We all love to take our dogs out for a walk, we imagine that our saunter is going to be pure bliss and relaxation for us as well as for our dogs. But for many of us, this is far from reality. Maybe your dog walk starts with your dog pulling you from pillar to post, dragging you from bush to tree or maybe she barks at every little thing she sees and lunges herself at other dogs. Grumbling at cyclists or other walkers. And that is even before you get to the park, fields, beach, woods...
When you get where you are going, you remove the lead and let her have more freedom. Only to have her run off to play with anyone but you. She has a fantastic time chasing rabbits and birds, playing in muddy puddles, rivers and hunting up and down the hedgerows. This is the place where you get ignored, no amount of calling will get your dog to come back until she is well and truly satisfied she has had all the fun there is to be had.
This behaviour turns your walk into a nightmare. The reality of your dog walks are the opposite of the ideal picture of pleasant strolls together through forests, adventures at the seaside or a gentle stroll through the fields with your dog that you imagined would come as default with owning a dog. You expected a faithful companion that worships the ground you walk on and never leaves your side.
When you are enduring the problems described above, it seems unlikely that you will ever be able to experience your ideal dog walk. You feel despair, like a failure and have given up on your dog walks ever being any different than what you are currently experiencing every single day. You have tried many things to improve the situation, and nothing helps, you are at the end of your tether. You have accepted that owning your dog is never going to look like the idyllic picture you dreamt off. Your dog ignores you on walks but is happy to snuggle with you in the evening while you are watching tv, so the problem can't be your relationship with your dog... can it?
In many cases, the relationship you have with your dog is the key to improving your walking woos. One of the easiest ways to improve your dog's behaviour is by working on strengthening the relationship you have with your dog. One of the easiest ways to do this is through the power of play.
When you play with your dog, and I am not talking about throwing a ball and getting your dog to go fetch it either. I am talking about really getting stuck in and enjoying playing with your dog. Really interacting with your dog will be strengthening your relationship with her. Your dog will want to play with you because you are fun.
So what I want you to do for the next week, instead of allowing him to chase rabbits and birds, letting him practice ignoring your call and pulling you about on a dog walk, is play with your dog. Find out what he loves to play with, try and find your dog's top 3 play things. It doesn't have to be a dog toy, it could be an empty water bottle, an old slipper or sock. Maybe he loves playing with a kitchen towel or one of your t-shirts? It really doesn't matter what the object is that you are playing with as long as you are both enjoying the game. Really play with your dog, put your heart and soul into it. Be in the moment and enjoy the bond you are developing with your dog. Don't worry about your dog not getting enough exercise as your dog will be tired after playing with you. Play with your dog several times a day, just a couple of minutes each session, and you will start to see a massive difference in only one week.
The other thing I would like you to do is to play the Name Game. This game teaches your dog to pay attention to you whenever he hears his name. Just say your dog's name and follow with a quick play with his favourite toy or give him a little treat. Repeat this a few times per session, if you pair your dog's name with a game or treat about 20 times each an every day, then your dog will learn to pay attention when you call him and return to you as he knows the fun and games is about to start.
These are just a few simple things that you can implement today to start to turn your nightmare walks into your dream walks.
My new book 'No Pulling Allowed: From Painfully Disappointing Drag to Delightfully Relaxing Stroll' covers the reasons why your dog pulls on the lead and teaches you how to encourage your dog love walking by your side. The Official Release Date is the 30th May, but you can pre-order your copy now from www.nopullingallowed.co.uk/pre-order. This book is the first in my Fun, Focus, Play series of dog training books which will cover all aspects of the dog walk, including reliable recalls, off lead control and greeting behaviour.
PS: If you liked this blog and would like to learn more, go to www.nightsabredogtraining.co.uk/signup to sign up to my weekly emails for training tips, news of my pending book release and more info on my dog training classes.