I need to have an inquisitive canine moment, hope you all don’t mind:
- Why is it humans expect us pooches to know how to walk well on leash if we’ve never done it before? And why would you expect us to know how to walk well on leash if 1) we don’t already know how, and 2) you haven’t taught us?
If you found us dogs out in the wild, the last thing we’d want to do is have some obnoxious cord strapped to us while we roam, explore and hunt. Leashes are restricting, and frankly, just get in the way of our having a good time. They can also get tangled in various objects, including our own body parts. But since it’s a law to have us dogs leashed (unless stated otherwise), it’s one skill responsible dog guardians can teach to help promote a happy relationship that results in good times, not frustration.
Why do I bring this up? Well, mom and I get calls and emails all of the time from dog guardians expressing their frustration of how their own dog doesn’t know how to walk well on leash. From dog training class students at our inquisitive canine studio and the Ventura College Community Education, to our private dog training clients, and our dog behavior advice column; people seem to need assistance in the matter of walking their dog on leash.
My mom, who happens to be a certified professional dog trainer, and I have written a few blog posts on the art of dogs and loose leash walking. We’ve also addressed the matter in our dog behavior advice column directly. However, I myself do not have that issue. As a matter of fact, I have the complete opposite – well, at least 99% of the time. If there is a mail, UPS, FedEx, or other large prey item roaming about, I’ll pull so hard it makes those Iditarod pooches look slow.
For the most part I prefer a nice leisurely stroll – sniffing, marking, saying hello to
other dogs and humans…life’s too short not to stop and smell the roses (or the dead stinky pile of muck.) Mom on the other hand, when she takes me out, enjoys an actual walk! She’s a marathon runner herself. Since she knows I’m not like the herding and retrieving breeds that her friends have, she goes for her runs without me, then takes me on mine – this is when she makes it all about me, and not her.
But sometimes she does want me to keep up the pace and actually walk without stopping! Sometimes we even jog – which is kinda fun…I get to eat chicken when I jog. Little pieces once in awhile. She says it’s similar to runners getting food and fluids during races. She refers to herself as my traveling aid station 🙂 I think that’s sweet.
Anyway she wants me to jog, or keep a quicker pace because she wants me to do something you humans refer to as “exercise!” This way I’ll be more tired and more likely to want to take nappies, versus bark my head off in the yard – she doesn’t like when I do that. To me barking my head off is more fun, this is why mom wants to make walking and jogging with her more fun…she’s conditioning me to be more like a herding breed. I guess this is good because then I’m in better shape to bark in the yard – or go to agility class!
A few tips I’d like to relay, from an inquisitive canine’s point of view:
- Make our walks about us once in awhile. If your own dog would rather sniff and explore, allow them to be a dog once in awhile. If you need to exercise, go on your own first, then take your dog for his or her outing.
- Use humane, comfortable equipment: Mom and I like the harnesses where the leash attaches in the front. Not those nasty collars that cause us pain! Ouch – who has time to think about how to walk on a leash! We’re just trying to avoid having our neck yanked!
- Reward us with yummy treats, petting and praise whenever we do what you want! We’re more likely to do more of what you want if we’re rewarded for it.
- Practice-practice-practice! Inside your home with no distractions is the best place to start. Move outside to the real world once we know how the behavior is performed!
- If you’re going to go for longer distance, build slowly. Just like humans need to build up to higher mileage, us dogs do too. And check our paws to make sure they don’t get cut or burned…you don’t run around barefoot, but we do. Oh, and if your pooch has physical limitations, or is a younger pup, check with his or her veterinarian to make sure it’s okay to go for longer distances.
Mom and I had trained to the point I could run a 5K with her… I wonder when we’re going to sign up for a race? Hmm, something for this inquisitive, and conditioned canine to ponder.