Lets talk about the walk and why we walk our dogs.
Yes we all love to get out for a nice relaxing walk, especially our four legged friends, but before this can happen we need to understand the walk and what the walk should look like.
We have all seen dogs that drag their people down the street with the person holding the lead at arms length and leaning back to keep their balance while the dog just pulls them along. Most of the time we have made this easy for the dogs to do by putting them in a harness which is designed to be pulled against! Worse yet is a dog gagging as they pull with the entire weight of their person pulling back on their neck. They can hardly catch there breath! Worst of all is the lead going from the flat collar back to be looped around the dogs abdomen where it cuts in and restricts the internal organs, possibly causing damage that can not be reversed. Before we talk about how to stop this behavior lets talk about why this behavior happens.
When a dog is a nursing puppy, they push and pull there way through their litter mates for food, As they grow they learn to play by jumping on each other into puppy piles and they pull themselves out from under their litter mates. Pushing and pulling comes naturally to a dog.
Along with this play they also learn to listen to the alpha, their mom. When they get carried away she grabs the scruff of their neck or on the sides if their neck with a light pressure. If they submit she releases. If not, they get a bit more pressure for longer the next time. This has been witnessed in wolf packs as well as litters of puppies. Light bite pressure can also be a reward or a show of affection when it's given in small little 'snibbles'. If we want our dogs to work with us, lets talk about how to speak dog.
If you are lucky enough to have gotten a dog that has been allowed to be with his or her litter for at least 8 weeks they now have an understanding of how to communicate with dogs. This makes your job easier so let start there.
Start positive from day one. Teach the 'kennel' command. Teach respect of food and the food bowl. Teach pack order your home and the people and animals in it. But first, lets understand the walk.
As a small puppy, training can start in the house. Walk with the puppy for a few steps followed by small treat rewards. Once you move training outside, always use a lead. Someday the puppy will test you and will discover that it's faster than you are. That can turn into a 'game' of keep-away for the puppy which can be dangerous. Even if it doesn't happen at first, it will eventually. Work on recalls inside and out.
When walking, the dog should stay with you. Not in front of you but by your side and just slightly behind. What you're aiming for is the dog's shoulder right by your leg. If they try and pull ahead of you, STOP! Call the dog back by at your side and when they are relaxed, move forward again. If they still want to pull ahead you can use a treat to keep the dog at your side. Soon they will learn that if they stay at your side, they get to move forward and if they don't stay at your side, they have to stop. Dogs want to move so they will learn to do what allows them to keep moving forward.
In these early stages, your 'walk' with the dog may not get any farther than your yard or driveway. That's OK. These are just the first steps to learning how to walk. These first steps are important, though, so keep working on them until the dogs understands what you're asking it to do.
I will elaborate more next time. Please send questions and let me know your experience with your dogs.
Enjoy training and remember to end every training session on a positive note. Never train when you are tense. Relax so that your dog can relax with you .
Sue and Crew