So it's time to take your dog for a walk. And check how you structured dog walking.
If you are like most dog owners, you don't look forward to walking your dog because you're never fully in control of their behaviour during the walk.
Most dogs will pull relentlessly, stop suddenly to smell junk, run towards strangers, or stop walking altogether, leaving you frustrated because you don't want to drag them.
This is the case for many dog owners.
When in the outside world and away from the comforts of home some dogs get overexcited or fearful. And, overexcitement and fear can lead to unwanted behaviours, such as excessive sniffing, reactivity towards other dogs, and even dog-to-human aggression.
If the mere thought of taking a stroll around the block with your canine companion is enough to make you slump back in the chair and scroll social media instead... then it's time for a structured walk.
But what is a structured dog walk?
How can you use it to overcome behavioural issues and build a positive relationship with your dog?
In this article, we're going to look at what a structured dog walk is and how you can use it to you and your dog's benefit.
For those who are unaware of the term, there is nothing complex about it.
A structured dog walk is where your dog is on his best behaviour. He is walking very nicely by your side, on a loose leash, with his head parallel to your leg.
Sound too good to be true?
With patience, time and practice, you can teach yourself and your four-legged friend the basics of a structured dog walk.
Once you've mastered it, you’ll both feel the benefits.
Contrary to what some people think, the structured walk is not restrictive.
In reality, it is the best way to make your pet feel safe and secure in public places.
The pack-animal nature of dogs means they need rules and structure to help them function properly. Without this sense of order from you, your dog may become stressed out.
When you teach your dog a set of rules and enforce those rules at all times, he will always know where he stands.
And will feel safe walking with you.
The result is a calm and responsive dog and a walk that is safe and enjoyable for both of you.
Dogs need leadership. They also need to learn followership.
The two things are not mutually exclusive.
To lead your dog and for your dog to learn to follow your leadership, it's important to set some ground rules.
Firstly, your dog is not in charge.
So, put the phone away and let’s pay your dog the attention he needs and deserves. If you learn to lead with calm assertiveness, then your dog will learn to follow.
And, not just out on your walk, in other areas of your life, too.
When the dog is in charge of the walk instead of the human holding the leash, bad decisions tend to be made and bad behaviours start developing.
First of all, this type of walk can be dangerous for the dog owner and others on the street.
If you have a dog that juts out, weaves back and forth, jumps up, lunges, pulls like a freight train... not only is your dog not having a calm walk, you are likely to get hurt and so could other people using the same sidewalk.
If your dog has its nose to the ground, it is not paying any attention to you. This means your dog can easily ingest something that will make it sick (or worse) without your knowledge.
Dogs that are reactive on walks will only become more reactive if the rules of a structured walk aren't taught and followed.
These dogs are also in extremely heightened states of arousal and no amount of exercise will make this problem go away.
You will get a stronger, fitter, but the highly aroused dog still running the show and making bad choices.
I’ve seen this beautiful shift happen for many dog owners: people whose dogs wouldn’t let any stranger get near them. Dogs that would fight other pets in the home or would be all over the place on walks (lunging, whining, nipping people who walked by) suddenly get transformed.
When the dog owners addressed their OWN anxiety first and then added in the structured walk, their dogs became more relaxed and calm.
The ripple effect is real.
Your behaviour has an effect on your dog’s behaviour.
This means that you need to be in front of your dog, or at least, he needs to be walking by your side.
To achieve this with leash-reactive dogs can often be challenging.
Choose a standard-length sturdy leash that is comfortable for you and your dog - extending dog leads are not suitable for teaching your dog how to walk in a structured manner.
Then, choose the side on which your dog will walk.
Now wrap the end of the leash around the hand that is furthest from your dog. And, gently grip the leash at its midway point with the hand nearest to your dog.
Holding the leash in this way keeps your dog by your side while giving him room to turn his head and walk comfortably.
A two-handed approach also gives you core stability and extra leverage should you need it.
Keep your arms loose and relaxed.
Maintaining a calm, methodical, chilled-out state will help your dog be at ease with you and himself.
Constant sniffing, peeing, and marking lamp posts are rewards that your dog hasn’t yet earned.
Help him to follow you and not his own instincts by keeping a steady pace with no distractions. If you stop to answer your phone or talk to a neighbour across the street, you are not paying attention to your dog.
So, you're inadvertently permitting him to do as he pleases.
As your dog starts to understand that he’s there to follow you and not meet his own needs, he’ll become more relaxed in your company.
During the second half of your walk, praise him by allowing him time for a pee and few quick sniffs.
Sometimes the struggle is not actually with your dog.
Inexperienced, fearful or thoughtless dog owners can cause serious issues for you and your canine companion.
You’ve met them, and you know who I’m talking about.
If another dog is hurtling towards you pulling his human along behind him, then that's not a pleasant encounter for your dog at this stage of his training.
Although your dog needs to learn to deal with it, sometimes the best and less stressful thing for you both is to cross the street, or turn and walk in the other direction.
Remember that dogs are pack animals. You are the pack leader, and you are more comfortable in the human world than your dog.
Providing calm and assertive leadership for is not only what he needs, but it will make him a better, happier dog.
I have never had anyone regret having a dog that knows how to walk calmly and politely on a leash beside them in any environment. This takes work, but in most cases, not as much as you would think.
Master the structured dog walk and your canine companion will learn to trust and respect you at all times.
Check out the above structured dog walk with this young collie. Watch how the dog and her human develop more confidence as the walk progresses.
Dog Trainer Thailand2/4 Moo7 Soi 63 Chaoafa Road Chalong Phuket 83130