Whether you’re just starting out or are looking to improve your current skills, there’s no doubt that being able to walk your pet is one of the most important things a responsible owner can do. Pets aren’t exactly known for their independent natures, so if you don’t have any experience walking your own pet, you may be surprised by how much work it really takes.
It only takes a few short weeks before puppies start following their mother around everywhere she goes. As soon as they learn what the routine is, they’ll follow her without hesitation. It’s the easiest way for them to stay close to mom and keep from getting lost.
While this is great for keeping track of mom, it doesn’t teach your puppy anything about where he should go when he gets outside. If you want your pup to learn more than that, you need to establish some ground rules for him. In order to do this, you must first understand the basics of walking your dog.
This article will cover the various methods available for teaching your dog to walk beside you. With these techniques under your belt, you should be ready to begin training your pooch. Of course, even though we’ve covered basic techniques for building familiarity outside, you still need to familiarize your pet inside as well. After all, it wouldn’t hurt to practice your new outdoor skills indoors, would it?
Before you get started, consider whether you’d like to use formal obedience training or the more relaxed approach called clicker training. Clickers are basically verbal cues rather than commands. They usually consist of a click followed by the name of the action. For example, “Sit” could be replaced by a click followed by “Sit.” Some people prefer clicking over spoken words because using sound makes it easier for animals who are deaf or hard of hearing to understand.
The Basics of Walking Your Dog
When teaching your dog to walk beside you, you have to remember two main points: safety and consistency. Before setting out on your walk, determine which area you’re going to walk through (a street, neighborhood, park whatever works best for you), decide where you’ll start and end your route, and choose a safe spot for crossing streets or other obstacles.
Once you’ve got those details worked out, stick to the plan. Make sure your dog understands that you will cross that street at that particular intersection, and don’t deviate from the path.
One thing that many owners find helpful is taking turns leading your dog. One person holds the leash while another leads the dog. This allows both of you to concentrate on what each needs to do without having to worry about what the other is doing. Another option is to have someone else hold the leash, while you lead your dog. This puts less stress on you and keeps your focus on your pet.
Once you’ve decided on the type of training you’d like to try, it’s time to actually get down to business. On the next page, let’s discuss some effective ways to teach your dog to walk beside you.
There are different types of training methods used to teach dogs tricks. Positive reinforcement training focuses on rewarding good behavior. Punishing bad behaviors helps your dog associate negative actions with consequences. There are also punishment-based or operant conditioning methods. These involve rewarding desirable behaviors and punishing undesirable ones.
Finally, there are methods that combine elements of positive reinforcement, punishment and operant conditioning. For more information on training methods, check out the links on the next page. Clicker Training was developed by Dr. Edward Thorndike, who observed pigeons pecking at buttons marked A, B, C, D. He discovered that after pressing button A, the birds went away and pressed B instead.
Then, after pressing B, the birds moved off and began pressing buttons labeled C, D, E, F in sequence. By repeating this process, he eventually figured out that a specific pattern of button presses resulted in food rewards. Pigeon trainers repeated this process until trained.
Building Familiarity Outside
Your first goal is to get your dog comfortable enough outside to feel secure. If you live in an apartment, simply opening the door and letting your pet come along for the ride isn’t always possible. However, you can increase your pet’s comfort level with simple steps.
First, acclimate your dog to the outdoors by spending lots of time together. Go to the park together at least once per week. Take them to favorite spots, such as grassy areas, water fountains and benches. Most importantly, pay attention to your dog’s body language.
Does he seem happy or uncomfortable out in public? If so, take him home immediately. Don’t force him to participate in activities he feels unsafe with. Instead, spend more time at home, where you have more control.
After your dog becomes accustomed to parks and grassy areas, you can gradually expose him to larger open spaces. Start by taking him somewhere relatively small. Once he has mastered this space, move on to something slightly bigger. Eventually, you can work your way up to large, open expanses.
At this point, you can practice walking side-by-side. Avoid taking your pet places that might cause his anxiety, such as busy intersections and shopping malls. Also avoid introducing your pet to new sights and sounds too quickly. Gradually increase exposure to these stimuli.
Keep in mind that your pet is likely to become anxious whenever you leave the house, especially if you haven’t been gone very long. Try to anticipate your pet’s reaction and prepare yourself for it beforehand. Anticipating your dog’s anxieties will prevent you from becoming frustrated by your animal’s fears. Remember, never punish or yell at your pet during these times. Just wait patiently until your dog calms down.
Inside, the environment plays an enormous role in helping you train your dog. Dogs love to explore. If you provide them with a stimulating indoor environment, they’ll be far more interested in learning tricks. Keep this in mind when choosing the location of your dog’s crate, bedding area and toys.
Since it’s impossible for a pet to fully appreciate everything it sees, you should also provide your pet with opportunities to investigate objects and textures. Consider buying furniture made specifically for pets. Many offer scratching posts, tunnels, cushions for resting on and chew toys to occupy its time.
Building Familiarity Inside
Dogs thrive on structure. Although you have established a routine for walking your pet outside, you can give your pet additional structure by providing a place to sleep and eat. If you feed your dog in the same corner every morning, your pet will develop a sense of security there.
Even if you normally feed him elsewhere, you should repeat the feeding ritual in that corner, so he knows it’s okay to be there. Likewise, provide a designated sleeping area, preferably in the same area everyday. Again, your dog will feel a sense of security knowing this is his “safe” zone.
While you’re making your dog feel secure, you should also keep distractions to a minimum. Put away any items that might tempt your dog to play. Be aware of televisions, phones, computers, bicycles and other potential hazards. Make sure you keep your pet away from breakable objects and electrical cords. If you have children, be extra vigilant. Teach your kids how to interact safely with your pet and supervise their interactions with your canine friend.
Finally, don’t forget about training! If you want to gain your pet’s trust, treat it carefully. Paying special attention to your pet’s needs and communicating clearly will help it better understand what you expect. Also, make sure your voice remains calm and low to avoid raising your pet’s anxiety levels.
With your dog’s newfound ability to follow you around, you can now begin practicing more complex tricks. Let’s examine how to properly train your pup to walk beside you.
Walking your pet requires diligence, dedication and plenty of patience. Never expect instant results. Practice often and reward your dog generously for progress. Always praise your pet when he does something right, even if it’s just standing quietly near you waiting for treats. Praising your pet for even minor accomplishments will encourage him to continue progressing toward greater achievements.
Training Your Puppy To Walk Beside You
As mentioned earlier, training your dog to walk beside you is a gradual process. Begin by holding your pet firmly and guiding it to heel position. Hold the collar tightly but gently. Repeat this several times throughout the day. Next, you’ll need to consistently reinforce your dog’s efforts with praise and affection. If you notice your pet pulling back, stop moving forward.