Something to Walk About...
So many people call and ask what they can do about a certain behavior... Jumping fences, digging, chewing, barking, or just being a hyper "out of control" dog...
My first question is always... well, how often do you walk?
And the answer is typically "well, you see... I work full time, and the kids have practice, and with night school, and trying to keep the house clean, and yoga, and trumpet practice, and learning to crochet... i just don't have time to take my dog out for a walk...."
Or this one: "We have a big backyard and she loves to run back and forth along the fence with the dogs next door, we play fetch down the hall, and we have stairs... so she is definitely getting enough exercise, so that isn't the problem, a walk won't help!"
Seems like people want magical answers to some problems they encounter. We are in a time of immediate gratification, "quick fixes," and easy ways out... but not everything in life can be an easy, magical fix. Dog guardianship is a good lesson in so many aspects of your life! You really learn to slow down and take it all in, you could even learn to take a break from your phone!
Walking the dog is not just physical exercise. Walking your dog is 45 minutes of mental stimulation, bonding and physical exercise. Now keep in mind, someone probably told you at some point that your (insert breed here) doesn't need a walk because they are a small dog and do good with just exercising in the back yard. Or, your (insert other breed here) doesn't need to walk because they are a low energy breed anyways...
ALL OF IT IS BS!
Yes, some dogs only need a 20 minute walk once a day, some dogs need an hour three times... each dog is different, but each dog needs a walk.
Here's how it should go:
"Time for your walk Fido" you say, in a happy, but calm voice.
Same verbal cue every day.
Maybe chaos follows... let that happen... ignore it, no eye contact. Don't even acknowledge. The first few days excitement probably won't happen, then after your pooch learns what "Time for your walk" means, it will happen, but then (as long as you follow these guidelines) it will subside within a few days and become happy and enthusiastic wagging and panting, maybe some dancing while they sit and wait for the leash.
You go to the door with leash in hand, give the "Here" or "Come" command, which should mean your pup comes to you, and goes into a "sit" in front of you, facing you. You lean down to connect the leash, if your dog hops up from that sit, you stand back up and give the "Sit." command... then (do that as many times as you have to until you are able to) connect the leash with your baby staying seated. As soon as that leash is hooked, they may jump back up and go wild. DON'T LEAVE! Get them into a sit/stay again, over and over if needed, while you open the door, and have them wait for your release word... Mine is "Lets Go." Remain calm, no getting your dog amp'd up, you don't want chaos. No high pitched voices, no "Do you wanna go bye bye, Do you wanna go for a walk? Who's a good puppy? Who wants to go for a walk? Who's ready to leave?" It is SO cute to see them get so excited about something, but you don't want a Tasmanian devil on a rope headed down the street with you attached to the other end. Keep it cool. Your dog loves this, trust me.
So, you set off on your walk. This should be a quick paced walk, a trot for your dog-- and long, quick strides for you. Pooch should remain at your side, not lagging behind sniffing around, not pulling ahead telling you where to go next. During the first 15 minutes, you are on a mission, you don't allow stops to pee on bushes, mail boxes, trees... first of all, that's not the point of the walk--your dog is exercising his body and mind, not his bladder. Second, you need to set rules to show your dog some boundaries--that is a huge part of making that "out of control" dog learn that you have expectations, and those expectations should be met with happy compliance. Finally... it's poor etiquette to leave urine all over your neighbors property, plain and simple. If your dog puts the brakes on and pops a squat... mark the behavior with your cue word ("Potty" is mine) and quickly pick up the poo and be on the way...
Now your first 15 minutes is coming to a close... find a spot you can relax for a few. I aim my walks to take this break in a dirt lot that doesn't have too many sticker bushes... we are out in the country, so it isn't hard for us to find an open area, but you may need to plan ahead and end at a school, park, or parking lot with a little grassy patch. Now is your dogs time to relax. Pee on some stuff, play with the ball, get a cookie or two, work on some basic obedience... this little 5-10 minute break would simulate a pack of dogs typical behavior during migration. It re-focuses your dog, and gives them a chance to have some fun... on your terms.
Ok, breaks over. Back to the walk. Once again, brisk, no fooling around. 15 minutes, and you are back home. Stop and sit at the front door for leash to come off, walks should begin and end with complete calm, and you in control. Your walk can be the exact same path every single day, because even if it is the same geographical location, its NOT the same walk. They are having a completely different experience every time you go out. There are different sights, smells, new sounds, people, cars, the squirrel that came by 10 minutes ago... your dog is taking all of this in, processing it, their mind is analyzing every little detail that you don't even notice, all in different combinations, and THAT, folks, is what makes the walk so important! Your dog is mentally exhausted after the walk, and a mentally exhausted dog, is a content, non-destructive, happy dog.
Take your dog out, bond with your pup, get some fresh air and exercise, and do what dogs are supposed to do.... #walk!