Don't forget these important steps to follow when out with your dog!
Okay Mother Nature, we are ready for dog walking season to begin! You've teased us with a few opportunities here and there, but I think it's time to turn up the thermostat and turn off the wind. I've got pups that need to get out and stretch their legs.
The few times I have had Sophie out, it's been far from enjoyable. She pulls so hard no matter what collar, gentle leader, or harness I put on her. She is literally terrified of being outside of her comfort zone, which seems to be about 3 blocks from my house. She gets low to the ground and tucks her tail underneath herself. So what do I do to get her over this hump? Practice, praise, and persistence. We've started putting one foot in front of the other....literally. I load my pockets with treats, clip on the leash, make sure I have cleanup bags, and we head out. Once we are out, we stop and take it all in, the sights, sounds, and smells. I wait until she makes eye contact with me and feed her a treat. I'm reinforcing the calm behavior as well as teaching her that looking at me gets her yummy treats. If you can get your dog to "check in" with you periodically, you are well on your way to having a well behaved pet.
Our next move is to actually move. You don't need to say anything at all, just start walking. The second she is at the end of the leash and is pulling, I try one of two things. I immediately stop and plant myself squarely where I am. When she looks at me, she gets a treat and we move forward. This pause in the walk will get shorter each time as she begins to understand that when I pull, I don't get to go where I want and when I look at mom I get a treat and we go again.
There are times when this just doesn't seem to click with her, so we try a different approach, instead of stopping, we turn and burn. The second she pulls I say "uh oh" and turn around and walk in the opposite direction. This is teaching her that when she pulls, we will no longer go where she wants to. It also teaches her that she needs to pay attention to me at all times because we could change directions at any time.
Whenever she is walking on the leash without pulling I verbally praise her. We may practice this for 15-20 minutes at a time, and always end our session on a good note with lots of praise and treats. I don't want her to become frustrated by working on it for too long and I especially don't want her to associate our walks with a negative experience.
I heard a quote the other day that relates well to both humans and animals. "People will repeat behavior which is recognized". If your child, employee, spouse, friend, or dog do something that pleases you, let them know. You will be amazed how many more times you will see that behavior from them.
Happy dog walking!!