Dogs ‘N Sync Walking: 10 Quick Tips

Billings Dog WalkerTracie Morgan is a Certified Dog Walker, has dog first aid certification, and her B.S. degree in Social Science from Rocky Mountain College in Billings MT. Tracie operates a dog walking service in Billings, Montana called Dogs ‘N Sync, LLC where she takes up to six dogs in a pack on daily 3 mile off-leash dog hikes to local public access area trails and parks.

The foundation of dog training is dog walking. Walking your dog is the most important part of training and it forms the cornerstone for all other areas of training.   Many dog owners are at their wits end with their dog’s behavior on the walk and they desperately want things to change.  We have all seen dogs determined to get to another dog, their favorite bush, a fire hydrant, or to people they see in the neighborhood.  We watch as they drag their embarrassed owners around the block.  If you are the owner of a dog that has a mind of its own, not only do you have sore arms but you probably dread walking your dog.

Walking your dog is a great way for you and your dog to get exercise and it is a fun and fulfilling way to improve your relationship with your dog. There is no better way to form a strong bond and fulfill your dog’s core need for regular and adequate amounts of exercise.  Another good reason for walking your dog is because there is a strong connection between lack of exercise and behavior problems in dogs. A lot of behavior issues can be resolved with consistent socialization and exercise. Of course, there are many reasons for problems, but most start with owner’s not having all the information they need to successfully walk their dog.

I am going to give you 10 tips for dog walking but first, I have a question for you….

DO You Know About the APDT?

Chances are you haven’t heard of Ian Dunbar. He is the renowned and popular author of six books on pet training, he developed one of the earliest puppy training courses in the United States (Sirrus Puppy Training), he is the holder of a veterinary degree and a Special Honors in Physiology and Biochemistry from the Royal Veterinary College of London University, he has a doctorate in animal behavior from the psychology department of UC Berkley, he has done a decade of research, he has decades of dog training experience, he is the founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) an organization with thousands of members, and he has revolutionized the dog training field with positive reinforcement methods.  Ian Dunbar is the dog trainer’s trainer.

A sample of Ian Dunbar Quotes:

Even unwanted behavior offers a wonderful dog training opportunity. Reinforcing the cessation of misbehavior is the training technique of choice when trying to eliminate whining, growling, and running away. Punishment generally exacerbates the problem, making the dog more likely to whine, growl, or run away”   

One of the most magically powerful training techniques is to ignore all unwanted behavior and instead, teach and reinforce good behaviors. Whenever your dog does something you like, simply say, “Good dog” and give him a piece of kibble, some affection, or play a game with him as a reward. For example, reward your dog whenever he sits, lies down, looks at you, stops barking, or just looks cute.”

“You especially want to reward your dog for any sociable or friendly greeting behavior, such as when your dog approaches, wags his tail, wags his butt, sticks out his tongue, raises a paw, or play bows. Sometimes your dog may look like he isn’t doing much. But that’s precisely the point! He may just stand there wagging his tail, but think of all the annoying and worrying things he could have been doing. He could have been barking, snapping, jumping up, or careening around your house like an agility course! So, in a sense, it’s a good idea to reward your dog for not acting fearfully, antisocially, or hyperactively.”

Okay…now for the 10 quick tips:

Dog Walking Tip #1

Collar Placement Needs to be Right. Your dog’s collar needs to be properly

placed on his neck.  Many collars are too loose.  If the dog pulls, a too loose collar easily slips off over the dogs head and the end result is a loose dog who is in harms way or who could cause harm.  The collar must be adjusted enough so it does not slide off if the dog pulls.  You should be able to slide two of your fingers under the dog’s collar.  The collar needs to be placed (and stay) at the top of the dog’s neck.

Dog Walking Tip #2

Think Dog.  Try and view the world from your dog’s outlook.  We have domesticated dogs and brought them into our human world and it is up to us to teach them how to live in our world confidently.  S/He doesn’t know what is unacceptable behavior, unless we tell him, to him it seems okay.  Behaviors that are a problem for us are normal behaviors for them.

Dog Walking Tip #3

Be Consistent. If we want training to stick, everyone in the family has to follow the same rules and enforce the same boundaries and limitations.  When we are consistent in rewarding what we like and when we give constructive feedback of what we don’t like, dogs begin to understand what we want from them.

Dog Walking Tip #4

Keep Your Dog Busy.   Mental stimulation, proper exercise, socialization, and fun games will burn up your dog’s natural energy.  Regular exercise is the key ingredient to good health, good mental agility, and longevity for your dog.  A well exercised dog translates into a happier pet, happier people, and a happier home.  A good dog is a tired dog.

Dog Walking Tip #5

When Your Dog Pulls on the Leash. When your dog begins to pull on the lead immediately stop walking and don’t resume walking until the lead is loose (be a tree).  Slack on the leash means you instantly, again, start moving forward.  If your dog pulls on the lead again, you again stop, and wait for slack on the leash.  It’s okay if it takes you five minutes to get out the door.  Dogs pull because they have been rewarded for pulling.  Somehow it as has been a rewarding experience.  S/He pulls and he gets out the door, or to the other dog, or to your neighbor, or to the car.  Someone somewhere took a step when s/he put tension on the leash.   The idea is to teach your dog he doesn’t get to go where he wants to go when he is pulling.

Dog Walking Tip #6

Find Doggie Friends.  It is very important your dog stays socialized with other dogs; s/he needs to see other dogs regularly or he will be at greater risk of developing behavior issues around other dogs.  Regular exposure to other dogs for play dates or dog socialization walking packs will ensure he keeps his ability to feel comfortable around other dogs in all environments. Dogs that have not been socialized or had enough experience around other dogs, people, and environments can be problematic.  The lack of proper socialization is the major reason dogs become fearful of people, other dogs, other animals, and the environment.

Dog Walking Tip #7

Use Praise and Reward.  Be positive and stay calm (no yelling).  Reward behaviors you want and there is a very good chance those behaviors will be repeated.  When an unwanted behavior occurs use a time out to remove your dog, or use sounds to interrupt the behavior, or refocus your dog on something more constructive, or ignore the behavior (such as jumping up), so the behavior is not reinforced and it eventually stops.  If your dog is on a lead and desperate to get to another dog, bench, fire hydrant, or person, quickly turn in a different direction or in the opposite direction, so your dog will not be rewarded by reaching the target.  Throw a praise party for your dog when he displays the behavior you are looking for and want repeated.

Dog Walking Tip #8

Do Not Use Dominate the Dog. Do not use pain, fear, force, intimidation or domination.  Outdated training methods by traditional trainers would like you to believe dogs are behaving badly and trying to be dominant over their owners.  Few dogs are actually attempting to be dominant over their owners; mostly they are displaying their insecurities or fears, which can be overcome with understanding and patience.  Punishment has no place when teaching what behaviors we desire and what behaviors we want to end.  Positive reinforcement training methods are easier, more effective, more enjoyable, and more efficient, plus your dog will learn better and retain information longer.  You also build a better relationship with your dog.

Dog Walking Tip #9

Be Aware. Keep a look out for what is going on ahead of you when you are walking your dog.  If you know your dog tends to lunge at other dogs, or likes to chase a cyclist, or run to a group of playing children, you should be prepared ahead of time with a plan of action.  You could have your dog sit and keep sitting until the distraction passes by, or you could change your direction.  Practice sitting first by having your dog sit for a treat on walks when nothing is happening and there are no distractions.

Dog Walking Tip #10

Exercise it vital. Make sure you do training after your dog has been adequately exercised.  If pulling is a problem, there are no-pull harnesses that come in a variety of styles.  You may need to try more than one style to find one that works best for you.  Some, like the Gentle Leader Easy Walk harness attach to a leash at the point of your dogs chest and make it more difficult for your dog to pull.  Others use straps that go under the dogs front legs and tighten when he pulls, such as the Sporn No Pull Halter.  Still others are head halters like the Gentle Leader, but with a head halter it is important to desensitize your dog to the head halter gradually by associating the halter with treats and also rewarding when the dog is not trying to get the halter off by pawing at it.  Be patient while your dog gets used to it.

Lastly, it is reported that 60% of dog owners do not to walk their dogs.  The majority of dogs are spending their lives trapped in monotonous back yards and houses.  Just because your dog is outside in the yard does not mean he is getting enough exercise.  Dogs do not self exercise and play when they are by themselves.  If you sit down to watch TV or read and your dog is snoozing beside you or chewing a bone, your dog has probably had enough exercise that day.  If not, and he is getting into mischief or bugging you to play, then he has not had enough exercise.  It is up to humans to provide adequate amounts of exercise for their beloved canine companions.

Walking your dog is low cost, popular, provides stress relief and support, offers health

giving exercise, and is life giving and beneficial.  Your dog was born ready – let’s walk.