5 simple words that can send a calm and relaxed dog into a hyperactive tail spin!
“Wanna go for a walk?” I think every dog owner is guilty of saying these exact words to their dog almost daily. So, what’s my beef with this common phrase you might ask? Good question!
Many dog owners struggle with controlling their dog on leash. One of the most common issues I get called in to help clients with is pulling on leash. They get dragged down the street when their dog tries to chase a squirrel, tackle a kid on a skateboard, or lunge toward another dog. For these reasons, the walk can become stressful for owners. Often times resulting in no longer wanting to walk the dog period.
If we start right from the beginning and promote calmness instead of excitement we will see a drastic change in the walking experience for both dog and human.
So to break it down here’s what happens when we utter those 5 key words to our dog. I’d compare it to shouting out to kids in a playground, “who wants ice cream?!!!!” You would evoke sheer chaos! We all know that the walk is the highlight of our dogs day! It’s their time to explore their surroundings, take in sights and smells, and most important bond with their human! But this time outside must be controlled.
The first thing we do when we take out the leash is promote excitement in our dogs. We have actually conditioned them to get pumped up when the leash comes out, whether you are aware of it or not. Most-likely it is because people think it is cute when a puppy comes barrelling to the front door, tail wagging, barking, whining and jumping up. “He’s so happy to go out!” Then we reward that behaviour by taking them right outside and there’s usually a lot of cooing and coddling in the process. But then as the dog matures and grows much larger and STRONGER this excitement becomes a problem. Owners can risk getting hurt when a powerful dog is pulling on leash. If we start right from the beginning and promote calmness instead of excitement we will see a drastic change in the walking experience for both dog and human.
You see, an excited dog is in a forward state of mind. It is natural for them to pull and not listen to their owners. A dog in a calm state of mind will be relaxed and instead want to follow. That is why Cesar Millan often says your dog should be in a “calm-submissive” state, so that he will assume his follower position, because his mind is open and willing to take instruction.
I challenge you to practice calmness before going on a walk with your dog. This must start with you. You have to be calm to teach calm. I limit talking to my dog and simply present the leash. Then I wait for her to sit and be calm – it is important that you not just focus on the dog’s body language but also their state of mind. A dog who is sitting can still be super excited and raring to go! I always take my time. Do not rush this process. It may take 10-15 minutes the first time, but if you invest the time to calm your dog before heading out it will dramatically improve your walk together. Lastly, lead through the doorway before your dog. It’s important that you stay in front of your dog to communicate that you are in control. A leader always goes first.
The start of my dog’s walk is like a ritual for me. It is calm, quiet and under control. It is discipline. Nobody is rushed. How we reenter the home after the walk is much the same. You should end just as you began, in a calm state. Do this as a daily practice and you and your dog will become more disciplined with how you walk. By including rules, boundaries and limitations to start the walk, you’re dog will learn that good things come to those who wait.
Try it and tell us how it worked for you! Or post a video to our Facebook page of your new walking ritual 🙂 http://www.facebook.com/doghauswaterloo