Know Your Pooch
Make his walks a pleasure
Ever seen dogs being walked by their owners? Generally, you feel that the owners are being walked by their dogs! Most of the time it is the owner who is being pulled and dragged while his pooch is busy sniffing the ground. It is painful to watch even oldies trying to hold on to the dog, holding the leash with both hands stretched out like a walking Yoga! Many times the owners with unstable feet fall and break their wrists. The walk becomes a pain for both. The owner thinks that the dog may pull him flat on the ground, while the dog thinks that ‘He (owner) feels good when I walk ahead.’ Many people decide to go for a trainer. But that doesn’t help much, because in the absence of his trainer, he becomes your trainer…
Before I elaborate on the topic, I must tell you that there are two things, one is a Heel. In this a dog walks on a tight leash and his muzzle stays in line with your left knee and he walks smartly on your left side. This is more like a cop walking besides his superior. Normally you don’t need a cop, you need a dog who just walks on a lose leash at your pace. That is he neither pulls you, nor slinks behind. This is one of the most difficult things to teach, but once you have got the hang of it, it becomes a child’s play. For teaching to walk with you, the prerequisite is that he must have learnt to SIT on command. Teaching a dog to SIT on command is one of the easiest things to do. Whether a puppy or an adult (yes even adult dogs can be trained!), call him to you. Let him know in advance that you have a treat for him. As soon as he comes near you, keep the treat pressed in your palm, hidden from his sight, but he can sniff it alright. Move the palm forwards, with forefinger pointing down and give the command SIT. The moment he sits on his haunches, press your palm against his nose and let him have the treat. Repeat this as many times you can within 15 minutes. In the next session, don’t give him treat every time. Gradually teach him to sit without treat, but give him the treat after the training session is off.
Once he is thorough in his lesson, it is time to start training him to walk with you. Take a long leash, say about six feet long. Use an ordinary leather collar. The leash and collar in this case are not to tug him, they are there just to control the dog. Give him a long rope and make him sit on your left. You start walking, take your left foot out first. No command is necessary. Just begin to walk. The moment he tries to pull you, be smart enough to walk faster and take a left turn. Imagine you are thinking of something and walking in a narrow lane and an SUV overtakes you and takes a sharp left turn and screeches to halt. Your left turn in front of your dog has the same effect as the SUV abruptly halting in front of you. Your chain of thoughts was broken. In case of a dog, his concentration on sniffing the ground is disturbed. At that moment give the command SIT. Pat him, wait for a few seconds and begin to walk again. After a few repetitions, he understands that as long as he doesn’t pull you, it is okay.
However, exceptions are always there. Some dogs are shy and scared and instead of walking, especially in a new area cringe and cling to the ground like a lizard, while there are others who keep trying to walk faster. For the one who clings to the ground, some rewards with attractive odour work. like pieces of fried liver. First let the dog follow you around the house sniffing your left palm, which has the treat. After a while give him the treat. Simultaneously make him sit at times and offer him a treat. Gradually put on a collar and leash on him, but let him walk freely, with the other end trailing on the ground. This can be done in an enclosed space. Once he is ‘addicted’ to your treat and walk, he can be cajoled to go out on the road too. However, there the end of the leash has to be held, to avoid accidents.
For the boisterous ones, technique differs. When you take your dog out in the morning or after you return for walk, he has been confined for at least 7-8 hours. Naturally he has to ‘ease’ himself. Plus he has all the pent-up energy and excitement in him. The moment you open the gate, he lunges out. The best is to walk faster than him at that moment and take a sharp left turn and stop, simultaneously ask him to SIT. If he does so, reward him with a treat. Then continue the walk again. For some time walk like a snake with him. Zigzagging your way in front of him several time, to make him realise that it is you who is walking him and not the vice versa! Some dogs walk well initially but due to certain sounds or smells or some distractions begin to lag behind. For such dogs a sharp right turn or even a sharp right about turn is the trick. And in case he takes the turn with you, halt, make him sit and give him the treat.
Normally I insist that for any training a command preceded by the name of the dog is a must. But in this case I have not advised that. Because this is just to convey a simple message to the dog that he has to walk with the master, like a pal and not like a soldier! It is however, important to keep changing your pace. Then only you will know whether he is actually walking with you or not. Plus, he too will learn to adjust his pace with you. As pups, dogs enjoy being with the master anywhere. But once they grow up they develop their own ideas of fun and don’t want to go back home. They know that once inside they will be confined within the walls of the house. Therefore, once the walk is over, enter with your dog on leash. Make him sit either inside the gate or inside your apartment and offer him a treat, followed by a pat on his chest and say Good Boy. Repeat this daily. In the long run it will help you in bringing him back home.
Enjoy walking with your dog!