are in. (They pull harder). It is called opposition reflex. So maintain a reasonably short and loose leash at all times. Holding your dog in position doesn’t count and makes for an uncomfortable walk. They should be by your side willingly.
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 focussing 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.
Author: George Lygidakis
George is well known as Australia’s leading Dog Whisperer. He has unique ability to help dogs and their owners communicate.