A dog should be allowed to bark. After all, that is one reason we have dogs, to alert us. We would just like to control the “on and off switch.” It’s the rare human who hasn’t yelled at their dog, “Quiet" or "Shut Up!” when the dog is barking at the doorbell, a noise, or at you to get your attention. We think that if we raise the volume of our voice, this ...read more
If bonding with your dog is important to you, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s delve into not only into the process of the structured walk, but the reason why it is the most important interaction you will ever have with your beloved canine.
Dogs are pack animals. The pack never separates in the wild. A wolf pack (the dog’s cousins) will migrate up to 150 miles a day for food. When dogs are walking together, they are on the same team. They are a complete unit. Thus, when you take your dog out for a structured walk, he has the same mind set: “We are a team. We are bonded. This is right for me. This works.” Note: I did not say that your are ONE with your dog. You are clearly to be his leader and he is your follower. Can you see the confidence you need to have to take on this role? It is essential to the security of his existence. This is why owning a dog causes us to grow as individuals if we are to have a successful relationship with them.
At the risk of sounding like a instruction sheet included in a box that contains an appliance that needs to be assembled, I will lay out steps for you to follow when you and your family set out for a structured walk with your dog.
If you have never done this with your dog before, don’t be surprised or discouraged if it takes the whole 30 minutes just to get him leashed up, out the door, down the front steps and out to the end of the driveway. If it does in fact take that long, and that is all the time you have to devote to it for that day, be assured that your dog has experienced a mental draining which is just as important as the physical drain he gets when he is actually walking with you. He may be quite tired from this exercise the first day or two and, even though he didn’t walk far, you may see him flop in a heap for a nap when you are done.
Every step forward is considered a reward to your dog. Don’t move him forward until he is in the appropriate frame of mind that you want him in. Affection is also a reward and your dog is innately designed to earn it. Be aware that if you reward unwanted behavior, you will be instilling in him the very thing you don’t want him to do! Now can you see why it can take 30 minutes just to get to the road?
Before I start you through these steps, I want to insert that it is essential that you use some type of slip collar or leash vs a flat buckle collar. (Harnesses, unless being used for cart pulling or hunting, are useless to both dog and owner, and give the dog the advantage over you because it rides across his brawny, strong chest. This applies for small dogs as well. Flexi -leashes allow the dog to be out in front of you where you don’t want him. In essence, they make good hockey pucks when it comes to using them for this purpose).
I won’t be giving brand name suggestions in this article, but the key here is that the collar or leash you use must have the ability to tighten around the dogs neck and then release. I call it "tug and release." It is the best way to maintain control of your dog and avoid his pulling or escaping from you during your time on the walk.
Now, let’s take our walk:
- The walk actually begins when you first decide it’s time to take one. Quietly and calmly go get the leash and require your dog to come to you. In a dog pack, the follower always comes to the leader. If you know that he won’t come to you, have someone else in the house calmly bring him to you. Slip it on quickly and hitch it up high on his neck, right behind his ears. This will give you the advantage, as the top of his neck is weaker than the base. Have your jacket, mitts and hat on before even going for the leash in cold weather.
Note: If your dog is not used to the leash, or you are trying a new one on him and he protests, then spend a long time acquainting him with it so he associates it with a positive experience. Treats and affection may be used, but don’t reward behavior such as growling at you or biting.
- Now that the collar and leash are on, just stand there for a minute and breathe deeply to calm yourself and your dog. When he is settled down, move toward the door. Once at the door, stop and repeat this calming exercise. If your dog is a willing student and already calm and submissive with you, then you won’t need to elaborate on the breathing. If you have someone with you, have them open the door and hold it open while you and Fido wait. Waiting is a tremendous mental drain for a dog and it should be done often, throughout the day with him, even if there is no reason for it at all.
- While the walking session is on, you should be in front of your dog. You are the one leading this expedition. This includes going out of and into the house, which you may practice a few times, as well as up an down the steps. When you get to the road stop again and wait. It is best if he is in a sit, as that is a more submissive position for him to be in. I highly recommend that your dog learn the basic obedience commands. They will not rehabilitate an unwanted behavior, but they will instill an element of respect for you that he won’t have without them.
- Saying ‘heel’ is optional. When you move forward, your dog is smart enough to know that it’s time to move out. A ‘let’s go’ or ‘ok’ is fine if you really need to say something. It is a matter of personal preference. Talking to your dog is fine, but the less chatter from you on the walk the better. Your dog operates on the energy you exude far more than your words. Silence is much more intimate to a dog. It’s also more therapeutic for you.
The structured walk is:
A) The one experience in which your dog is more closely bonded to you than any other.
B) A leadership exercise.
C) The way to drain his nervous, excessive and ultimately toxic energy which, left undrained, is a huge contributing factor to the unwanted behaviors dogs can exhibit, ranging from nuisance to destructive to dangerous.
Are you beginning to see why I put such an emphasis on this daily routine?
- The reason I stressed the importance of the slip leash is to redirect your dogs attention with a quick tug and release, which will bring him to the forward direction of the ‘migration’ process you are in. This will keep him from becoming distracted, obsessed, pulling on the leash, wanting to stop and sniff etc.
- At the ½ way point in your walk you can let your dog roam, sniff and lift. Give him to the end of the leash if he wants that much. Only let him off of the leash to run and play if you are in an enclosed area or you are 100% certain that you can get him back. Always have at least 2 poo bags with you for obvious reasons.
- After 3-5 minutes it’s back on the road to find your way home, unless you have a play session planned. Approaching your house, if your dog pulls on the leash once his yard is in view, remind him that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Slow down and make him keep a loose leash. Take a step and stop, then repeat all the way home if necessary. You can relax the leash when he stops pulling. This is all about establishing your leadership over him and the walk is carried out on your terms.
- Once you are both fully in the yard, and his leash is off, you can delve fully in as much affection and playtime as you want. Toys, tussling, snuggling etc. are fully permissible at this point. It is also a good time to practice obedience commands or behavior modification that you may be working on with your dog. His head is clear now, he is bonded to you, loyal and ready to hear what you have to say. When you enter the house, remember, you are still the first one in.
- For a dog, everything is an event. His primary drive (when it’s not mating season) is food. Since he has migrated with you, his pack leader, he is now ready to eat. In the wild, a dog pack would have been hunting for food, caught it, killed it and eaten it in that order. The concept doesn’t change for domesticated dogs. Walk first, then eat. The only difference is that instead of deer or elk it’s probably going to be kibbles. Keep it healthy. It will prolong his life and reduce those vet bills.
Stir up his food with your bare hands to get your scent on it. This is yet another way to generate more dominance on your side. It’s doesn’t always have to be difficult to chalk one up for you! Have him sit and wait while you stand there with the bowl of food. Get his eye contact for approximately 5 seconds. Then simply put the food down in front of him and back away. I usually say, “Good. Eat.” In 20 minutes the dish comes back up. No all-day-at-the-smorgasbord grazing. This is an important bonding event for you and your dog, as well as an extension of the walk you have just taken together.
The structured walk, and the food event will make or break your relationship with your dog and give you and your family the position of authority that you need to attain your dog’s respect and fulfill his main primal needs.
Good Success to you!
Behavioral Terminology: What are they talking about?
You hear dog trainers tossing around training terms that don’t make sense to you? Here’s a look into decoding the lingo.
The definitions are generally accepted among behaviorists (which is where this terminology is standardized): Whether a given act is reinforcement or punishment is defined by what the dog does in the future. Doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of it, it's the dog ...read more
The title might sound political but it isn't. Rather, this is written from the dogs point of view for owners who don't seem to "get it" despite their best intentions, and the advice of a qualified professional.
Dear owner, your dog would like you to know:
- Despite you giving us human names, we are in fact dogs that react to you and our environment.
- What is most important to us is not who ...
Scientists have discovered that dogs can smell the presence of autism in children.
'Seizure Alert' dogs can alert their owners up to an hour before the onset of an epileptic seizure. There are dogs that can detect cancer before medical tests can. With these incredible capabilities, it is hard to deny the effect that our own energy can have on our dogs. The idea of sharing "good energy" is not just a “woo-woo” concept reserved ...read more
Rowdy little children and naughty little puppies have so much in common!
Let's learn from the human example, so we can quickly and gently redirect puppies away from naughtiness, toward great and fun behaviors.
I sat trapped on the airplane, hurtling toward Orlando, strapped into my seat, some 30,000 feet above ground. I say “trapped” because my seat, my entire row even, was constantly shaken, bumped and tossed by a pair of blond ...read more
Vacation Angst…or What to do with the Dog?
Leaving home for work or vacation? Are you concerned about leaving your pets behind? A clean, professional kennel offers convenience and a secure location for your dog. But there is an alternative. Your pets can stay home in the care of a professional pet sitter. Here’s what you need to know to help you choose the very best for your dogs, cats, snakes or gerbils ...read more
Rain, rain…go away. All our dogs want to play!
Bad weather shouldn’t stop you from exercising your dog’s body and brain. Here are a few great ways to keep your dog from going stir crazy when you’re house-bound.
Days of rain or bitter cold, even unbearable heat usually mean we coop up the dogs with nothing to do. And that got me to thinking: What do we do with our dogs ...read more
Today I want to talk to you about the often dreaded "Vet trip."
For some lucky dog owners, it's a breeze. Their dog happily bounds into the examination room and only seems mildly put off by the doctors poking and prodding. Most dog owners aren't so lucky. The good news is your dog can learn to enjoy the Vet if you start doing a few specific things. But before I tell you how ...read more
Many, if not all, behavioral problems have a direct link to the dog’s physical, emotional and mental health.
To be successful, any approach taken to address a behavioral problem must take into consideration the dog’s diet, exercise, general health and relationship with its owner.
Sudden changes in behavior should always raise a red flag about the dog’s physical health. The first step to addressing a change in behavior that is radically different ...read more
Most puppies can be housebroken prior to 8 months of age using traditional methods. But for older dogs that are still having accidents in the house, the umbilical cord method should be used. This method has worked on the most difficult housebreaking cases and can be used with dogs of any age.
When the owner makes a commitment to success and is consistent with its application, the success rate using this method is very ...read more
Pack work, or using a group of dogs to influence the behavior of an individual dog, is an amazing tool which can create permanent change in a dog and help create a healthy balanced attitude and behavior.
There are a variety of ways in which trainers use this concept to assist in the training of a client dog from simply using a senior steady, trained dog to calm a nervous nelly, to having a young ...read more
In my ‘Behavioral HELP for Dogs’ seminars and 1 on 1 sessions, I start teaching with a sound foundation.
During the course of our time together, I build line upon line on that foundation until my students or clients have a complete understanding of how to interact with their dogs, so as to draw from them the behavior they want, thus creating harmony in the home and the neighborhood.
One of the main reasons that ...read more
(Addictive behavior in dogs which can sever the bond with their family)
You may already be in trouble if you did not study the history and purpose of your purebred dog before you brought him home. Your failure to diligently manage your dog to prevent his characteristics from growing into dangerous obsessions could seal your dog's fate.
You may think you did everything you could to successfully raise your dog. Following well-meaning veterinary advice ...read more
Do you find yourself avoiding taking your dog out for a walk because you are unable to stop their constant pulling?
Do you hold the leash in a death grip as you brace yourself for the ensuing tug of war through your neighborhood?
Do you worry that your dog may knock you over or break free during your walk?
Learning how to achieve a relaxed, controlled walking experience with your dog will not only alleviate ...read more
We started teaching our dog to ’Spin’ and now it’s time to introduce the ‘Step-up!’
What is Step-up? This trick is the first part of teaching a dog to place its front feet on a low solid item and remain there until released. As training progresses the dog will eventually be able to sit on top of a low object and balance perfectly! Dogs’ love this one so much that when a ‘practice object ...read more
Dog training (reliable dog training) is my passion. It's a long story, going back to 1966.
I've been a professional dog trainer since 1970. I have always worked hard to make my dogs trustworthy off lead, but it takes time and consistency. I am rather old fashioned in my dog training techniques. My dogs have a lot more 'freedom' because we trust each other. They all know that there are consequences for their ...read more
I am not the trainer for everyone; no one trainer is. Some will pooh-pooh my ideas, some will love them, some will get angry about them. I get results and I've never harmed a dog.
To teach come: I use a variety of methods depending on the dog. I do not ever call a dog out of a stay command for at least the first year following training. To that end, I frequently use ...read more
Your dog must be taught to instantly drop whatever he is holding in his mouth.
This is a safety issue since your dog may pick up a dangerous or poisonous object. It is a pack leadership issue since your dog should obey every command without hesitation. It is a behavioral issue when used in conjunction with classical counter-conditioning, as it can help prevent and correct resource guarding.
Use the following methods to teach this command ...read more
Teaching a dog to touch his nose to your hand on command is a simple, highly effective training protocol that has many practical uses:
- It can teach a touch sensitive or hand shy dog to welcome physical contact instead of avoiding it.
- It can help a reactive dog to direct his attention to the handler, thereby interrupting fixation.
- It can establish a bond between an anti-social dog to a human handler because it is a ...
One of the most important things for your dog to learn is to walk on a leash without pulling.
This makes walking the dog much more enjoyable for both you and the dog. If the dog is pulling, walking is unpleasant and he gets walked far less often -- this makes him pull all the more because he needs the exercise even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
Never wrap the leash around your hand: you ...read more