This blog first appeared on ColumbiaPatch.com on July 24, 2012.
How to enhance the relationship you have with your dog by taking a walk together.
by Skye Anderson, MS
How do you and your dog go for a walk? Does he pull you because he is in a hurry to see what’s up ahead? If so, he is taking YOU for a walk. Are you pulling him along because he stops to sniff too often? If so, you are taking him for a walk. Or are the two of you basically walking together, enjoying each other’s company, with Fido within a 4-6 foot radius of you? If so, you are walking together. Or is Fido by your left leg all the time, heeling, as you walk briskly along?
Heeling is not necessary for an enjoyable walk. As a matter of fact, I don’t even teach Heeling in my dog training classes. Instead, I teach Loose-Leash Walking. I don’t care where your dog is (in front of you, behind you or by your side, left or right), as long as he is fairly close and Not Pulling. A term I use for Loose-Leash Waling (LLW) is J-Walking because the leash is not taut but looks a J.
Do you walk your dog just so he can ‘do his business’ and when he does, do you turn around and head for home? Perhaps your dog will catch on to this and delay doing his business to get a longer walk.
But this is not a blog on how to walk your dog other than to ask, Do you take your cell phone with you? A good idea, just in case you need to call for help for you or someone else. But NOT a good idea if you are on the phone for the duration of the walk and not paying attention to your dog, your best friend. Your dog could pick up something and devour it and it may not be what you want him to eat (this is more common at night when you can’t see as good as your dog can smell).
On the other hand, it is perfectly all right to carry on a conversation with Fido!
One purpose of a walk is to bond together, you and your dog, to enjoy seeing and smelling the same things. A lilac bush in bloom (for you), an overflowing garbage can or a fire hydrant (for your dog).
Perhaps you stop to chat with another person out for a walk. What does your dog do? Chances are he is at the end of the leash trying to get to that enticing smell that you don’t know exists but is just out of his reach. You yank on the leash, trying to get him back to you.
Why not put Fido in a Sit or a Down while you chitchat? This is a great opportunity for you to pet him and teach him a Settle. That way he can’t get into trouble and if you are petting him, chances are that he likes it!
You can also step on the leash to keep Rover from roving too far! He will then mostl likely sit or lie down.
I can’t keep my hands off any dog – perhaps because I have been doing canine massage for about 10 years. But I have never noticed this in anyone else until I attended the Pets on Wheels event at the state fairgrounds earlier this month. April from the Department of Natural Resources gave a presentation with her black lab, Bear, and showed us how he finds things with his nose. But, before the demonstration, April talked about Bear’s (and her) training as a team and all during the presentation, she would reach down and pet Bear’s head or ear. I could just feel the warm glow she transmitted to her canine partner and noticed that he would look up at her raptly. What a team!
I believe this was the first time I have been aware of anyone else making constant contact with his or her dog, like I do. I challenge you to do the same when you and Fido go for a walk. Let us know how it works out! And how many others you see in good relationships with dogs!