Who’s Walking You?

I was walking one of our furry clients the other day in a popular local park where lots of people walk their dogs. We sat down to take a break and I immediately noticed how the majority of people walking their dogs were in fact being walked by their pet. I witnessed several people literally dragged along the path tripping over their feet, some screeching at their dogs to stop, while their pet happily pulled them along like a sled dog hauling 2,000 pounds of supplies across the Antarctic. Some of the dogs were hacking and coughing as their eyes bulged with the effort, and their people looked strangely similar as they were dragged along behind.

Chances are you know exactly what I’m talking about. This “bad” behavior may have even kept you from walking your dog and giving him/her the exercise that you and your pet both deserve.

In the wild, dogs walk for hours every day. They have an instinctive and even primal need to walk. When you are not able to walk your dog, he does not get the physical and mental stimulation that he needs, and that leads to all kinds of behavior issues. Ever notice your dog running laps around your house or yard? That’s a pretty good indication that he isn’t getting enough exercise. This type of behavior is not good for either of you. Besides the obvious reasons (your shoulders pulled out of their sockets and valuables broken around the house) here’s why (and how) you should walk your pet:

Dogs – yes, even domesticated ones – are instinctively pack animals. In a pack (and whether or not you realize it, you and your family are part of your dog’s pack) the leader, or “Alpha,” always goes first. So if Fido is leading you on the leash, who do you think he considers the “Alpha” in his pack? Not you. You are actually reinforcing the fact that Fido is the “Alpha” dog. We joke that our pets own us, when in fact, many times they really think they do.

Getting a dog – or multiple dogs – to walk properly on a lead is not as hard as it may seem. All it takes is a little time, patience and proper training.

When you get ready to walk your dog, make sure that you call him/her to you, do not go to the dog. Give the “sit” command. If your dog does not know the “sit” command, teach him that one first. Make your dog sit calmly before snapping on the lead or slipping on the collar. I do not use retractable leashes in my dog-walking business, and I carry my own regular leash if the owners of my furry clients do not have one. I find that retractable leashes give the walker less control.

You need to lead the walk by going out the door first, with your dog following. You’re the “Alpha” and your pet needs to know that you are the one who gets to decide when it’s time to leave. Make your dog “sit” and “stay” until you walk out the door, only following you out once you’ve given him permission.

Your dog’s collar is an important part of the walking process. If you don’t have the right equipment, you aren’t going to be able to keep control over him. The collar should fit far up on the neck, which gives you greater control. It’s for this precise reason that they keep the lead way up on the dog’s neck at dog shows. Additionally, I do not recommend harnesses, as those fit around the strongest part of your pet’s body and they were designed for – you guessed it – pulling.

When you walk with your dog, there should be no tension in the lead. Do not allow your pet to pull, and don’t constantly pull on him. Your dog should walk beside or behind you. If he starts pulling, you need to correct the behavior instantly with a gentle, sideways tug on the lead. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people jerking their pets’ leashes, snapping them backwards. Never jerk the leash backwards. You could do irreparable damage to your dog’s trachea.

Research shows that dogs of all breeds and types that are taken for daily walks, and are made to walk beside or behind their owner, are less likely to be destructive, obsessive, have separation anxiety or dominancy issues. If you don’t have time to walk your dog, give Paws Pet Care Pet Sitting & Dog Walking a call and we’ll be happy to walk your pet for you!