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Dogs love their walks! Not only are walks a fun activity for you and your pup to do together, they're also important for his or her mental and physical health. But some dogs get so excited, it can make walking a difficult task rather than a relaxing one. Below are some common issues that dog owners experience when walking their pup and ways to resolve those issues.
One dog-walking problem can occur before you even get outside for your walk. Some dogs love walks so much that they get overly excited when you merely bring out the leash. They may twirl in circles, hop around, jump, bounce up and down, or look like they're dancing. When this happens, your dog is already worked up before even getting out the door and that means he or she will likely be over-the-top for the entire walk.
To resolve this issue, try taking out the leash a couple times a week, but not for a walk. When your dog is calm with the leash, reward him or her to reinforce the positive behavior. Once your dog masters this, next have them walk over the leash on the floor. After they can do this calmly, try clipping the leash to your dog (still without going for a walk). Continue to reinforce your dog's calm behavior each step of the way and you will eventually redefine what the leash means, changing it from "time for a walk" to "be calm." So each time you go for a walk, you can wait for your dog to give you a calm behavior, then attach the leash and go.
One of the most common dog-walking problems is pulling on the leash. Typically, this happens when a dog is intensely sniffing, naturally a fast walker, very strong, or simply excited for the walk.
To resolve this issue, press the reset button by teaching your dog what his or her leash means in a controlled environment. Attach the leash to your dog, toss a treat behind you and take a small step or two forward. Your dog will go for the treat and then catch up to you, at which point you reinforce with a "yes" and toss another treat behind you. Once your dog has mastered this in a boring setting, move to a slightly more interesting place like the yard, apartment balcony or hallway. After mastering this level, you can move to more public places to continue training.
Dogs are known to have a great sense of smell, thanks to their complex noses. And for dogs, walks are all about sniffing those interesting and new scents. But sometimes dogs stand and sniff something over and over, refusing to move or budge an inch.
To resolve this issue, you can designate parts of your walk for sniffing and other parts for something else, like exercise. Some owners choose to begin their walk with a quick run and limited sniffing time, while others begin their walk with sniffing time and end with exercise. However, it's important to note that sniffing is an important part of your walk because it provides important enrichment and stimulation to your dog.
In some cases when you go on your walks, dogs get outside and stop paying attention to you because of all the smells, sights and stimulation. This can be pretty frustrating, especially if you're used to your dog paying attention to you in your home.
To resolve this issue, go back inside and begin focus training. Start by sitting somewhere in your home and throwing a treat or piece of kibble over your dog. Once your dog goes for it, say his or her name and when he turns toward you, reinforce that behavior with a "yes" and another treat. This will train your dog to turn towards you when you say his or her name. Once your pup has mastered this indoors, take your training outside.
Some dogs react when another dog comes their way or even when they come into sight. Reactive dogs may bark, lunge, howl, cry or not listen to you. Do not punish your dog, as that can make things worse since your dog is in a reactive state.
One solution to this is called "counter conditioning," which is a way to reframe how your dog feels about a trigger, such as another dog. From a safe distance, give your pup treats at the first sight of a trigger. Make sure that all treats become unavailable once the trigger is out of sight. This will encourage your dog to associate the trigger with positive things. So eventually, when your dog sees another dog, he or she will turn to you rather than become triggered. Sometimes, though, this issue requires help from a professional trainer.