I recently took a call from a North Shore local who wanted to express how frustrated he gets when he sees small dogs in particular being dragged around the streets by their owners. Specifically it was the regular sight of small dogs with little legs being dragged by a faster moving and apparently non-caring owner that this person finds so upsetting to witness. Perhaps the dog is even trying to stop and have a pee while being dragged by the handler on a mission to move forward.
It is not likely these dog walkers would take too kindly to a stranger pointing out the error of their walking ways, so he hoped I would explore the issue here in the DogHQ column. So let’s!
Why do we walk our dogs?
It is well recognised in the dog training world that mastering the walk is one of the foundation processes for developing a great working relationship with your dog.
Dogs love to walk, it is in their nature to hunt and explore their environment and for exactly this reason, many owners actually struggle with dogs pulling THEM around as they are so keen to move forward and explore. Dogs like to go for walks to get outside, sniff, engage with their environment. It is vital for their health and well-being to exercise and being taken for a walk is the most common form of exercise for the non-working dog.
Walking is also how most dogs get to socialise. Socialisation doesn’t end at puppyhood. Dogs that 'lose' the practice of socialsation with other dogs and people can develop anxiety of phobias over time. Exposing your dog to different dogs, people and situations is a win for everyone.
Walking provides structure and confidence in your dog’s life. Structure reinforced outside the home through walking will translate to improved behaviour inside the home. Structure is hard-wired into dogs, they seek it, crave it and are happier with it.
The Different Types of Walk
Not every walk needs to be the same. The purpose of your walk can and should vary.
The toilet stop – if you walk your dog to its toilet spot, that’s a purposeful walk, usually of short duration.
The newspaper walk – so describe because it’s like reading the paper for the dog. These are mentally stimulating walks during which your dog is allowed to stop, sniff, investigate, mark a spot and so forth. Allowing your dog some time to sniff around and investigate is good for him mentally.
The exercise walk – regardless of size, breed, gender or age your dog needs physical activity in order to be a balanced, healthy animal. There won’t be time for reading the newspaper on this walk or run!
The training walk – there is a lot of work you can do while you are walking if you want to. From improving leash behaviour to new obedience commands. This can be very rewarding for both you and your dog.
You can train your dog with commands to know when you are out for a newspaper walk, an exercise session or a training walk.
Walking is an integral part of dog ownership so we should make it a positive experience for the dog and for ourselves. Get those shoes on, put that phone away and get out there in the world with your best friend!
Dog HQ, 5 Goldfield, Wairau Park 09 44 22 365 www.doghq.co.nz