Learn to Walk the Dog Training 360 Way

Nature prepares dogs for a lot of stuff: finding nourishment, fending off threats, finding/creating safe living spaces, even play. These things find corollaries when we bring them into our homes; they learn where their food comes from, where they should sleep, etc.

One thing nature does not help them with, however, is going for a nice, loose-leash walk with their person. Everything about the experience is unnatural for both dog and human - to be tethered together, bi-ped and quadri-ped, neither pulling the other. Learning to walk together is a skill that both must learn and practice and appreciate. It's hard, which is why so many people fail; but it's also worth it.

WHY walks? We hear all the time people excusing/explaining their dog's behavior on leash. They concede getting pulled around by their dogs is unpleasant, and that the experience makes them less than excited to get out and walk their dogs on a regular basis. It's so unfortunate, because walking with our dogs is one of the best ways to bond with them, and they with us.

Walking with our dogs pairs several of our dogs' "life imperatives" - physical activity, mental stimulation, and socialization - and links them together with people. As our dogs' friend and guardian, we want to maximize every opportunity to reiterate to our dogs that we're there for them, and that we're in this thing together. That's what builds trust, which is the foundation of any healthy relationship.

Asking our dogs to walk WITH us asks them to assume a very different mindset than the one that allows them to pull, mark on trees and bushes, and yell at other dogs/people. The dogs who do those things barely acknowledge their person's presence, let alone their key role in their life. And the more our dogs practice forgetting us, dismissing us, or even lashing out at us, the more that mindset becomes a part of their understanding of their relationship with us. Which is not ideal.

Asking our dog to walk WITH us is about building a partnership, experiencing together, moving as a single unit. It asks our dog to exercise her mind to keep pace with us, and have the discipline to behave calmly amid distractions and prioritize our company over anything else. It's hard work - which is what makes a 30-minute structured walk so much more useful for the average companion dog than just about any other activity. Body and mind, activity and restraint. Working all at the same time - it's a big deal.

Asking our dog to walk with us on a loose leash doesn't mean you're asking your dog to be any less of a dog - dogs need romping time, fetch time, hiking time, playgroup time. Dogs should have all of those things to be fulfilled and balanced. But when that leash goes on, that's YOUR time together. It should bring you closer.

I walk all 8 of my dogs together every day. Some of them are captured in the photo above. We're quite a spectacle, I'm sure: seven littles, a pitbull, and me. We take up the whole sidewalk. But for us, it's pretty zen. Everyone learns to manage their leash and each takes a place in the pack walk, either to my side or behind. It's very quiet, except for the times I praise them and tell them how proud I am of them, or give them information ("cross here," "walk up", etc.). I have dogs ages 4-16 years, and we all go at least 2 miles every day. It's my time with them, and they know I'm there for them. It's a really precious ritual for me, and I'm pretty sure for them, too.

If you're looking for a way to strengthen your relationship with your dog, I promise that learning to walk together is one of the very most effective ways.

Sing up for one of our memberships to learn how to teach loose leash walking to your dog, the gear we use to train and walk our client and personal dogs, and how to handle leash reactivity and other on-leash issues.

Joe Dickinson