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Dog Walking: Expectations vs. Reality

Leah Lykos

Dog walking tips
Photo by Justin Veenema 
Expectation: Your dog will enjoy walking in a straight line at the exact same pace as you.
Reality: Your dog wants to sniff, roll, dig, run, play, and zig-zag in 1,000 different directions. 
Solution: Let your dog sniff! Let him orient to new environments, situations, and stimuli. Orienting is an important biological function of the nervous system, and your dog will often stop, freeze, and orient before feeling safe to move forward. Try not to interrupt this process. 
Allow your dog to roll and have some fun on this walk. If you are on the beach or someplace where it is acceptable, let him dig to his heart's content! Carry a toy and play tug when his prey drive gets aroused (or any drive, really). Let him carry the toy till he tires of it. 
Always have high-value food on you and hand-feed throughout the walk. 
Expectation: On-leash greetings with strangers and strange dogs are always okay. 
Reality: Most dogs (even very social ones) will be at least moderately stressed by on-leash greetings. 
Solution: Just say no to on-leash greetings! UNLESS you have the top 1% of all social and emotionally balanced dogs, and you know FOR CERTAIN that your dog enjoys on-leash greetings (this is a step above tolerating them) then you should avoid on-leash greetings. 
Expectation: Walking your dog on streets, sidewalks, etc. or even jogging them around a park is enough to physically exhaust and emotionally balance them. 
Reality: Most dogs want to do actual work, and simply walking on a leash is not work. If anything, leash-walking just creates more frustration in a high-drive dog, and then your emotional equation is out of balance. 
Solution: Consider actually working your dog. Most dogs consider walking to be hunting, so if you have a hunting breed, you might actually hunt with them! Canine Resistance Training is another great way to work high-drive dogs, especially those who are strong on the leash and prone to "seeking conflict." Pushing for food and playing tug are also great ways to channel your dog's energy into work. 
Other Helpful Tips: 
Walk your dog on a martingale collar instead of a harness. 
Dogs LOVE the feeling of pulling in a harness, so harnesses actually encourage pulling. Don't put your dog in a harness unless you WANT them pull. 
Never pull your dog in the direction you want to go, this creates conflict due to the "opposition reflex," which is the dog's instinct to work against resistance. Always move them forward with praise or food. 
No harsh leash pops or leash corrections! This is not nice. A little bit of leash pressure to communicate with your dog is FINE, but don't jerk them around. Communicate with your dog in a way that is fair and they are more likely to build a long-term bond based on trust and loyalty. 

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