Behaviour / Dogs

Walking your Dog

black and white border collie being walked by child

Going for walks comes part and parcel with owning a dog. Whether it’s a short brisk walk, long leisurely walk or even a jog with your pal, there are certain rules you need to follow. Just because you own a dog, doesn’t mean walking him will be a breeze, you need to be in control in order to keep you and your pooch safe.

Some things you need to consider before mastering your walks.

Before Your Walk Begins. The best way to develop a positive dog walking habit is when your pet is a puppy. As soon as her immune system is strong enough to protect her from disease, she’s ready for walks with you or other family members. Make sure your dog has the right collar or harness that is comfortable and safe before beginning your walks. Sometimes it takes a while for your dog to adjust to having a harness or collar put on, so practice at home before venturing out, as this will help create the walk a more comfortable experience. It shouldn’t take more than a couple days for your pup to forget she’s even wearing it. Don’t try to take your pup for a walk if she protests wearing a collar. Get her used to wearing her collar first. As soon as your pup is use to wearing their collar or harness, the next step is to attach a long leash and let it drag around behind them until, again, they are used to the sensation of the leash.

Once your dog is comfortable wearing his collar/harness and leash then it’s time to take the walks outside in a safe environment. Teaching your pup how to walk is not always an easy feat, it takes time, persistence and most of all patience.

puppy collie wearing harness sitting at humans feet

Here are some pointers before hitting the streets for your walk.

Make sure you have taught your pup a cue. Introducing a cue (sound) to your puppy, that means he is about to receive a treat will help with training your pup to return to you. In a quiet, distraction free area and your pup wearing his leash and collar, make the sound. The moment your pup turns toward you, or acknowledges you, reward him with a treat. Repetition is key, after a few times you will notice your puppy responding to his cue and also coming over to you for the treat. While he’s on his way to you, still wearing the leash and collar, back up a few paces and then reward when he gets to you. Continue the progression until your puppy, upon hearing the cue noise, comes to you and walks with you a few paces. Remember to keep your sessions short, and end them when your puppy is still eager to do more, not when he’s mentally exhausted. Be sure to practice his cue inside in a safe environment, fewer distractions and when confident enough begin to practice outside where there will be new challenges, as all the sounds, smells, and sights your puppy encounters will be both intriguing and new to him. Be patient; keep the first walks short.

Once you have started to train outside, be sure to choose the side on which you want your dog to walk. Consistency is important when training your dog to walk. Choosing a side for the dog to walk establishes its spot in the activity. The puppy will become accustomed to walking with you by knowing what to expect.

Be sure to talk to your dog and reward your dog with special treats. Don’t get frustrated and have patience. Encourage your dog with a “good boy” when it does something right. Use a stern voice when instructing it not to do the wrong things, like bark at people passing by or growling at other dogs. Use the treats when teaching your dog to walk but especially when you want to teach your pet to not pull on the leash. Reward often and consistently.  Reserve a treat that your dog especially likes for training purposes.

Ongoing training throughout your dog’s life is a great way to keep him healthy and his boredom at bay. It’s also a wonderful way to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Keeping up with training can also be about improving leash manners, learning basic or advanced obedience commands and ongoing socialisation.

Your dog depends on you for her quality of life. Walking her every day or at least several times each week – taking advantage of different types of walks to stimulate her mentally and physically – will help your canine companion be balanced, healthy and happy for a lifetime.

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