Language around lead walking can fuel a negative mindset and create dis-connection between dogs and their people.
Bringing a dog into our life usually comes with an expectation of taking our dogs for stress free, long relaxing walks. We see ourselves wandering through the countryside or along the beach enjoying the experiencing with our dogs. Realistically we know this may be a weekend or holiday activity and we plan to take our dog out locally, to parks and street walks at least once a day if not more. In our plans we didn’t expect to end up more tense from walking the dog, shattered from the stress, with sore arms and backs. We didn’t sign up for this!
Here in the UK ‘taking the dog for a walk’ is an expectation, a social norm. I have lived with multiple dogs for many years, and the first question I am usually asked is ‘how do you walk them all?’. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with dog people from all across the globe and know our British pre-occupation with dog walking is somewhat unique. The cultural expectation that all dogs will enjoy walks and all people should be able to walk a dog leads to a lot of stress, especially when walking the dog is not easy at all. I’ve taken on a lot of dogs that haven’t found lead walking relaxing and over the years have felt ashamed, embarrassed, harassed, out of control, and anxious. However, learning a core set of skills that I adapted to suit my dogs and changing my mindset about dog walking has helped enormously and I now regularly teach these skills to other dog owners.
Teaching the dog to live confidently within their own environment
To teach a dog, we need a connection with that dog. The depth of that connection will vary depending on whether we are living full time with that dog, caring for a few hours, or interacting for a short time. When dis-connection is present a dog cannot learn, trying to teach a dog without connection rarely works. Without connection we can manage, supress, and control, but unlikely to create a confident learner.
A dog that pulls on a lead is disconnected from the person
A dog that barks or lunges towards other dogs when on lead is disconnected from the person
A dog that stops walking, puts the brakes on, sits or lies down is disconnected from the person.
What these statements need is ‘at that time’ or ‘in that moment’. Dogs and their people are rarely disconnected all the time, teaching in environments that support connection are your starting point.
Language around lead walking can fuel a negative mindset and create dis-connection between dogs and their people. For this reason, I talk about Walking Together, with an emphasis on learning how to be together whilst the dog is wearing a lead. The core teaching will transfer to experiences with your dog, whether the lead is present or not. We are learning about ‘together’ and together will always be reinforced.
What you need to learn
A set of strategies that will give you some structure on which to build your dog walks
Techniques that teach the dogs what they need to learn in order to live confidently within their own environment
Choosing the best equipment to help you meet your goals
How to utilise your own existing skill set and strengthen new skills
Learning what to do improves your confidence. Increased confidence gives you more connection to your dog, allowing you to enjoy your adventures together.
https://www.clareteachingdogs.com/post/do-you-need-to-socialise-a-young-dog for more information on the Sensitive Exposure protocol for pups and youngsters