Walking the dog. It sounds easy, right? It is – if you know how to be the pack leader and a good dog walker. Dogs are frequently called pack animals because they evolved from wolves. However, experts argue about how viable the pack theory really is for domesticated dogs. No matter whose side you take in the pack animal debate, one thing is clear – dogs respond positively to leadership and affection during a walk.
To have a productive walk, first check your collar and leash. The leash should be securely connected to a breakaway collar to give your dog protection in case the leash gets hung up on an obstacle. Different dogs require different lengths of leash. Be sure your dog is not choking and has plenty of room to explore, but not so much that you need to pull or drag to bring the dog back in line.
Set the tone early by bringing the dog to the front door and then asking her to sit. Don’t let the dog charge out of the front door. Establish right away that you are the leader. When the dog is sitting quietly, then it’s time to go. You should exit the door first, followed by your dog.
Try to keep your leash arms relaxed and slack. The leash should be loose enough to give the dog room. If you grip it too tightly the dog will sense your tension and get keyed up. For most dogs, harnesses are not a good idea. A harness encourages dogs to pull since they do not like the feeling of being closed in.
Make sure you are the leader of the walk. If your dog is permitted to pull you, that reinforces the perception that the dog is in charge, not you. As the human, you need to be the alpha dog. The dog should follow behind or just beside you. If the dog feels he must be a leader, this can also translate into stress and behavior you don’t want.
Don’t jerk the line, since that also jerks the dog and may hurt her. It also communicates stress or anxiety to the dog. Relax – if your dog wants to sniff and meander around, let him explore.
Be completely present for the walk, just as you would with a child. That means not texting or talking on the phone. Give your dog attention and he will bond with you. Stay relaxed and the dog will remain relaxed. Allow your dog to sniff and mark the areas you pass, since dogs instinctually seek to do this.
Monitor obstacles and people that may cause anxiety or conflict for your dog. If another dog walker is being pulled forward by their dog, their hyper energy might entice your dog to bite, bark and ump. Avoid this situation by crossing the street.
Bring treats with you to reward your dog for good behavior. If you have a dog who is very hyper and eager to run, that might be a sign he is just not getting enough exercise. Remember what kind of breed your dog is. Those with hunting bloodlines need lots of exercise even in domestic living situations.