If walking with your dog is a struggle when it ought to be relaxing and fun for both you and your dog, you can change that. Below are the solutions to the most common problems dog owners encounter when taking their dog for a walk.
GOING CRAZY EXCITED AT THE SIGHT OF THE LEASH
Your dog has connected the dots – leash – walk – fun. He’s jumping all over you and running in circles so fast you can’t even attach the leash to his collar. In this state, he will likely stay overly excited once you get outside. This isn’t the way to begin a walk.
It could take some time to correct this problem, but it can be done. Take the leash out at different times throughout the day without actually going out for a walk. Using treats as reinforcement, reward your dog when his behavior is calm when he is near the leash. Do the same when he doesn’t get excited walking over the leash on the floor.
Next, you will provide treats when you attach and re-attach the leash several times a day without going for a walk. You want the leash to mean “Sit” or “Show me calm behavior.” Never start a walk unless your dog is exhibiting calm behavior.
TUG OF WAR
A walk will not be fun for you if your dog is always trying to race ahead or in a different direction than you want to go. It doesn’t matter why he does this; he needs to be taught to walk with you instead of against you.
To accomplish this, it is easiest to begin in a boring environment instead of outside with all its distractions. You can begin inside your home and when ready, move to a balcony or hallway in an apartment building or your back or front yard.
It works best if you use a quality harness vs. a simple collar. Attach the leash and while you take small steps forward, toss a treat behind you. When your dog catches up to you looking for another treat give him an enthusiastic ‘YES’ and toss another treat behind you.
You are ready to take him out for a walk once he has mastered this step.
TOO MUCH SNIFFING
Sniffing is probably the best part of a walk for your dog, and you will want him to enjoy his walk. That doesn’t mean that you have to give him control over how much sniffing he does. You can set the rules.
You might want to begin the walk with a little jogging or fast walking where you don’t allow your dog to sniff. Cue him with ‘Let’s run.’ Then in the middle of the walk, you can slow it down and cue him with ‘Sniff’ or ‘Smell time’.
Perhaps the surroundings during your walk may work best with beginning with a long sniffing spree and then cueing your dog that ‘sniff time is over.’
Keep in mind that ‘sniffing’ exercises a dog’s mind and goes a long way towards tiring him out and extending his life.
OVERREACTION TO OTHER DOGS
Dogs who bark, lunge, and don’t listen to you when they see another dog or skateboard, bike, car, etc. are acting in fear. They need to learn they are safe. Punishing him will make the problem much worse. Correcting the problem requires counter conditioning. It usually requires professional help because the first few times you use counter conditioning are the critical learning episodes. In other words, you have to get it right at the beginning.
If you are going to try it on your own, do it from a safe distance. You want the trigger (another dog, skateboard, etc.) to be immediately countered with a major distraction; i.e., his favorite meat, cheese, or another fantastic treat. The treats begin with the first sighting of a trigger and end as soon as the trigger is out of your dog’s sight. Your timing is paramount.
NOT PAYING ATTENTION WHEN OUT FOR A WALK
What do you do if your dog listens to you at home, but acts like he’s deaf when you go out? What is happening is his entire focus when outside can be his concentration on all the smells. Correcting it starts at home.
Sit in a chair at home with a bowl of treats. Throw a treat over your dog’s head. Say his name at the moment he is beginning to devour it. At the very second his ears turn toward you after you call his name, say ‘YES’ and toss another treat over his head. Repeat! He must get very good at turning toward you when you say his name. Once he’s got it, then continue it while out for a walk.
Getting a dog’s attention on cue (calling his name) in any situation requires effort on your part. The more training you do with high-value treats to reinforce positive behaviors, the greater your chance of those positive behaviors becoming something you can count on in any situation. With training at home and then on walks, you and your dog can learn to both enjoy your daily walk.