The weather is terrible, work started 5 minutes ago, you're panting and sweating from being pulled around the block but your dog is still bouncing off the walls. You had great intentions, where did you go wrong?
Life is busy, and you've already learned the art of maximizing your effort in as little time as possible. Why not apply this to your morning dog walk? Here are a few tips from our team to make the most out of your morning with Fido. Even if you’ll only be pounding the pavement for 10 minutes, it is important that your dog is stimulated, returns home relaxed, and that you’re not bored or stressed out by the whole process.
1. Get your walk under control!
Stay on your side
Give your dog a side. Get used to consistently holding your dog’s leash and walking them on this side. Having a designated side ensures that whether your dog likes to walk a few paces ahead of or behind you, you'll not get tangled up in their leash whilst being dragged in all directions. You’ll also have a better idea of what is coming up ahead on their side in case you need to avoid it. This type of discipline will come in handy if you ever need to multitask - if you don’t believe us, go ahead, try bringing in the groceries with a dog that doesn’t know where they belong on leash.
Invest in proper walking gear
Having your dog pull you down the street not only looks terrible, but the chances are that you can both be injured. Get the right gear!
Retractable leashes are extremely confusing to dogs - the distance at which they feel a pull signalling “hey, you’ve gone too far” is always changing (you can actually encourage bad pulling behaviour), not to mention they can snap, and there is no quick way to catch up to a dog at the end of their 26ft retractable leash in the event of danger. There is nothing wrong with a good old nylon leash.
Harnesses, martingales, and prong collars are a few of the many different walking tools you can purchase for your dog to prevent them from pulling. Do your research! What you choose to purchase should be based on your dog’s breed and walking tendencies. You also need to understand the mechanics of the collar you are using - has it been fitted properly? How should you use it to make a correction?
*Toronto has now banned prong collars. When fitted properly, used appropriately for corrections, and purchased for specific breeds, they are a dream. This ban is reflective of how harmful buying a collar without doing your homework can be!
2. Let the games begin
A dog that is focused on you will not be pulling you down the driveway. You’ll be able to manage their reaction to any other dogs, skateboarders, or squirrels you come across. Most importantly, a focused dog is a working dog. They'll need to put some work in if they're to be tired out!
Before you leave the house, do a dry run - in a clear, enthusiastic voice call your dog, then reward them with a treat and a “good dog!” You’ve now got their attention.
You can call their name at intervals on your walk and reward them for responding, or simply reward them for taking a quick glance back at you to check in. Remember, you are doing this to promote healthy, focused behaviour on leash - the more the behaviour is reinforced, the faster it will develop.
Great, he keeps checking you out. Now what?
Get your dog to sit, lay down, change directions. You can guide them to jump over a park bench, or run up a set of stairs - all of these activities are stimulating and take your walk to the next level.
Feel free to allow for breaks in between to sniff/mark an area of your choosing. "Real life rewards" are just as meaningful to your dog as treats but managing when they occur will shorten your walk and increase their value.
By using these tips you’ll be able to pack more stimulating activity into a shorter period of time, manage who your dog says hello to or what they choose to smell, and you’ll bring them back home ready to relax while you’re away at work!