It seems to me that lately there has been a shift in how dogs walk. I don’t mean a physiological change. I mean they do not seem as excited to walk on a leash as they used to be. Yes, its been extraordinarily hot here in Chicago lately, but this change seems to predate the heat wave. It’s an issue I’m having with my own puppy and I may be projecting. But it really does appear that AnimalSense classes have lately been filled with people who say their dog stops on walks and wants to go home – not that they pull too much on a walk. It also seems like they are exhibiting the old trail horse syndrome – you know what I mean – you’re on vacation, go for a ride on a horse that’s been doing this forever and once he sees the barn it’s over, your old plug turns into a derby contender in his rush to get back. So do lots of dogs, apparently.
Here are some things I’ve done to make our walks more successful:
- Walk when it’s quiet (or at least relatively quiet) outside. That usually means walking first thing in the morning and mid-evening, which is also a good idea because of the current weather.
- Once we are out of the house, we run the first half block. Dogs love a good game of chase and that’s what this becomes – a game and not a walk. We then walk a few steps and she sits, walk a few more steps and she sits. The walking part gets longer and the sitting gets less frequent as we move on.
- If your dog sees things that seem to make her frightened, your attitude will go a long way toward helping her overcome her fear. If you don’t think it’s a big deal, she won’t either. If you’re walking briskly towards a lawn mower and she notices it, keep walking. Try some focus exercises like Touch or Watch Me while you’re walking. Reward with a lot of treats when you’re close to the scary thing and hopefully you’ll walk by it without her giving it a second thought (if you’re dog is really terrified, it’s best to turn around, but we’ll talk about that another day).
- Tandem walking can motivate dogs so if possible, walk your dog with a friend and their dog. If that’s not possible, just walking behind another person walking a dog can do the trick.
- Finally, use some really high value treats on walks like cheese or hot dogs. If you have a smaller dog and you’d have to walk in a crouch to reward, try a wooden spoon with peanut butter, cream cheese or pumpkin (or some combo of these) smeared on it. It works great frozen. This may look a little odd to your neighbors but the same can probably can be said for a lot of aspects of dog ownership. We have one client who uses a can of spray cheese. That’s an excellent delivery system!
Hope these tips help. Good luck and keep walking!