The walk is for the dog, not for you. Yes, you read that correctly. I will likely ruffle some feathers with this one, but that’s fine with me.
Yes, the walk is for you in the sense that you get to get outdoors and walk off some of the garbage you likely put into your body. The walk is for the dog in the sense that it gets to move its body and see the world.
The function(s) of the walk for the dog: gather important dog information such as “who peed here and when”, use its nose to investigate the world and get its blood pumping and body moving as nature intended, learn what wildlife may be in the area, experience the world, and so on.
Walking your dog should not be a chore. This is a living and breathing creature that YOU chose to bring into your home. That means that you are responsible for its well-being. A dog needs exercise – an increase in exercise can decrease behavioral problems.
Some dogs need far more exercise than others. Get to know your individual dog and be sure you’re giving it what it needs to be happy, healthy, and well-behaved.
We all want to have a dog that walks nicely on leash and is a pleasant partner to walk with. Few dogs find this leash business amenable right off the bat, so it is worthwhile to teach the dog what you want the walk to be like. Positive reinforcement, anyone?
Training is key in teaching a dog how you’d like them to behave on the walk. Some people want a dog that walks next to them the entire walk while others are fine so long as the dog does not pull them along. Decide what it is that you want and teach the dog.
If you’re relying on corrections to train a dog how to walk on a leash, I beg you to reconsider and try a different approach. A dog’s neck is delicate with a trachea, windpipe, thyroid, and other anatomical parts that are at risk if you’re using leash jerks, choke, prong, or a shock collar to teach the leash.
On top of that, corrections-based training runs the very real risk of the dog making unintended negative associations. It is unlikely you will correct the dog at the precise moment necessary. Leash reactivity, anyone?
Moreover, if you have to correct your dog in this manner on every walk, you haven’t actually trained the dog how to walk with you. You’d be wise to seek out the help of a force-free, positive reinforcement trainer.
Don’t be a dictator and dictate the dog’s every move while out for a walk. Do let the dog be a dog. This means allowing the dog to sniff, explore, and be a dog for part of the walk.
At the end of the day, it is up to us to teach our dogs what we do want. This includes teaching the leash.
©Kate Godfrey, 2019