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The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Are Making When Walking Your Dog
Posted on 4th Jan 2023
Let's start with a question: Are you walking your dog or going for a walk with them?
It may sound like a silly question but the nuance is important. A walk may well be the highlight of your dog's day, a chance for them to get out and explore and read all those pee mails.
I watch people walking their dogs all the time and these are the biggest mistakes I see them making:
Letting your dog run up to every dog/person
This really is a pet hate of mine. Public places are designed to be shared by all of society and as hard as it is for us dog owners to understand, not everyone loves dogs. Some people are traumatised by dogs, especially ones who jump up.
Even more shocking, some dogs don't like dogs!
The Control of Dog Order 1972 says that "dogs must be under control when in a public place". Letting dogs run up without having a good recall to stop them, violates this order. You are not likely to be prosecuted.
As well as being a responsible dog owner, letting your dog run up indiscriminately does not teach them good or polite behaviour. It is important that our dogs also learn that sometimes they can and sometimes they can't. Creating a dog who does what they want, when they want is a recipe for disaster. In my eyes, it's simply not safe.
When I'm training a new puppy or out with my own dogs, I want them to have the freedom to be dogs but their main focus is on me. Other dogs and people should be insignificant unless we know them or at least until I have asked if it's ok to say hello.
Not preparing before you leave the house
You nip out for a quick walk only to find your dog does the biggest poop on the pavement right outside a shop and you have no poo bags.
Preparation before a walk is the key to a successful walk. For me, this means treats (a variety that my dog wants), checking my equipment is not going to snap or break, poo bags and planning my route.
Recalls are easier with the right rewards, loose lead is easier with the right equipment and preparation means a more relaxed walk for you and your dog.
Check out our Treat Preparation Video to see how we prep for a walk.
Using your lead as a correction tool
A lead or leash is a safety rope which keeps your dog safe in the human world they live in. I grew up in a time where there were no stray dog laws and dogs were out on the streets playing with us kids, we just moved if a car came.
These days, with huge amounts of traffic and an ever increasing population, leads are required.
Granted, it is frustrating when a dog pulls and I know from lots of experience that it can even be painful, but a lead is not a correction tool. It is a guide or invitation - "come this way with me".
I see it as gently taking someone's hand to help them out of a chair as opposed to dragging them by the arm. Pressure should be minimal until the dog comes with you.
Need to move your dog out of the way quickly? Instead of using the lead to make your dog fly, try using a hand touch cue or calling their name before moving.
If you are struggling with pulling, drop me a message.
Not rewarding connection
I'm pretty sure there are lots of times when our dogs look to see where we are and we don't notice. Crikey, we may even be on the phone!
A check in, where your dog voluntarily looks at you in the foundation for loose lead walking and a great recall. After all, if your dog keeps an eye on you, you won't need to call them as often.
Have a look at our check in video here.
You can keep your dog on their paws by changing direction or changing your pace of walking. Be less predictable and they will watch you more.
Going for the same walk every day
In the same vein as not rewarding connection, the same walk creates predictability for your dog which in turn, creates expectations.
These may be things like " I always come off lead here" or "I always pull to this bin because there may be food".
Plus, dogs thrive on new, exploratory experiences. It will make them more tired. New places, new smells, new sights, new sounds, new surfaces, all help to drain the brain bucket of our dogs.
Mix it up, go somewhere new tomorrow.
Not slowing down
Dogs navigate the world and collect information through their sense of smell. And yet, sniffing seems to be annoying for humans, we want to keep moving and often use that lead as a correction tool when our dogs go to sniff.
Pace is also important. Imagine going for a walk with someone and having to jog slowly just to keep up with them. Sometimes, our dogs may need to go slower, want to check out that smell or walk instead of jog.
Slow down and let them have a sniffari - you may even notice them being a lot more tired and relaxed after what feels like a shorter walk for you.
We must be the most frustrating thing for our dogs when it comes to inconsistency. Sometimes you can pull, sometimes you can't.
And let's be honest, it can simply depend on the mood we are in or on the weather.
Our dogs don't know if we are late or in a rush. They are just on a walk with us, exploring and having fun.
Try to be consistent. Think of walks as being for your dog, instead of for you. You may be training and not getting very far, or experiencing somewhere new together. Try and be consistent and get some help if you are struggling and walks are not enjoyable.
If they aren't fun for you, chances are they are not fun for your dog either.