Most of us live in neighborhoods where a nice evening stroll to the park or by the water is something we could easily do with our dogs, and most of us with dogs, want to make that part of our daily life. When we got our dogs, we also envisioned an exercise partner who was ready to wander the beach with us in the spring, and walks in the park on a nice loose leash.
What happens when the dog has other ideas? We tell ourselves walking the dog is something we need to work on, and we will take care of that tomorrow. We come home from work exhausted and don’t feel like having the dog drag us down the street. Then days go by and weeks, and no one is going for a walk. (I’ve been there!)
Here are my 4 tips for getting you and your pup back outside and enjoying your time together!
- Help your dog focus!
Dogs see the world much differently than we do. They use their sense of smell to analyze things before their other senses even begin registering what’s happening. If you are opening the door and Rocky is off like a rocket, then practice your focus before you leave the house. Start with a leashed dog at the door you usually take them out to walk. Ask for a “sit” and wait until you have a seated pooch. Reward that sit and begin to open the door. If they get up then take your hand off the door and wait for them to sit back down. Wait to see what decision they make before you immediately prompt another sit.
Once you have begun to open the door do you see a dog whose nose is now twitching 100 miles an hour? Rocky is now smelling all the smells that he can get through his nose from that tiny crack in the door. Your job right now is to let him sniff!!
- Wait until your dog is ready!
When your pup has done all his sniffing at the door, he will most likely look up at you to say “hey, why aren’t we going anywhere” Reward that eye contact! The more time you give your dog to sniff the birds, bees, grass, cars, people, temperature, dogs who have walked down the street, rode by in the car, bicycles, wildlife… (you get the idea) the quicker they will begin to recover, and offer that eye contact. Giving your pup time to analyze where he is and where he is going will make the walk more enjoyable for both of you because pup will not be distracted by all the sniffs and be able to pay better attention to you. Be patient!
- Reward what you like!
Reward your dog while he still has his brain in his head to learn. Most of the time, when dogs start to pull at the leash they have run out of brain space to remember you at the other end of the leash. Remember all those smells your dog was sniffing when we got to the door? They change as you get farther from the door! If you are getting close to the mailbox, and Rocky is pulling, turn around and go back to the house and start over. Rewarding what you like will keep your dog checking in with you until the smells take over. Check out this video of Duke learning how to walk with a nice loose leash.
- Set a timer not a distance!
Most of our frustration with walking our dog comes from not getting anywhere. All of our cell phones, have a timer on them. Set the timer for a length of time you are comfortable with. 5 to 15 minutes is usually my goal for any training sessions. In those 5 minutes, you get as far as you can, then pack up and go home. If you sit at the back door sniffing for your 5 minutes, well then, that was your “walk” today. Congratulate yourself for training the dog!
With time and practice you will begin to get farther and farther down the driveway and into the neighborhood. It will also take your dog less time to check in with you when he does lose his brain.
If you liked these tips, and would like to work on enjoying your walks with your pup, contact me through my website http://www.thefreckledpaw.com