So, how *do* you walk your dog, who usually drags you around, sniffing everywhere, barking at passing dogs and people, driving you crazy?
Here it is, boiled down to clear steps:
1. Before you leave the house, calm yourself. Don’t let the dog’s frantic behavior when you pick up the leash stress you out. Stand up straight, breathe.
2. Before you pick up the leash to leave the house (or car) tell the dog to sit. Move in toward him, calmly, with the thought in mind that he will sit nicely before the leash goes on. If you get irritated, impatient, frustrated, this will only intensify your dog’s excitement. Make sure he is sitting before you put on the leash.
3. When you open the door, make your dog wait until he’s calmer – sitting, or standing with a relaxed expression before you let him come out with you.
4. And, I literally mean – “with you”! If your dog bolts ahead (this is almost guaranteed to happen if you haven’t worked on this before!), get him back next to you, (even better, slightly behind you), and then step through the door. Do not start walking down the stairs/walkway/path until your dog is calm, and walking next to you. Warning: this step can take a lot of patience and work the first time. Don’t lose your patience – this will be worth the work! Every time will be faster, by far!
5. Take a breath, calm/center yourself, pull up your posture to have square shoulders, and your head high, your eyes looking ahead. Project a Leader energy! Don’t worry and take tiny steps and look down at your dog.
6. When you are actually walking, make sure your dog does not go in front of you, at all. He should be slightly behind, or beside you. When he surges ahead, a sharp leash snap, or a tap of your foot on his hip or waist will remind him that you are leading this walk – it’s like tapping a person on the shoulder and saying “hey!” Your energy and focus is transmitting the message: “That person/dog means nothing to us. Ignore it” Remember – Maintain calm, assertive energy.
6. When you walk just a few paces correctly, you will see/feel your dog relax and just ease into the most beautiful calm, follower mentality: that is your goal – a mental state, rather than a “trained position” like we teach in traditional classes.
A few tips:
- Very energetic dogs may benefit from wearing a doggy pack (available all over in online stores) weighted with about 10 percent of his weight.
- Very fast/energetic dogs will love having your bicycle/skateboard/rollerblade with them sometimes so they can go *their* pace!
- Do your disciplined walk before you do any “recess/excitement” activity like ball/frisbee fetching, swimming, etc.
- When you pass people/dogs and other distractions, redirect your dog’s excitement with a leash snap/tap with the foot before he gets really crazy with excitement, if that’s a problem. Don’t wait until he’s already lunging/screeching! Redirect when he just starts staring, or breathing hard or – well – you know what he does!
- The tap/leash snap needs to be sharp enough to not be a “pull” or a “push” or a “nag”. You should see a visible switch in your dog’s focus. If you don’t, you know you need to change intensity, or type of tap/snap/nudge – whatever it is you did.
Most importantly: Have fun, relax and be PATIENT! Work through it, (dog NOT dragging you down the stairs, for instance!) until you get the perfect picture you envisioned!
Here’s a good link with photos and instructions