In a recent post I discussed the various tools used for leash walking but I didn’t have a chance to address the walk itself. Well, today I’m ready to tell all (or as much as I can in a blog post).
Let’s dive right in by tackling some of the most common questions I get asked about this topic:
“How much sniffing should I let my dog do?”
The dog worlds is ruled by the nose and sniffing stuff is one of the long time favorite pastimes of dogs everywhere. If their nose catches something interesting they feel compelled to go check it out. You pooch isn’t doing it because he wants to disobey you, it’s just that every fiber of his being is saying go check that really cool smell out!!
Asking your dog not to go investigate something that smells cool (to your dog – you may think it’s actually quite gross) is like expecting an eighteen-year-old boy not to look at girls at a bikini contest. I don’t care how good a kid he is, he’s looking.
Now, just because your pooch wants to sniff something doesn’t mean you should allow him to sniff every single little thing he wants to. And there should probably be a time limit too – I mean some dogs dig their nostrils in there and set up camp.
If I let my dog decide how much sniffing she should do, our short ten minute walk around the block would take about two hours. You dictate the pace and the amount of sniffing to be done. Sometime enough is enough already and we have to get moving.
“I’ve heard your dog should be behind you or at your side and never in front. Is this true?”
If you watch Cesar Milan’s, Dog Whisperer, TV show you will know that Cesar insists that your dog be either behind you or at your side but never in front. Other hard-core trainers will say your dog should always be on your left side no matter what.
Cesar’s philosophy is that to be the “alpha leader” you need to be the one in front, while the hard-core trainers want your dog on the left because that’s how it is in any competitive show or hunting situation.
Personally, I don’t agree that to be the dog’s leader you need to be in front of your dog. I don’t care where your dog is around you as long as the leash is relaxed and your dog can take direction from you. If you have no ability to communicate with your dog or he’s very distractable or reactive, I would keep him close to you. The farther your dog is away from you the less control you have and the less your dog is including you in his decisions.
I often have my dog in front of me both on and off leash but I can ask her to wait at any time and if she’s on leash there is always some slack. She may be in front but I’m calling the shots and she in a very relaxed state of mind.
As for only keeping your dog on the left side, unless your doing competitive obedience or showing your dog it makes no difference which side your dogs walks on. For strong dogs I usually say keep them on your stronger, more dominant side so you have more control.
“Should the walk be fast for exercise or a casual stroll?”
The thing to remember is the walk is your agenda, not your dogs. If you are interested in getting some exercise, then you should not allow your dog to stop and sniff too much. However, if you’re just out for a leisurely stroll then feel free to let your pooch sniff away. It’s really up to you.
If you empower your dog with the decision making he will happily do so and you will never get a say into what you want to do on your walks.
“My dog pulls me all over the place. Should I let him? And if not, how do I stop it?”
Don’t get too pissy about your dog’s desire to yank you all over the neighborhood. Yes, it’s annoying but remember that your dog has four legs, while you only have two. He can, and really, really, really wants to move faster than us. We are painfully slow to our dogs.
That being said, he may want to go faster but he can learn to walk at your pace. There are many ways to teach your dog to slow down a bit and not pull on leash but I really can’t go into all that here. So, let me just give you a few basic ideas without going into detail.
- Just stop when he pulls and walk when the leash gets relaxed.
- As soon as your dog pulls forward, turn and go the opposite direction, taking your dog with you. Continue and repeat. You pooch will realize that your insane and you keep changing direction, so he better keep an eye on you – which will make him move slowly as he watches for your next change in direction.
- Teach a “watch” command. If your dog is looking at you, he can’t be pulling forward.
- Ask your dog to sit every 20 feet or so. He’ll start to anticipate the sit and focus on you instead of surging forward.
- Take a big step forward in front of your dog, turn and move into your dogs space, causing him to move backward and look up and address you. As soon as his body orientation moves from forward to neutral, turn and continue walking.
- Leash correction. This one requires some demonstration because too many people do this wrong. I’m not a big fan of Cesar’s snap method. I like a more slow upward pull and release. This doesn’t work with every dog and there is some technique involved. A training collar and/or leash might also be necessary.
These are just a few suggestions and many of them are kind of hard to describe without actually showing you with your dog but I hope it gives you a starting point. Depending upon the dog you may need a training tool or some help from a dog trainer.
No matter what, dogs don’t come pre-loaded knowing how to walk next to us wacky humans – it’s a skill that needs to be taught and practiced.
I hope that helps. It’s worth working on because daily walks are so beneficial to both you and your dog, so get out there, work on it and perfect it.