Are you walking the dog or is the dog walking you? Is your dog pulling on the lead?
The problems that people can experience when they take their dogs out for a walk, are very often the result of the dog’s attempt to take control of what he sees as the hunt or patrolling the territory. Dogs are unequipped to do this in a world they don’t understand – the human world.
Working on instinct alone and unsupported by their human pack members (who don’t usually see their dog as leader and therefore thwart his attempts to carry out his perceived role) it’s not uncommon for dogs to become increasingly more stressed and overwhelmed and for this to be reflected in their behaviour.
Over-the-top behaviour when preparing to go out, pulling on the lead, poor recall, jumping up at and aggression towards other dogs and people, general lack of cooperation, hunting, the list goes on, and all these things are an indication that the dog believes that he is the one making the decisions when the pack heads out into the wider world. Well-meaning owners believing they MUST take their dog out or else they’re bad dog owners, continue to go out, everyone becomes more stressed and the problems get bigger!
So where did the idea that you must walk your dog – twice a day and for a length of time appropriate to the size and breed of the dog – come from? Have we always believed that we must take a dog for a walk or is it a relatively recent idea? What did our grandparents and great grandparents do? What happens if you don’t take a dog for a walk? (sharp intake of breath!)
I have always enjoyed walking my dogs, it’s actually one of my favourite things to do and I am certainly not advocating never going out with your dogs. I am also not saying that dogs don’t need exercise, of course they do, but they rarely need as much as people think they do (as long as you don’t over-feed them) and if you have a garden, why not go out and play with your dog? This is really good exercise, socially bonding and done correctly can help reinforce your leadership in preparation for heading back out!
So if taking your dog out for a walk is an ordeal, if it’s a battle of wills and a battle of strength, and you both arrive back home feeling stressed and exhausted, you might want to consider not going out there – just yet!
Next post, how to gain your dogs cooperation in this challenging area!