Do you have lot of dogs? Are you interested in being a dog walker but don’t know how to get everybody walking as a team? Here are a few techniques to help get you started.
It’s important to start small and and make sure that every move you are making is vocalized. This creates a calm in your group that allows them to be less impulsive about any quick decisions they might otherwise make. I use carting or mushing commands in order to warn my team about left or right turns. That way they can each individually feel comfortable about what they need to do to stay out of the way or at least anticipate the next part of the journey. I also use a hold command for stopping. This might be the single most important cue that I employ as it allows me the ability to get everyone to put on the brakes if one of them decides to stop because they need to poop or pee. Nobody wants to get yanked around when they’re trying to make! For more hints on how to teach the Mushing terms to your dog check out my blog on teaching a dog the beginner elements of dog carting.
This one is a little weird, I’ll admit it. This technique comes from a shutzhund training method of getting a dog engaged with the handler. It allows you as their leash holder to really become the leader of your group. Start with one dog and walk backwards with the leash in your left hand. Anytime your four legged friend runs out ahead of you, just turn away from the direction that they have headed. Let the leash bounce them into a reoriented state and then travel in a straight line. Now add a second dog and repeat the processs. If they split around you just stop, turn yourself a hundred and eighty degrees, swap leashes and start again. Take your time and don’t be surprised if adding dogs takes a while.
Not all dogs want to pull out in front some put on the “boat anchor ” behavior. They sit and that’s it. They are protesting this walk all together and “ain’t nothin’ you can do ’bout it.” In this scenario it is important to stay positive. Nobody wants to follow someone that is actively angry with them. So keep your cool. Before you get going it’s a good idea to have a cue that you use in oder to warn the pack that you are about to move. I count down from three. When I do this again in subsequent scenarios I see that everybody is more compliant to the command I give just following the count and are ready to move. Once we are moving I make sure to keep the encouragement going. “Good girl!” or “good boy!” Should be regularly heard things from my mouth if I’m going to succeed. Don’t take any good behavior for granted, or you will see your group become complacent in their focus on you as someone to please.
Leashes In Knots!
Don’t wrap your leashes around your hands. This will quickly become a problem as you increase your pack. Instead use one hand to hold the leashes and conduct any momentary tension that might be necessary and use the other hand to organize the leashes as the need arises. The leashes shouldn’t be tight though . There shouldn’t be a need to wrap the leashes around your hand in an attempt keep a hold of your dog. If this is the case you should go back to walking this particular dog solo until they are able not so pull so hard. I will do another more focused article on addressing just this issue. Your second hand can also be an auxiliary leash hand for an individual dog that needs some extra space in order to sniff or mark but as soon as you can return that dog to the team and resume your walk.
Don’t Be Boring
Doing the same walk again and again will create a monotony in your routine and you will not be doing anything to encouraage your pack to increase their territory. Remember, the ancient wolven ancestors that all dogs descend from roamed over vast distances, marking out migration paths and hunting grounds that stretched for miles. People often see a dog walk as a way to keep dogs from peeing and pooping in their houses, but for a dog its an essential part of their emotional and intellectual inner world. So even if you are limited by how far you can go, make your walks novel. Try making a your route an obstacle course, as opposed to an ambling chore.
Here’s a little video showing that I practice what I preach;)