Many of us think that walking our dog is just throwing a collar and leash on him and then "away we go". This is not the case. As dog owners, our dogs need to look up to us as the ones that are keeping them safe and caring for their needs. We have responsibilities and tasks in order to accomplish this.
When we walk Wolfie, he must feel safe and understand that, whatever happens, we are in charge and he will be fine. Wolfie must be focused on us to provide him the proper signals and we must be aware of the changing environment of the walk in order to provide Wolfie with the security he needs.
I would like to give you a scenario of a walk and what you should be doing in order to have a successful and productive experience...
- No Extension Leashes. I have commented on this over and over again. The extension leash only allows Wolfie to be away from you without providing you focus and you providing him direction. Get a regular, six foot leash!
- Leashie, Leashie, Walkie, Walkie, Crazy, Crazy. If Wolfie goes crazy every time you pull out the leash for a walk, you already have a nutty dog before you begin. Put the leash on at different times during the day while you are home. Just drop it on the ground and let him walk around with it. Wolfie will very quickly learn that the leash doesn't always mean he is going on a walk. He will no longer react to the leash in a crazy manner and you will have an easier time getting it on him and starting your walk.
- No Running Out The Front Door. The beginning of the walk is not the start of a race. If it were, we would call it a "race" and not a "walk". Go to the front door and have Wolfie sit. Open the door and step out first. Once you are outside, invite Wolfie out and tell him to sit again. Once he is calm and sitting, you can start your walk.
- Wolfie Watches You. Have Wolfie on a slightly loose leash walking by your side. If he is walking by your side, you only have to give him about a foot of leash to allow it to be loose. We want him to be in position to have you in his peripheral vision so that he always knows you are there to keep him safe.
- Be the AWAC. Always be scanning the neighborhood ahead of you and behind you for potential diversions that might make Wolfie feel unsafe or spike his adrenaline. Squirrels, neighbors with their dogs, bicycles, large trucks, and gardeners with leaf blowers are a few examples of potential issues. Direct Wolfie away from them and capture his focus as they pass. If needed, go in a different direction or make a large circle around them. You want to allow Wolfie to experience them from a distance or stance where he feels safe. It is your job to make that happen.
- Sniffie, Potty, Play Time. A walk is more than going around the block until you get back home. It is a time to bond with Wolfie. The important fact is that you are in charge of Wolfie's actions. Stop and have Wolfie sit. Then give him a command like "Free" or "Go Potties" indicating that you are allowing him to engage in an action he wishes. Remember, you are allowing him to do what he wants. You are still in charge. When the "free time" is over, have him come to you and sit. When you are ready, give him the command to walk and continue your trek.
- Oh, Can I Pet Your Dog? If Wolfie is a cute dog, other people will always want to pet him. Remember, you are in charge and must keep Wolfie safe.
- If the other person is overly animated, they can't pet Wolfie.
- If you get the "heebie jeebies" from the other person, they can't pet Wolfie.
- If you see Wolfie back up or put his tail between his legs, they can't pet Wolfie.
- If the person seems fine to you, you can invite Wolfie to approach them. If Wolfie doesn't easily walk to them on a loose leash, no petting.
- Have the person put the back of his hand down low and allow Wolfie to smell him. If Wolfie is still calm, ask the person to take his hand around Wolfie's chest and slowly stroke the back of his neck.
- Never let the person move his hand directly over Wolfie's face or lean over Wolfie.
- When you are done, have the person stand still and allow Wolfie to move away.
- Arriving Home. When you get back home, it is not the end of a race. Have Wolfie sit at the front door. Open the door and step through. Call Wolfie to come inside and sit. Close the door and release Wolfie from the sit.