Not me! Nope, it’s not my turn. I did it yesterday!
Is taking your dog on a walk a complete nightmare? Is your shoulder sore from getting flung around at the end of the leash?
Did you know you ARE NOT a bad dog owner if you DON’T take your dog on a walk? That it’s actually a really good idea NOT to walk your dog if you are dreading the thought of getting drug around the neighborhood. There seems to be two universal aspects that dog owners believe they must do: teach their dog to sit and take them on a walk. Both of which, actually, are fairly useless in the big picture of creating a well-behaved member of your family. When I shared this good news with two recent clients, I thought they were going to shed tears of joy. They were overwhelmed to be relieved of the misery that came with the thought of walking their dog.
So, why is walking the dog often a very agonizing experience?
1) Grade School Level—the level of stimulation in the environment that challenges your dog’s capability to remain emotionally stable.
2) Lack of clear understanding—owners themselves don’t have a clear understanding of how to teach their dog to walk nicely on a leash. So how can a student learn when the teacher struggles with the concept?
The moment you and your dog step out the door, the Grade School Level skyrockets. Your dog’s emotions soar (and for some dogs, it’s not excitement but rather, fear). Imagine being tossed into the deep-end of a swimming pool without a clear understanding of how to paddle your arms and kick your feet in a rhythmic pattern to reach the side of the pool. Your anxiety would be compounded if the person who jumped in to save you didn’t know these fundamentals to support your learning in that moment.
• Establish a clear pattern for your dog to follow and learn what helps establish a boundary of space that defines where the dog should be positioned during a walk.
• Begin teaching this boundary in an environment that supports a calm Grade School Level, with very little distractions, such as inside your house. Over time, as the dog recognizes the boundary reliably, incrementally increase the Grade School Level.
• Use the leash to communicate to the dog, not control their ever step. Teaching is most productive when the student is allowed to make a few mistakes and learn from those experiences.
• Reinforce behaviors you desire with rewards that your dog values. For a walk, forward movement or space is what your dog really wants. Stepping forward occurs when the dog is in the position you desire. Stopping and taking away space captures your dog’s attention, so they can decide how to gain back the desired forward movement. Your dog will make the greatest strides in learning to walk on a loose-leash when they are in an environment that sets them up to succeed 95 percent of the time.
It’s your job to keep your dog successful, not theirs! If you are frustrated, it’s guaranteed your dog feels your negative energy, which means you’re contributing the struggle. Reduce distractions, take a break, and resume when you have a clear head and can advocate for your dog instead of being a grouch!
Ready to enjoy a happy walk with your dog, that you both enjoy? Look no further than Full House Dog Training! Our training system will teach you the fundamentals of Grade School Level and developing the simple patterns that teach you and your dog how to share in the joy of a stroll around the block.