CANINE CONNECTION: Teach Fido to walk in stride with his owner

Today, my dog loving grasshoppers, we are going to have a lesson on how to walk your dog with responsibility.

The instructions that I am offering are about showing leadership, guidance, and setting boundaries both on and off leash while still having fun with your dog.

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Showing leadership is about being consistent with your guidance and boundaries. As you show more leadership and guidance to your dog, they become more reliable and the result is you become more responsible.

Your walks should always be with your dog on leash. Take control from the beginning by having your dog sit, then leash it. Give it the command to “walk nice” and begin your walk.

In this “walk nice” position, your dog should not be pulling. It is allowed to walk in front of you, at your side or behind you, it just cannot lead the walk by pulling. You will walk your dog leashed until your get to your off-leash destination.

While along your leashed walk, when you see someone approaching or you are crossing a street you get a treat ready and ask your dog to come into heel position. Once the distraction is gone, the dog can resume the “walk nice” position upon command.

If your dog stops to do its business, wait until it is done, then give the dog its “wait” command while you pick up your dog’s poop.

Once that task has been performed you reissue your “walk nice” command and begin your walk. If you get a phone call, feel the urgency to check your Instagram or Facebook account or you get a text that cannot wait … stop walking, tell your dog to wait, then deal with your phone’s beckoning. Once done, begin your walk by issuing the “walk nice” command.

When you get to the area you wish to allow your dog off leash and your dog has been perfectly behaved along the leashed walk, it can be allowed off leash. If it has not been behaving then you continue your walk leashed until your dog gets its head together and begins to pay attention to you respectfully.

Before you give your dog off leash privileges, run through an obedience exercise. Start with your dog in a sit/stay. Unleash your dog then remind your dog to stay as you walk 30 paces away from your dog. Use a treat to keep your dog’s focus. Turn to your dog and ask it to come. Your dog should come directly to you and not be distracted along the way. It then sits in front of you for a treat. You then ask it to come to heel position with a treat. Then you use a treat to walk with your dog in heel position for 50 or so paces. Then stop walking and your dog should sit at your side. If your dog has done this perfectly it is given its “go free” command.

Along your off-leash walk you will stop walking and call your dog to you from wherever it is and reward with a treat. You also call your dog to you when it gets ahead of you or lags behind. Vary the distances from which you call your dog. You do this to remind your dog to keep one ear on you at all times.

If someone approaches with or without a dog, call your dog back to you. You want to ensure that your dog is respectful of the approaching person and to ensure there is a healthy greeting between the two dogs. If you hear the other person yelling, “My dog is friendly,” leash your dog so that it does not interact with a dog that has no boundaries and picks up bad habits such as lack of self control, reactivity and poor social skills.

As you near the end of your off-leash walk, call your dog to you and reward with a treat. It is to sit in front of you. You will leash it. With a treat, ask it to come into heel position and walk in heel for about 40 paces, then stop. Your dog should sit automatically for the treat, then issue the “walk nice” command and finish the walk with your dog in a relaxed on leash walk.

This is how I walk my dogs, this is a general outline of how I teach my clients to walk their dogs.

If you have no idea what these commands are, then sign up for training and learn how to implement them. It is one thing to learn a skill, it’s completely different to know how to use it.

It is of dire importance, now more than ever, that dog owners start taking responsible dog ownership seriously.

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at k9kinship@gmail.com.

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