Ah, Summer time...It's a time for grilling out in the backyard, trips to the local beach or pool, family outings, and getting yanked down the street by your SideKick on walks...
In our heads, especially before we have a puppy or adopt a dog, we often envision walks as a leisurely stroll through the park; we do not typically picture having our arm pulled out of its socket when Fido suddenly deviates from the path to chase a squirrel or a scent! What we envision is not usually what we get, though; most of my clients - particularly during the Summer months - ask for tips, tricks, and advice for walking their SideKicks.
There is no magic method and I could talk for hours and provide numerous demonstrations, but what I can offer in a blog post like this is a short list of the biggest tips and reminders I can offer to help make your walks a more enjoyable experience for both you and your SideKick.
1) Leashes, collars, and body harnesses are all tools to use for walking with your SideKick; they're safety devices and we don't want to skip using them, but your SideKick isn't born knowing how to walk on a leash or wear a collar and body harness. Take time to introduce these tools to your SideKick and ensure that they're all fitting properly and comfortably.
On that note, the equipment you use for walking can make a big difference in the quality of the walk for both you and your SideKick. Really take some time to consider if the walking equipment you're using (collar, harness, leash, etc.) are helping your walking skills or making things more difficult.
2) Walks are borrrrrring! We are slow humans on two legs compared to our SideKicks, who have four legs and would rather go-go-go to see, sniff, and experience as much as possible as fast as possible!
For some reason, too, us humans are always trying to walk in a straight line, while little Fido wants to go here, there, and everywhere. Make things more interesting for your SideKick: switch up the route every couple of days for unpredictability; head to a park if you can for some roaming through fields, trees, park paths, etc.; or let your SideKick choose the route! Maybe even bring a toy for a quick game of fetch or tug at partway through the walk!
3) Give your SideKick lots of time to check their pee-mail! Like an overflowing inbox, the outside world has a lot for your SideKick to take in; give them time and opportunity to check it all out, explore, sniff, and experience the world like a dog!
4) Be clear about what you're expecting from your SideKick during your walks: Where do you want your SideKick to be? When do they get reinforcement? When is the Loose-Leash Walking portion of your walk? Etc. Figure these details out in advance to be clear and consistent for your SideKick!
5) A walk isn't just about physical exercise - a leisurely stroll isn't going to give your dog the daily physical exercise they need anyway. BUT, a walk is a great opportunity to exercise your SideKick's brain! Doing dog things, sniffing, exploring, etc. are all activities that will tire your SideKick out just as much as a 10 mile run/walk.
6) Leash walking skills, particularly Loose-Leash Walking skills, are NOT learned overnight; it takes patience, practice, and consistency for both you and your SideKick to get good at it!
These tips and bits of advice barely scratch the surface of what we could talk about when it comes to leash walking skills, but they're a great start and wonderful reminders for making your walks a bit more of a walk in the park!