Mar 16, 2010

Two different kinds of walks.

Not long ago a dog trainer brought to my attention something, soon after I inquired about Junior's pulling tendencies. What he mentioned wasn't anything highly complexed, as a matter of fact it was quite elementary, but it's a piece of information I've never been able to forget. He told me that there are two kinds of walks on which to take your dog on: the dog's walk and the owner's walk.

He didn't realy coin those terms but to make it easier to explain I've given each that name. A 'dog's walk' is when you take your dog out and let it explore to it's heart's content. The 'owner's walk' is where a dog should be at the owner's side, heeled, at all times and not being distracted by anything. One is definitely much easier to go on than the other but in truth neither is more important over the other and almost every dog should be taken out and trained for both kinds of walks.

Now we all know how important walking our dogs is, after all a 'tired dog is a good dog'. Going on walks helps use energy that could build up and become distructive behaviors. For others its a good way not only to keep their dog's in shape but themselves too! Regardless of why we go on walks, both the dog's and owner's walks help in separate aspects and one shouldn't be written off as unimportant. Lets take a closer look at each one.

Dog's Walk

This is the kind of walk where the dog gets to explore, sniff, and run as much as it likes. Many times this is done while the dog is offleash either following the owner or in a set location, at other times dogs can go on dog walks on long leads as is the case with me and Junior. So how is this beneficial? Seems like the dog gets to do whatever it wishes without regards to its owner. Well that isn't entirely correct...

A dog's walk is important for many reasons. The most obvious is that allowing the dog to explore and take in new scents/sights doesn't only physically stimulate a dog, it also mentally stimulates them. Those with energetic dogs can attest to the fact that to have a well behaved high-energy dog one needs to do both physically and mentally stimulating activities. The next benefit may only apply to some particular dogs, I'm talking about those that like to mark. Marking helps a dog's esteem to some degree, and this can be a helpful thing when it comes to the more shy dogs. If your dog occasionally does mark, remember that it should never be in places where it would be considered inappropriate. Lastly, as far as I can see, is that allowing a dog to explore helps a them become more well balanced and less jumpy of novel things, in short its a great aid in the socialization process.

There should be a clear distinction between explore time and heeling time, so when taking your dog out to explore, offleash or on long lead, be sure to put it on cue. For instance, before the pooch goes off you can say "Play Time!" or "Explore!" and encourage the dog to go out. Every now and then you can condition the recall (come)command by asking the pooch to come when called. This doesn't only make the command more reliable but it also prevents the dog from making the connection between "come" and the end of explore time. So when you call, praise and then immediately allow the dog to go back with the cue you decided would mean explore time.

All in all dog's walk can be lots of fun, but always remember safety and etiquette must come first. This means that the dog shouldn't engage in activities that may put it in danger and that he/she should be allowed offleash/on a long leash in property where it might be considered inconvenient.

Owner's Walk

These kinds of walks are more strutctured and quite often stressed (by traditional trainers) to be the proper and only way one should walk a dog. Well it shouldn't really be the only way to walk a dog but doing it in this manner is definitely helpful in some ways. The owner's walk consist of having the dog to one's side, in heeling position, at all times prefereably not distracted by other things. It takes lots of training and proofing to get it right.

Having a dog that will walk heeled on command is helpful and convenient especially in situations such as areas with lots of traffic, indoor facilities (vet's office), locations where straying off could be dangerous for the dog, etc. The first thing one needs to do in order to go on a proper owner's walk is teach the dog to heel and sit. This may take some time to do but with some consistency most dog's will get the hang of it. This blog won't go over the step-by-steps of heeling but here are some short videos that might just help:

Heeling Video 1
Heeling Video 2
Heeling Video 3

Something else that will aid you is teaching your dog impulse control, meaning he learns to better control impulses such as lunging or darting to get a piece of food on the ground. The following link describes something called "Doggy Zen" which has 10 steps to help strengthen your dog's impulse control:

Doggy Zen - Impulse Control

And lastly, proofing is an important step in making sure that the pooch doesn't become distracted by it's environment. This is usually done by using a combination of desensitization, counterconditioning, and different sources of distractions. Or you can simply proof a command such as "Watch me" which would have the dog look at you instead of something that might make distract him/her.

As you can see from the steps explained above, the obvious benefit of the owner's walk is that it teaches the pooch to better control itself, and gives the owner full control over a situation in which an uncontroled dog may constitute a nuisance or even worse, a danger, for themselves or others.

Well that pretty much covers it! Knowing the difference between the two walks and the different benefits each of them have separately should help to better structure our walks and take out the confusion for the dog of not knowing when he'll be allowed to roam around and explore and when he's expected to stay at your side at all times. If your walks are too much of one and not of the other there could be some imbalances, too much of dog walking doesn't help teach a dog to stop pulling and that there are times where he needs to stick by your side for his own safety, and too much of owner walking can be boring and unstimulating for the dog and may be passing up some good socialization chances.

If you'd like to comment on the subject, feel free to do so on the comments below or at K9academy!

Till next time,

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