6 Top Tips for a More Enjoyable Walk With Your Dog
Walks are so uncomfortable for most people and their dogs.
The dog pulls and sputters, chokes and yanks the owner from place to place.
It doesn’t work for either partner!
The good news is that it only takes a couple of changes, and a few minutes each day, to make a permanent change.
Here Are My 6 Top Tips For a More Enjoyable Walk With Your Dog:
6. Teach Leash Manners
Leash manners are essential for a more enjoyable walk.
And the very first thing I teach my dog regarding leash manners is how long his leash is, and that I can and will change directions at any moment.
You must always use the same leash, or at the very least, the same length of leash (no flexi leashes!).
This teaches your dog to begin to pay attention to you.
If the dog isn’t paying attention, or begins pulling in one direction, change directions and go the other way.
I want the dog to understand that I might change my mind and go the other way.
Yes, this provides a small “correction”, or “pop”, on the collar; but this is much less than the damage done when he pulls on his neck and trachea.
It also gives him a general idea of how long his leash is, or how far away you are, before he has to begin paying attention or you might go the other way.
Yes, I look insane.
I am out in the street, or in my driveway, walking back and forth and back and forth; but it works.
Don’t think you are going to get anywhere.
The first few sessions are literally spent out front of your home or in the driveway.
So, don’t plan a trip to the park with the kids, or have some kind of destination in mind, as this will ruin your training.
You must be consistent for many days; if the dog stops paying attention, simply, and quietly, go the other direction.
5. Teach the Dog to Find “Heel” and “Walk There” When Commanded
Teach your dog where heel is near your body.
Heel position is with the dog’s right shoulder parallel with your left leg.
Having a specific space for your dog to go into and walk can make walks more enjoyable.
“Heel” isn’t just for the competition obedience dog down the street!
“Heel” should be for every dog!
Sure, I allow my dogs to be “dogs”; they aren’t robots and they should be allowed to have fun. But when I see a distraction headed our way (a child, another dog, a scooter), I command my dog into heel position and we heel past the distraction without the dog being able to lunge or pull.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
Well, first, you have to lure your dog to find that spot in accordance with your body and reward him for being there.
Once he has learned to enjoy this spot, you can add the cue and tell him that what he is doing is “heel”.
After that, you can teach him to stay in that area by rewarding him for continuing to walk in this space.
As with leash manners, if he isn’t paying attention, and you have commanded him and he knows where the “heel” position is, change your direction.
4. Leash in the Right Hand
There, I said it!
Yes, your dog should be on your left side, and your leash should be in your right hand.
Don’t wrap the leash around your wrist, either! Get used to looping the leash over your right thumb and shortening the extra length to make a nice loop that hangs in front of your legs.
If you keep your leash in your left hand and you tighten it short, your dog is GUARANTEED to pull.
Opposition Reflex is a real thing.
If you are waiting in line at the store and one person pushes to move past you in line, you may be taken aback at first and let them cross.
But the next person you will resist.
You aren’t going to let everyone shove you around!
When you pull against your dog, his reflex is to pull back the other direction!
If you want your dog to respect the leash, you have to keep it loose.
This is why we change direction.
If the dog gets too far ahead of me on leash, I simply change my direction.
I DO NOT slide my hand down and tighten the leash!
I don’t want to teach my dog to pull against me!
3. Reward Attention
Our dogs look at us all of the time.
The sad thing is that we almost never acknowledge it, much less reward them for showing this behavior.
It find this behavior to be especially strong in young puppies. They will be walking along with their person, and will glance back lovingly at them to see if they are following.
Most owners ignore this.
By ignoring it, we are inadvertently teaching the dog that we don’t want this behavior and it is not rewarding.
The opposite should be true!
Every time your dog or puppy turns and looks at you, you should be rewarding his attention with high value treats.
Teach that puppy, or adult dog, that paying attention to you and checking in with you is the best thing ever!
Because, at some point during your walks, you are going to need to command your dog to do something.
If paying attention to you in regular space with no distractions is not rewarding, how are you going to teach him that ignoring a high level distraction and paying attention to your mundane commands will be rewarding?
If you aren’t rewarding your dog’s attention, you are missing an opportunity!
It shouldn’t matter if he is inside or outside, on leash or off leash… when your puppy, or dog, pays attention to YOU, he should be rewarded!
2. Teach Eye Contact
Going along with Tip #3, teaching your dog eye contact on command can be crucial!
If any of you know me, you know how much I love eye contact and focus.
I want to be in control of what my dog looks at, sees, and stares at.
I don’t want my dog locking onto or staring at things in his environment (i.e. other dogs); this can be the beginning signs of aggression and leash reactivity.
Instead, I want my dog to know that looking at me is wonderfully rewarding.
And, by teaching him to look at me, and heel by my side, I ensure that he isn’t locking onto or getting aggressive with anything or anyone else!
It even keeps him from wanting to chase other critters.
I want him to learn that it is a gamble looking at other things (squirrels, dogs, sounds), but looking at me on command will bring very high value rewards.
Since my dog has never caught a squirrel on a walk, he can gamble on the “sure thing” that I will give him his toy or his treat as a better bet.
Walking along allowing your dog to stare at one distraction and another isn’t doing either one of you any good.
He doesn’t have to stare at you CONSTANTLY, but he should learn to look at you and hold eye contact while you walk past high level distractions.
1. Carry Better Rewards
How are you supposed to be in charge of your dog’s behaviors and attention if you aren’t worth his effort?
Yes, you read that right. You may not be worth his attention and effort.
Rin Tin Tin and Lassie don’t really exist.
Dogs do things that feel good, and sometimes, staring at that squirrel and lunging feels better than listening to your commands, especially if there is literally nothing good in it for him!
I work several jobs.
I don’t show up for any of my jobs without expecting to get paid!
I work because there is a pay out.
Even when I have volunteered, there was some eventual financial or emotional pay out for me.
If you want to be better than the neighbor kids, the dog down the street, and the squirrel up the tree, you had better have something (a great treat or some other reward) that is better than those distractions.
I, personally, like using toys.
My dogs work and listen to me, because I have their toy and may play with them when they obey my commands.
Many dogs work for tasty morsels of food or treats.
Either one is fine, but most important thing that your dog should learn is that if he listens to you and shows good behavior, you will reward him.
You must be reliable.
You must be consistent.
If you are not, he has a better chance with that squirrel!
Dogs aren’t tricky beings.
Actually, dogs are simple people!
If you reward them for good behavior, use great rewards and teach them what you want, after a few short sessions you are going to see a behavior change for the better!
Go get started!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.