How to stimulate your dog | Ideas around the walk
The common idea is that the walk is there for the dog. That is being equivalent to sniffing, playing, excitement, fun and so on in most peoples minds. Unfortunately this is a human interpretation that leads to miscommunication and often contributes to to behavioral problems.
Why? Because the dog is leading and the owner is following with this attitude in mind. You actually have a great opportunity at hand with assuring a proper walk for your dog. You can give your dog a job, a purpose. Which is important for its well-being. Did you ever consider why working dogs hardly ever show any behavioral problems? One reason for this is that working dogs have a job to do. And that job is clear and precise in the dogs mind. When they are in working mode, they focus on their task and forget or rather ignore everything else.
If you nevertheless think that the walk needs to be fun for your dog, consider that your dog is having fun 24/7. It does what it wants most of the time. So fun and doing what the dog wants is clearly not something your dog is lacking. Besides the right time for your dog to do what it wants is when it is off lead. On the lead is ideally a different story, for your and for your dogs sake.
How to stimulate your dog | Walking as a job
Then what is that job that you are supposed to give your dog on the walk? It is very simple and is called “Follow me” or “Do exactly as I do”. Sounds simple, but is indeed very difficult for your dog because of the myriad of distractions and preferences your dog has. Because of these distractions and preferences the dog is creating tension on the lead. Whenever your dog goes along with whatever catches its attention you experience this tension on the lead (the shorter the lead, the quicker this will happen). The tension on the lead goes often along with tension in the dogs body (ranging from excitement to aggression). To put it in other words whenever your dog is doing its own thing there is conflict between you and your dog, between what you are doing and what your dog is doing. This is manifested and symbolized by tension in the lead. Unless your dog learns to let go of its preferences and focuses on you, instead of the environment this is bound to continue.
The idea is that you give your dog the clarity and guidance of what you want until it learns enough self-control to stop itself from going along with its impulses all the time. The dog needs to learn to use its brain to control itself which is great mental exercise, one which drains a lot of energy. Besides the dog constantly needs to pay attention to what you are doing in order to not create tension. And when the tension is not there, there is relaxation, first in the lead and in time in the body. The mind is working, the body is relaxed and gets gentle exercise via walking. If you add some fun and dynamic times off lead you can achieve great balance for your dog. And there is also many ways how you can challenge your dog more on the walk, by asking more questions, by adding more distractions, by going to different environments. The job for your dog stays the same, follow me, focus – but the degree of difficulty can be increased.
Give your dog a job and add a crucial element to its life. Your dog will me more balanced and relaxed because of it. We are here to help if you need it. How is your dog on the walk? Is it excited, tense or relaxed when you are out and about?
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