Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment – Buddha
So you’ve got down how to start the walk, and how to actually do the walk, but let’s talk about some nuances and triggers you might face.
The Zen Walker
The slower you go the more your dog has to pay attention to you. Many times I will be working with a client and soon we’ll be speed walking down the sidewalk. Many times they don’t even know that their pace is quickening. So pay attention, stay in the moment. Channel your inner Zen Master when walking your dog. Go as slow as you want to. If you have to stop every 3 steps to slam the door on your dog, there’s nothing wrong with that. Consistency is the key and it will get better eventually. After a few walks it will be every 5 steps and the distance will increase over time. Once you have control of your walk, you can run, crawl, stagger, or go whatever pace you want. If you lose control, though, slow down until you regain it.
Let’s talk about certain situations that come up when you’re walking your dog that create Cujo to be at the other end of your leash.
Squirrels and other Rodents – These species are obviously evil creatures plotting to take over the world, and the first thing they’re going to do is destroy all the milk bones and tennis balls. At least that’s what your dog thinks. The best way to deal with squirrels is to move past the situation. Rodents and squirrels add lots of movement and energy (they’re very twitchy) so staying in the same spot will only increase the energy of your pup. With gentle tugs move on past the situation. Once past the situation, you can regroup by standing in front of your dog again and having them sit to take a moment to refocus on you and the walk you had set out for.
Intersections – Cars are scary! They move quickly and make lots of noise. If you’re waiting at an intersection and your dog is trying to make a break for it, it’s very important to gain control over the situation. Stay calm and confident and slam the door if you need to. Stay in that position until you’re granted the walk sign. The more calm and confident you are the better.
Passing dogs – If you have a dog reactive dog, seeing another dog coming your way can make your heart beat fast and your palms start to sweat. It doesn’t have to be that way though. Look for the signs your dog is giving off. If his ears perk up at the sight of another four legged creature, just give him a quick correction. Other signs are the neck pushing forward, wrinkles above their eyes furrowing and tails going straight. Just give them quick corrections and step in front of them if you need to. Place yourself in between the other dog and your dog.
Never let the dogs walk next to each other. And if you need to, there’s nothing wrong with crossing the street. If you don’t feel up to it or you just have a strange feeling about it, no one will ever blame you for moving to the other side. Follow your instincts and make the decision that’s best for you and your dog.
Going into a new Building (other than your home) – This can be very exciting and nerve racking for a pup. If it’s a new place, or somewhere you don’t go very often, there obviously could be dangerous squirrels and ninja like chipmunks in there. Make sure before you walk into a new place your pup is under control. Don’t add more stimulation like a new place without making sure you have control over the situation first. Then, just act normally. Don’t cajole your dog, or bribe your dog with treats. Act exactly the same way you would act walking into your house. Bored and normal.
Stick With It
Keep working on the walk. If you’re frustrated, go home and try again tomorrow. The walk is a necessity, but can sometimes be difficult to do. This is something that will need to be worked on daily and you won’t always be able to perfect within 30 minutes. Try and find your inner Zen Dog Walker and move forward, but always with your pup on your side and not in front of you. The walk is where you can pour a lot of Piloting into your pup. You’re controlling yourself by staying calm. You’re controlling the situation by not adding more stimulation by moving forward until your pup is calm. You’re constantly answering yes or no questions (is that garbage can a threat? No). And guess what, you’re both getting activity in as well as bonding.
Never compare yourself to any other dog owner out and about. You’re doing the best for you and your dog. Treat each walk like a brand new one and forget about the past. That’s the great thing about dogs, they don’t hold on to the past. They are in the moment. So take a lesson for them and just be there for today’s walk. Not yesterday’s and not tomorrow’s.
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio