First, let me congratulate you if you are a conscientious dog owner that understands the health benefits of walking your dog on a routine daily basis. All dogs need exercise on a daily basis to burn off energy and you can also benefit from this simple form of exercise. Walking also serves as a time for you to bond with your dog and solidify the pecking order. Huh? Pecking order? Yes, dogs are instinctively driven by a pack mentality and hopefully you are at the top of that pecking order, also known as the alpha dog. Dogs automatically know how the pack mentality works, but us humans, well, not so much. Being in a pack and knowing where they fit in is very vital to your dog. If you want a dog that listens to your commands, is social with other dogs, and walks by your side – you need to establish yourself as the alpha in your pack. The alpha role is not reserved for only men or people of a certain age; it is fair game for anyone that takes the time to be consistent in the training and caring of their dog. Dogs, like children, love structure and structure begins with training. There are plenty of on-line guides, books, and videos (hello Dog Whisperer) available to assist you in this effort. I highly recommend hiring a trainer or enrolling in a class like offered at your local PetSmart. I personally enrolled my dog in 2 classes at PetSmart and watched countless Cesar Millan episodes. The key to all this is to understand you are the one being trained, not the dog. They really know all this and are just waiting for you to catch up and develop the tools you need to take control and manage the pack. So guess what that means? If your dog is having issues, you need look no further than yourself. That is a hard concept for some to accept, but it is true in the vast majority of cases.
So how does this all relate to walking your dog? If you find your dog is in control of your walk and is leading you, then you are not the alpha and have no control and you need to change that. You and the dog will be much happier. Your training should involve a simple command such as heel accompanied with a gentle tug of correction. Your dog should not walk in front of you, but should be by your side or even behind you. You are the leader. This includes heading out the door and also when you return – you should be first out and first in the door. Make your dog wait.
Begin your training in a location free of distractions like other dogs, runners, cars, etc. Constantly correct your dog when they deviate from what you want. Corrections should consist of a verbal command and a gentle tug to signal to the dog a correction is required. Reward your dog in the initial training with treat rewards and verbal praise. Soon they will understand your commands and you can move away from the treats, but always continue with verbal praise. Dogs adapt to this very quickly and as long as you are consistent, they will continue to improve and in no time you will be the envy of your neighbors as you effortlessly walk your dog.
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