Many dog owners prefer to slump back into their armchair and hide behind a newspaper to taking a stroll with their canine friend. This is a real shame, because the benefits of a structured dog walk can make a real difference to your dog’s well-being, his behaviour and your relationship with him.
When in the outside world and away from the comforts of home some dogs get overexcited or fearful. And, overexcitement and fear can lead to unwanted behaviours, such as excessive sniffing, reactivity towards other dogs, and even dog-to-human aggression.
A structured dog walk can help your dog overcome many behavioural issues. And, it can have a positive impact on your relationship with your dog.
What is a Structured Dog Walk?
For those who are unaware of the term, there is nothing to worry about. A structured dog walk is where your dog is on his best behaviour. He is walking very nicely by your side, on a loose leash, with his head parallel to your leg.
Sound too good to be true?
With patience, time and practice, you can teach yourself and your four-legged friend the basics of a structured dog walk. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll both feel the benefits.
Why is a Structured Dog Walk So Important?
Dogs need leadership. They also need to learn followership. The two things are not mutually
exclusive. To lead your dog, and for your dog to learn to follow you, it’s important to set some ground rules.
Firstly, your dog is not in charge. You are. So, put the phone away and let’s pay your dog the attention he needs and deserves. If you learn to lead with calm assertiveness, then your dog will learn to follow. And, not just out on your walk, in other areas of your life, too.
Check out the above structured dog walk with this young collie. Watch how the dog and her human develop more confidence as the walk progresses.
How to Master the Basics of a Structured Dog Walk
To be a leader, you need to lead. This means that you need to be in front of your dog, or at least, he needs to be walking by your side. To achieve this with leash-reactive dogs can often be challenging.
Choose a standard-length sturdy leash that is comfortable for you and your dog. Extending dog leads are not suitable for teaching your dog how to walk in a structured manner. Then, choose the side on which your dog will walk. Wrap the end of the leash around the hand that is furthest from your dog. And, gently grip the leash at its midway point with the hand nearest to your dog. Holding the leash in this way keeps your dog by your side while giving him room to turn his head and walk comfortably. A two-handed approach also gives you core stability and extra leverage should you need it.
Keep your arms loose and relaxed. Your calm, methodical, chilled-out approach will help your dog be at ease with you and himself.
Help your dog be there for you.
Constant sniffing, peeing, and marking lamp posts are rewards that your dog hasn’t yet earned. Help him to follow you and not his own instincts by keeping a steady pace with no distractions. If you stop to answer your phone or talk to a neighbour across the street, you are not paying attention to your dog. So, you’re inadvertently permitting him to do as he pleases.
As your dog starts to understand that he’s there to follow you and not meet his own needs, he’ll become more relaxed in your company. During the second half of your walk, praise him by allowing him time for a pee and few quick sniffs.
Be aware of other dogs and their humans.
Sometimes the struggle is not actually with your dog. Inexperienced, fearful or thoughtless dog owners can cause serious issues for you and your canine companion. You’ve met them, and you know who I’m talking about.
If another dog is hurtling towards you pulling his human along behind him, then that’s not a pleasant encounter for your dog at this stage of his training. Although your dog needs to learn to deal with it, sometimes the best and less stressful thing for you both is to cross the street or turn and walk in the other direction.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of a Structured Dog Walk
Remember that dogs are pack animals. You are the pack leader, and you are more comfortable in the human world than your dog. Providing calm and assertive leadership for is not only what he needs, but it will make him a better, happier dog. Master the structured dog walk and your canine companion will learn to trust and respect you.