“Walking my dog is the worst!”
Yes! I’ve said it myself!
The main reason why owners do not walk their dogs is probably that it is not fun.
This might be because the dog pulls on leash like a maniac or because the dog takes off once he is off-leash.
Having a dog leave you as soon as you don’t physically control him anymore is not only annoying but plain dangerous. The reason why he takes off is that the reinforcement that the environment offers (smells, novel objects to investigate, wildlife to hunt, other dogs and people to greet or bark at) is bigger than the reinforcement that comes from staying with you.
If we can offer our dog enough reinforcement for staying with us (in the form of treats, toys and social engagement), he won’t need to pursue the rewards that the environment has – because yours will be more enticing.
7 Easy Ideas For Being A Fun Walking Companion For Your Dog:
1. Take Your Dog’s Meals
Instead of feeding your dog from a bowl before or after the walk, take your dog’s kibble or treats with you. Every piece of dog food is an opportunity to engage and bond with him – make the most out of it by using it in situations in which you can benefit from the extra value that the food provides. Watch for things your dog does right – looking at you, hesitating before moving too far away, coming to check in with you – and let him know that you appreciate it by feeding him!
2. Look For Nature’s Toys
Instead of leaving your dog to his own devices to go and explore, explore with him. Play with whatever you can find on the ground: leaves, pine cones, sticks. Run the over the ground the way you would with a cat, or throw them up in the air for your dog to catch (this works great with leaves).
Enthusiastically point out especially good discoveries (like a pine cone or a feather) to your dog – he will be excited that you share your finds with him and be more likely to stay close if you are such a valuable walking companion.
3. Try Some Stays
Make your stays easy at first – short distance, quick duration, little distraction. Reward your dog generously when you release him – throw a ball, make a little race game, give him a fantastic treat. Don’t forget to take his picture while he stays 😉
4. Recall and Let Go
Practice calling your dog throughout the walk – not only when you want to put a leash on him and leave. If he learns (and he will learn quickly!) that being called is followed by going home, he will get weary of responding. You never want the recall to predict the fun ending – so make sure the fun continues after he comes to you. Throughout your walk, call him, give him a reward and let him go again.
5. Let Him Hunt – With You
Dogs want to hunt. That’s what they were born to do. Use this desire to your advantage and let him hunt with you, on your terms. Play food chase games (drop a piece of food, run away as he is sniffing around for it and watch him chase you at maximum speed when he realizes how far away you have gotten), restrain your dog by holding him around the chest or his hips and throw a toy far away. Let him struggle against your restraint and build up energy before you release him to run after his toy. If you have a walking partner, have the other person hold the dog while you run away and call them.
6. Scatter His Food
Scattering your dog’s food for him to sniff and eat is one of the easiest ways to engage him. Try scattering it on different surfaces – sand, dirt, grass, snow (snow can be hard if it is deep – just looking for five pieces of kibble can entertain your dog for a long time!). Sniffing is a very calming activity and will also serve the purpose of lowering an over-aroused dog’s level of excitement.
7. Take Training On The Road
If you’re training your dog with a high rate of reinforcement and are advancing exercises at the right speed, he will love training. Instead of reserving your training for the living room or dog training classes, do it on your walks – all of it! Sits, downs, loose-leash walking, tricks…take it outside. If your dog is engaged and excited to show you how he can spin and shake, he will not give a second thought to running away.
If your dog is taking off, think like a dog: Where is the reinforcement, and how can I make the reinforcement be with me?
The number one concern your dog has in life is “What can I get out of this?” Let’s show him that he gets the most out of staying with us.