The Top 5 Ways YOU Are Ruining Your Dog’s Walks
First off, let’s understand something right off the bat: your dog needs exercise and he should be walked, but it is critical that YOU enjoy these walks, too!
So many people spend time with their dogs as a means to an end (just to get it done because they think it is their duty), and I think this is the first way we start off with a bad human behavior.
A good walk should be a joy!
It also shouldn’t require “icy/hot”, or other types of pain relief, because your dog is pulling.
And, if your dog can hurt your shoulder and your back so incessantly, can you imagine what he is doing to his own throat and body?
Nor should you have to yell, cuss, scream or cry.
So Let Us Break Down the Top 5 Ways You Are Ruining Dog Walks For Both of You!
After all, there are two ways to train: conflict and correction, or teaching and reward.
Which will you choose?
5. You’re Too Slow
Humans dawdle, we saunter, and we stroll.
Very rarely do we walk with the vigor that is required to keep our dogs’ brains entertained.
You see, while you are strolling about your neighborhood wondering what you will make for dinner and how your work drama will play out the next day, your dog is bored and in search of squirrels, other dogs, communication, and conflict.
You see, if you don’t engage your dog’s mind while he is out for a walk or a stroll, he will be in search of ways to entertain his own brain (and usually this is not good).
There are two very easy ways to engage your dog’s mind while on a walk.
1. Walk quickly or run
Dogs that are running don’t have time for other dogs, hunting, or boredom.
2. Train while you walk!
All these things will keep your dog’s mind occupied while you are walking.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is letting our dog’s mind rot while we are on a stroll.
So even if you can’t run, find a way to entertain his brain frequently while you are on your walk.
I am really, really, really not a fan of harnesses when it comes to walking.
I use harnesses for sports work.
I use harnesses to encourage my dogs to pull large loads, but I do not use harnesses for general walking.
Harnesses allow the dog to pull with the whole body.
Ironically, I learned at a very young age that harnesses are built to teach dogs to pull.
Opposition reflex teaches us that if we pull backward, the dog naturally pulls forward.
And, even though this is still true when using a leash and collar, the dog has less ability to hurt the handler/human.
Imagine strapping a harness onto a horse and trying to take him for a walk with distractions.
Chances are, you will end up hurting.
What About Anti-Pull Harnesses?
They are a little bit better.
Some people find some limited success with anti-pull harnesses like the Easy Walk Harness, but I think they can be a crutch.
I prefer to teach my dog to walk nicely on leash (for more on that keep your eyes peeled).
And, Easy Walk Harnesses can cause damage to growing dogs if used too much during rigorous exercise.
In short, you can try them for a little help; but, try not to NEED any training device while walking your dog.
3. A Destination
Having a destination in mind, without a very well-trained dog, is a great way to ruin your walk.
Humans get it in their minds that they must end up at some kind of destination.
This thinking isn’t allowing you to “train” your dog; it is simply frustrating you that you are not reaching your destination at the speed or the way you desire.
I used to have a friend that was a marathon runner.
She invited me to run a 10k with her and I had a little over a month to train.
Let’s say I wasn’t as ready for the race as she and her marathon friends.
She had spent years worried about her time and distance and there I was doing my best, barely able to breathe while she was frustrated with my performance.
Her time meant more to her than my month’s dedication to run the best race I could.
Eventually, I angrily asked them to leave me so that I could run on my own terms without being belittled for stopping or running slow.
I was soooooo frustrated.
I tried so hard, with such a lack of training (not my fault), and they were totally insensitive and mean.
This is how our dogs feel if we don’t give them the tools to succeed.
Let go of the “destination”, or the “time”, and just spend time working with your dog.
After some training, you will both be up to par; but in the beginning, setting up a destination or a time crunch will only hurt your relationship.
2. Lack of Leash Manners and Heel Training
#2 leads directly from #3 and all of the priors on this list.
I think it is odd how often as humans we expect our dogs to be born with certain innate human rules and conditions.
Even though, if we think about it, our children aren’t born knowing what to do all of the time!
The difference is that we spend so much time educating and working with our children.
We teach them impulse control and language.
Yet, we simply “expect” our dogs to know how to control themselves and how to walk nicely on a leash.
Dogs aren’t born with leashes.
There is no magical dog leash!
Yet, it is a very simple and effective way to control behavior and teach manners but it is something that has to be taught to your dog.
Leashing a dog, in general, is very unnatural.
You can’t simply strap your dog to a leash and expect him to walk nicely, without pulling for your 2-mile stroll.
Leash manners must be taught first.
Eye contact and focus helps to keep the dog in the right place while he walks.
And, teaching him to find heel position is all critical.
Then, all of these principles need to be put together and worked on fluidly together.
Good leash manners and control on a leash can take weeks of dedicated dog training.
Those of us that have it didn’t reach our goals in 15 minutes.
We spent time training and teaching our dogs on leash.
We gave him the skills he needs to be successful when he runs across distractions.
We gave him coping mechanisms for when he deals with stress.
And, we did all of this before we ever imagined a destination to arrive on our walk
1. No Rewards
The other thing that sets us dog trainers, or those of us who have and embrace good leash manners, apart from those who don’t, is that we know and understand that dogs need rewards in order to continually make good choices.
If my dog chooses to look away from another dog barking and lunging at us, and he instead chooses to look up at me, he should be momentously rewarded.
There should be a reason for the dog to listen to and pay attention to you!
How many of you go to work and don’t get paid?
Most of us work for some kind of payment.
We also work for some kind of comradery. I work extra diligently because I enjoy the people I work with at my job.
It is the payment that brings us to our jobs, and it is usually the comradery that continues to carry us through.
Your dog is the same!
He wants some kind of payment for listening to you and ignoring his instincts and the distractions all around him.
It is the comradery that you build together as you train that will help to carry him past “needing” constant reward and reinforcement.
I teach my dogs that as their owner/handler, I am in charge of all the wonderful things that they need, want and desire.
It is my job to have those rewards and toys on me so that I can reward good behavior and condition my dog that listening to me brings payment.
Without having his payment, he learns that the squirrel, the neighbor kid, and all the other distractions are more rewarding than listening to me!
That is the last thing I want my dog to learn!
It is really up to me; will I teach him to listen to me, or fight with him and inadvertently teach him that everything else is more exciting and rewarding?
How will YOU train?
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.