Last weekend at our annual Walk Your Paws event, a woman I met when she adopted a dog from our shelter a few months ago, was there with her recent adoptee. While she was incredibly happy with how this new dog had fit wonderfully into her family; her young boys doing terrifically with this little guy after a previous adoption had not been a good fit; there were still a few issues with which she needed advice. Namely that the little dog was not very well-behaved on the leash. Pulling seemed to be the biggest issue but also she was disappointed that his poor leash manners didn’t lend him to becoming the running buddy she hoped he would be. She’s a serious runner and obviously saw the benefit for all that the dog could burn off some energy running regularly.
When I looked down and noticed the retractable leash attaching the little beagle to her, the biggest culprit to her problem was evident. I hate these leashes. While they provide ample freedom of movement, they are horribly unsafe and do nothing but give the dog attached to them too much freedom. I rarely if ever see anyone using one that really has any control over their dog…or at least not in a way that I believe is safe or affective. They are always out in front and in control. Leading the walk.
Walking is such basic bonding experience between dog and person. Walking or traveling is a basic pack dynamic moment and not using it as one with your dog today is a good walk wasted!
Not to say that I insist upon the proper heal position for walking your dog. But I do believe to create not only you as the leader of your small pack (or in my case my large pack) having the dog at least beside or slightly behind you is essential. You cannot control a dog in front of you in any reasonably affective way.
Dogs that are in front are the leaders. Leaders don’t look to those behind them for direction. Leaders don’t look to those behind them for protection. And honestly its just not safe when your dog is encountering things first…whether people, other dogs, cars, etc.
Showing the recent adopter how to walk her dog with a slip leash, keeping him beside her using short abrupt tugs on the leash to give him direction and correction and then lots of slacked leash as a reward for his good behavior took only minutes. She saw the almost immediate change in her dog while I demonstrated. And then reported to me less than a week later how pleased she was with her own progress in such a short time with her dog and that he accompanied her on a 2 mile jog for the very first time this week as a result.
This is not rocket science folks. Just good common dog sense. Your walk around the block can be and should be so much more than just a potty break or fresh air. It is a daily opportunity to remind your dog who the pack leader is. Reestablishing your position daily will go a long way beyond the walk…it will extend into the home and beyond.
Don’t waste it!
Funny Maggie (adopted from the shelter) walked beside me from the very first time I took her out just as a volunteer walking the dogs. Not only walked beside me but would frequently look up at me while walking ….still to this day this is how she leash walks. Question…what makes one dog automatically do this and others needing “leader pack” training? Or maybe whoever had her before had already trained her?
Dogs are as individual in their personalities, needs, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses as people. Some are born needing leadership. Some born to challenge it. Some look to people naturally while others will look to follow their instincts. Some have been taught to look to people while others have been given either no such training or even worse have had experiences that cause them not to depend on us so much. But all have a pack mentality of some sort within them and it is up to us to establish our leadership positions in a manner that they can relate to and then follow.
You must be a good teacher. Sorry if I was inconsistent on Sunday…I promise to do better.
The confirmation of my skills as a teacher are best demonstrated by my students. Time will tell.