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Social Isolation – The Best Time To Transform Your Walks With Your Dog.

What a crazy time we are going through, I can’t think of anyone who isn’t being affected by the Corona Virus (CV). As it stands at the moment we have all been asked to practice social isolation. It means we can go out but we should avoid social gatherings, gym classes, meeting up with fellow dog owners at the park etc. In short its time to start enjoying your own company when you head out.

As we dog owners are now expected to keep to ourselves when walking our fur kids, it makes it the perfect time for you to transform your walks. There are a number of common problems I hear quite a bit in one form or another. These problems I can help you with, I’ll give some easy win tips that you can use on your social isolation walks.

I am currently owned by two Old English Sheepdogs Erick and Ally, Erick used to ignore me on our walks and on lead he’d just pull me about. Ally as you may know if you’ve read some of my previous blogs used to turn into a screaming banshee if she saw a moving bike, given the oppertunity she’d chase it down too. I have lived through training them both to listen, walk nicely and remain calm.

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So which problem sounds like you?

‘He just endlessly pulls’ I am practically dragged everywhere.

I use to be dragged around by Erick on our walks, I got him when he was 4 years old he’d had a loving but sheltered life and walking nicely wasn’t part of it. If I hadn’t put time and effort into teaching Erick to walk nicely, he’d still be dragging me around Leith and I wouldn’t have any feeling left in my shoulders.

It does amaze me when I meet owners who believe that their dog should know what to do because they managed to walk once or twice without pulling. ‘Oh he knows how to do it he just chooses not too! Its bloody annoying’. If only things were that easy, there would be no need for Dog Traininers.

So if you spend your walks with your dog pulling you and you are always pulling them back, well congratuations as far as your dog is concerned that is how their walks should be. That is what you have taught them even though you haven’t set out to do it.

Dogs are simple souls, they do whats easy and what will get them what they want. If you’re heading to the park or should I say being dragged to the park, then your dog is thinking ‘OMG I am going to the park, must pull to get there, must pull to get there’. Also pulling is a natural reaction for dogs when us humans stick a collar or harness on them.

Asking your dog not to pull is a big ask, If you haven’t taken enough time to teach your dog not to pull on their lead, then you really can’t expect them to give up a habit of lifetime – pulling.

Top Tip To Help

You need to pick a side you want your dog to walk on, for me Erick walks on my left and Ally walks on my right. I have trained them to walk on my choosen side by ensuring I keep them on the side I want, Erick doesn’t have the option to walk side to side, in front of me. I hold the lead at a suitable length to encourage him to walk beside me. Whenever he walks nicely, I praise him and give him a treat at my left handside and at his nose height.

You see over time Erick learned that walking on my left, he was more likely to get a treat in that spot. He wasn’t gonna get a treat in front of me, behind me or on my right. Also because I was consistantly walking him on my left he naturally learned to just walk there and walk with me, instead of roaming about all over the place.

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‘She doesn’t listen’, I am totally ignored when I call her back.

Imagine a world when you’re only spoken too to either be told off or a signal that your playtime/fun has now eneded? Tell me would you honestly respond to that voice or ignore it? I’d totally ignore the voice of negativity and carry on with what I am doing. Now think about your walks with your dog, when do you speak them on those walks?

All too often I see dog owners out with their dog who is either on a flexi lead or off lead doing their own thing and the owner has their phone out or the headphones in doing their own thing. So the two of them are out ‘together’ and not bothered one bit about the other. Then these owners want to call their dogs back to them, their voice falls on deaf furry ears. Well why should the dog listen?? If you’re both busy entertaining yourselves on your walks then why should either of you listen to the other?

I see a lot of dog parents who more often then not take their dog to the park so their dog can play off lead, while they themselves stand chatting with other owners. I have no doubt that the only time they speak to their dog, is when they’re ready to leave and their dog probably doesn’t even look at them.

So really why would your dog choose to listen to you, when your main interaction on a walk involves telling them off or stopping their fun.

Top Tip To Help

Start talking to your dog on your walks, oh yes I am absolutely serious. I chat to my dogs all the time, including the ones I take out on my Adventure Filled Walks, we have some cracking convos! Think about it, if the only verbal interaction you have with your dog is when you want to end their fun then of course they’re gonna ignore you.

Now try speaking to them as you prepare to go out, ‘Shall we go a walk?, yeah…lets go! On your walk when you can tell they’ve spotted something interesting ‘Oh what have you seen’, as they are walking around check in with them ‘What you upto?’ All done in a friendly happy voice. In short you’re becoming more interesting to them. Watch over time as they start to become more responsive to you.

Remember to praise them for behaving, this is something everyone forgets to do. We get so caught up in the bad stuff we forget to acknowledge the good.

In case you’re wondering no, no one will care if you chat to your dog. I doubt anyone will even notice.

‘I have to constantly throw a ball’ He isn’t interested in anything else.

Be honest are you a dog parent with one of those ball chuckers? Are most of your walks really you heading to the park, to endlessly throw a ball? I get it, it was fun when they were younger, 10 mins of throwing a ball meant your dog was knackered and you could home. Fast forward to today throwing a ball for 2 hours barely makes a dent in your dogs energy levels does it?!

By accident over time you’ve turned your dog into a super athlete, with the engery supply similar to a nuclear power plant. You’ve trained your dog everyday to play ball for longer and longer, meaning it takes you longer and longer to tire them out. Due to most of your walks involving you throwing a ball you dog has also learned that his walks must involve a ball being thrown.

Your dog has become so use to playing with ball that nothing else matters, they couldn’t care less about other dogs unless that dog might get their ball. Humans are simply for the purpose of throwing a ball, the world is borring to you dog because he hasn’t learned to enjoy it.

Top Tip To Help

For the love of god put the balls away, stop taking them out all together. You can’t expect your dog to not demand a ball if you’re always ready to produce one from your pocket, you know your dog can smell them on you!

Focus on walking with your dog, interacting with them while you walk. Encourage them to sniff my favourite game is to scatter treats in the grass, then get my dogs to sniff them out. Sniffing is super relaxing and tiring for dogs, so get your dog using their nose more.

Yeah your dog might annoy for the first few walks, while he nags you for a ball, you just need to grin and bear it. He will soon get over having no ball.

Just Remember

You need to be consistant, there is no point trying something new for a couple of days and expect your dog to have done a complete 180 in their behaviour. Be positive, encourage your dog when they are doing something you like. What gets rewarded gets repeated, so you praising your dog will increase the chances they will repeat it. Have really good treats handy too, a really good treat as a reward will also help you with training.

So take this time of Social Isolation, where we have to keep our distance from other people and turn it into a time to train your dog.

If you need any help with your training problems get in touch and we can arrange a Practically Perfect Private Training Session.

Take Care, Suzanne Gould

Chief Canine Happiness Office and Creator of Practically Perfect Protocol®

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