The walk is an extremely important activity as it mentally stimulates your dog, it releases pent up energy and is good exercise. Additionally, it is a crucial time when dogs demonstrate their place in the pack.
When you take your dog out for a walk this is a time where you connect as a pack and install who is the leader and who is the follower. Many dog owners choose not to take their dogs out while others put their dogs in the car, drive to the park and let them off the lead straight away to prevent being pulled down the road. I understand the temptation as it is the easier option; the very thought of being pulled down the road, a possible dog attack and eventually arriving home feeling embarrassed, stressed and with a sore arm, it really is not an attractive prospect for anyone!
On numerous occasions I have witnessed stressed dogs change into happy and relaxed dogs just by getting this area right and it has become very clear to me that this is a vital area for showing leadership, as well as releasing nervous and pent up energy. It is why so many dogs will ignore pain inflicted by a collar so they can take that leader position, with them in front and you behind.
The walk is one of the main areas of leadership and although it does require dedicating time to do the training, it is well worth it. By avoiding taking your dog out or putting them in the car and driving straight to the park you are missing out on a major opportunity to convince your dog that you are the pack leader.
Getting this right eliminates other areas…
I remember an owner I visited for a home consultation, she had three cats and a Westie dog. The dog had viciously attacked the cats on a few occasions and had left such tension in the house that the cats lived most of the time upstairs, feeling frightened, and the dog downstairs, trying to get at them. The owners were at their wit’s end and dreaded another attack happening, so I was called in to save both cat and dog’s lives and return sanity to the household!
On the first meeting I explained the areas that her dog looked for leadership and how she could achieve this in a kind and gentle way. I requested that she first work on laying down the foundations of leadership. I returned a week later and asked for the cats to be placed in the small lounge downstairs so that we could put down boundaries and integrate them all. Looking at the owner’s face it was evident that she thought I was mad and that world war three was about to happen!
Before taking the dog into the lounge we took him for a walk so I could release any excitable or pent up energy (from both the dog and the owner!) and clearly demonstrate that the dog was a lower ranking member. We did this by ensuring that he walked calmly on the lead by our side. This also gave me an opportunity to reassure the owner and encourage her to think positively. I asked her to tell me all the wonderful things about her dog and her life, as I knew the recipe for success was to have both dog and owner in a balanced state of mind.
The dog responded quickly and favourably on the lead, so we let him off when we got to the fields. He stayed close and always came back when called. When we returned to the house it was evident that we had a relaxed and happy dog. We let him cool down, fed him and it was then a good time to introduce him to the cats.
I asked the owner to go into the lounge and I would bring the dog in whilst still on the lead. We walked in, he saw the cats, averted his gaze (which is a submissive act) and went lay in his bed. You could have heard a pin drop as well as the owner’s jaw hitting the floor! I handed the lead to the owner and she took him out of the room and brought him back in again with the same response. At the end of the consultation I let myself out as the owner was busy stroking a cat one side of her and the dog the other side. It would have certainly made a wonderful photo 🙂
Although this is an astonishing story the point I am making is this. We did not need to do any work with the dog or the cats we just needed to demonstrate that the dog was not in charge. We communicated with the dog during the walk, we drained his nervous energy and had a calm, submissive dog who no longer wanted to kill the cats. The important message from this example is that the owner was able to achieve a dramatic transformation in her dog’s behaviour and now lives in harmony with her animals. What was needed was an understanding of what was going on in her dog’s mind, for her to take the leadership position and to think positively and relax.
So now it’s your turn!
It does take time and dedicated training to get this area right but when you do so many other areas magically click into place 🙂
Give it a try!