Taking your dog for a walk can be a really relaxing experience for both yourself and your pup. Who doesn’t like to stop and smell the roses from time to time? While walks are great for physical health, it’s important that they’re also benefiting everyone’s mental health as well. If a typical walk consists of constant arm pulling, barking at dogs/people, constantly giving your dog commands, then maybe there’s a better way to spend time together.
Dogs repeat behavior that gets reinforced. If pulling on a leash results in movement forward, that sends the message that he should pull when he wants to go forward. Additionally, if he has been practicing pulling forward many times on the same route, he’s had the opportunity to study and hone his talent of pulling on this path. Instead of trying to “fix” this behavior while he’s pulling on your walk, use this time instead to start practicing some loose leash walking foundations at home where he’s comfortable and the environment is predictable.
Imagine while taking a casual stroll, your neighbors run down their driveway and start yelling at you. It wouldn’t take too many repetitions of this scenario for you to start anticipating getting bombarded at those houses. If your dog’s daily walks include scenarios where he/she repeatedly gets “yelled at” by other dogs, these walks could actually be having the opposite of the desired effect! Even though getting to the “path less traveled” may take longer, and result in less walks a week, the outcome may actually make it easier for your dog to relax when you get home.
How often does your dog get a chance to be a dog and use her nose to freely follow smells or look where she wants, instead of “watch me”? A walk should include time to allow your dog to sniff where she wants to sniff and look where she wants to look. Having to constantly say “leave it” or “let’s go” can wear on one’s patience really quickly. Try to separate the times you are training your dog (to leave things on the ground or only pay attention to you) from the times when you are telling her that it’s ok to just go do what meets her canine needs.
There are a lot of other options for activities than the daily, obligatory walk, that are also potentially less time-consuming, and, more fun. Hide-and-go-seek is a fun activity that can take as few as 15 minutes to mentally and physically tire out your pup, and you don’t even need to leave the house! Does your dog like to dig? Give her a kiddie pool filled with sand and let her do her thing in an appropriate area. Retailers sell a plethora of brain games for dogs, but you can create DIY toys out of empty soda bottles, boxes, or even muffin tins.
Dogs need mental stimulation in the same way they need exercise. A brain game a day with some training sessions sprinkled in and an occasional day off is a pretty reliable recipe to a healthy pup.
If you have questions about any of the information above or need assistance with your loose leash walking training, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.