A Good Walk is Hard to Beat

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My Best Friends Chilling in their Backyard

There are fewer joys in life greater than a good walk; add a well behaved dog to that equation and in my opinion you have pure perfection!  I have the great honor of training and walking 5 Weimaraners twice a week.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are full of exhilaration and exercise, I tell my friends I am Weimar-running or doing Weimar-obics.  Although it is a job for me (thank goodness for wonderful clients who rescue dogs) it is an opportunity for me to get outside, enjoy the weather and beat some of my stress.

Last Tuesday, I headed out for my normal routine.  First I work with Zach, he is a four year old rescue, and in his former life (if you can call it that) he was tied to a tree.  This lack of socialization and the stimulation of watching other dogs and kids coming and going has caused Zach to be quite dog aggressive and easily over stimulated.

However, I am happy to report after a few years of training and desensitization and under the watchful eye of a veterinary behaviorist we have seen a remarkable improvement.  In the respect of safety, I walk Zach alone.  I also make sure he is always on a gentle leader ® and a martingale collar, this gives me ultimate control in case of an off leash dog emergency.

Many dogs in the South are “outside” dogs and have never seen the inside of a house, and often run in packs.  Although we were rushed by two small dogs, Zach has learned to trust in me and give up ultimate authority to me, and I was able to keep them and him at a safe distance while providing him with mental entertainment.

After Zach, the alpha dog, gets his walk, it is time to walk the other four boys.  Because we have been working and training together for so long, I am able to walk the other three or four dogs together.  I have even trained for a marathon with all of them running by my side in the heel position.

It takes miraculous skill and trust (not to mention a little leash training) to run with 3 or 4 dogs that are over 100 pounds apiece.  Ultimately I am able to walk or run all of them with four leashed draped over one finger.  They too have learned to listen to respect, and deduce my every movement.  We all really enjoy the time we spend together.

On this particular day, there was a man and his dog in the neighborhood as I rounded the corner with the boys.  His dog was distracted and not use to walking around other dogs, he kept turning around, barking and growling and pulling on his leash.

My boys, were perfect, although stimulated to see another dog, they were fantastic about staying in heel position and paying attention to my every move.  I perceive every occasion like this as a training opportunity, so we fell back about 50 feet and worked on our training.

I varied my pace, changed my direction, made a few circles and encouraged my dogs to pay attention to me with praise and petting.

Unfortunately, the guy in front of me quickly began to lose patience with his dog, and finally kicked his dog in the ribcage and jerked on his leash.  For a moment, his dog did pay attention, but it was simply because he was terrified he would be met by the same anger.

I could see his eyes wildly dashing back and forth toward the street and then back to his owner.  It was clear his dog didn’t know why he had been the recipient of such rage.  In his mind, what he was doing was normal, he was entertaining himself and he was also challenging any sense of danger from a pack of unknown dogs.

I was distraught and saddened that someone would so blatantly abuse his dog however I felt it was in the best interest of the dog to fall back and change directions to alleviate the distraction we were causing.

I Tried to See the Situation from all Points of View

  • To me this was a training opportunity, a chance to strengthen and polish my dog’s obedience skills.
  • To my dogs it was an opportunity to challenge their minds and add excitement to our walk.  The addition of a new dog meant paying more attention to me, changing directions, doing circles and changing paces.  There was no time to pay attention to what the other dog was doing.
  • To the other dog, who was bored with a slow walk, we provided excitement and stimulation.
  • To the owner, he let himself get irritated.  He probably didn’t regularly work obedience with his dog at home and he became frustrated when his dog would not listen to him.

It is fairly simple to get your dog to have good leash manners if you understand walking from his perspective.  Walking in one direction at a slow pace is boring for dogs and boredom leads to looking for ways to entertain themselves.

When dogs are forced to entertain themselves, whether at home or on a walk, they often choose naughty or what we presume as naughty behavior.  They bark, they growl, they lunge, they lead with their noses and sniff, they pull; these things provide mental stimulation for them.

The Key to Enjoying Your Walk Together

  1. You must provide entertainment for your dog’s mind.
  2. Vary your pace!  Dogs like to walk quickly and walking at a quick pace gives less opportunity for sniffing and pulling.
  3. Changing your direction, throwing in turns and circles in the middle of the street also teaches your dog that he needs to be paying attention to your every move.  If he has to speculate your movement and direction, he has less time to pay attention to distractions and chose those naughty behaviors plus its FUN for you both and it gives you a chance to polish your obedience.

You MUST provide your dog with mental stimulation.  The Weimaraners I walk not only trust me that they will be kept safe because I am in control, they also enjoy the fact that they never know how fast or slow, which direction I might turn, if I may just turn around…they just don’t know WHAT I will do so they didn’t have time to care what that other dog was doing and most importantly they were getting praised and petted each time they made a correct choice.

Practice makes perfect!  The more you work with your dog the more you will reap the benefits of your hard work and the more you can actually enjoy your time together.  I truly believe there is almost nothing better than a good walk with a well behaved dog!  A good walk is hard to beat!

Sebastian: where all the Weimaraner Rescuing Started

There are 17 Comments

  1. Claire says:

    Great info! Sad to hear of a owner who would hurt his animal so. I find your info very helpful, and also very calming when i fear that there is no one out there with just simple, plain jane easy to understand and to put into action techniques for training your dog. Thank you again for your articles, cant wait to read the next one. If you have any onfo on RE-potty training, it’d be great. Seems my two dogs have unlearned all their potty training. Maybe it is the stress of moving to Alaska, i dont know, they get let out any where from 5-8 times a day to go potty, but they just dont. PLEASE HELP!!

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  2. Tiffany says:

    That is sure a cute picture of Sebastian!

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  3. Laura Williams says:

    Thanks Minette, you make me really proud of the boyz! I now understand…I have to dance in the street…that should entertain the boyz! This is really helpful information. Since I walk the boyz by myself in the afternoon on most days our routine becomes pretty stale! I always learn new things from you!

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  4. Karleen says:

    Chet, thank you so much for all the information, training tips, and advice. I work with a small rescue organization and one of our programs involves taking the dogs to a local elementary school where 5th graders help us socialize and do a little training to make the dogs more adoptable. We do a lot of walking in these sessions because we are working on training the dogs to not pull. The kids have been great and catch on quick to the idea of stopping when their dog pulls and waiting until it releases pressure by backing up or turning towards the student and then proceeding forward. It seems to be a slow process with some dogs that have pulled for several years, but it is working. Now I will incorporate the fast, slow, turn, stop, start, etc. into the training to keep the dogs from getting bored, as you said. I really like how you train and wish I had more time to work with my own 4 dogs using your methods.

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  5. Roland Swing says:

    Much obliged for providing some good ideas on this topic. I have sought out a great variety of good suggestions about natural health and some unreliable suggestions. Do you have any more reliable ideas or places on the Web that I can find more detailed information? This would be very much appreciated! So, keep up the good work!

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  6. Dede Splitt says:

    Nice story. My dogs love their walks every a.m and then runs in the big yd . in the afternoon. I love Sebastian’s pic.

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  7. Laura Williams says:

    Great article! Love the pictures of the boyz!

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  8. Jan Burger says:

    Hi Minette,

    I have a 2 1/2 year old Mi-Ki. She is 6 lbs. I have been reluctant to even let her outside as Mi-Kis can’t tolerate the Lepto vaccine. However, this past summer, she made it abundantly clear that she wanted to go outside (she is wee- pad trained). I let her in the yard a few times, then decided it would be safer to walk her on the street in my low traffic neighborhood. When we 1st begin our walks, she pulls and when we are almost home she does so again. The rest of the time she is really good on the leash, although I have not trained her the heel command. If she sees a dog or dogs she becomes very excited and tries to go to them. Of course, they are at least 10 times larger than she is so I won’t allow it. She is intelligent, but impulsive. For example, she will sit and stay well for a favorite treat, which she has been doing for almost 2 years. However, with no treat in site, she won’t listen AT ALL. Any advice for transfer of behavior or how to get her to heel without constant treats would be appreciated!

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    Minette Reply:

    First you have to train her to heel, and that requires treats or some kind of motivation. You can’t expect her to know heel position or leash manners without teaching her and without having something of higher value that she wants than whatever is distracting her.

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/misusing-treats-dog-training/

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  9. Patricia says:

    I recently rescued a 3yr old lab that has been kept outside with minimal attention. He’s now a inside dog, however he is petrified to go out the front door . I want to walk him and take him rides in the car however, this is a problem . Also, even after being carried to the car, he won’t jump in. Can you help?

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    Minette Reply:

    You’re going to be working with a lot of desensitization for him and no more carrying 😉

    Use treats and toys and make things fun and read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/understanding-desensitization-dog-training/

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  10. Judy Fryer says:

    I would LOVE to be able to walk or run with my dog, but I am an older person with bad knees…not able to do this with my dog… have not yet found another answer and would appreciate some suggestions for older persons who don’t get around as well as they used to.

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    Minette Reply:

    Use a flirt pole, read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/teasing-bad-lesson-building-excitement/

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  11. Kathie says:

    Is the leash training during walks important for dogs that live on a working ranch? We have two six month old Australian Shepherds. They work well on a leash when we have taken them to town to the vet but their walks while on the ranch are primarily off leash. We have had a couple of instances where they take off after deer and don’t stop when called. Also where do I get the clicker?

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    Minette Reply:

    Yes, leash walks and manners are important. you can search for dog clickers on line or go to any large pet supply store

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  12. Joyce Schoffner says:

    I have a very willful mini dashound (sic) when we walk his nose is to the ground right out of the door and we spend most of the walk stopping and starting while he figures out the DNA of every dog that’s walked the street, I’ve used the the heads up leash and he has none of that and I don’t like either, by the end of the walk I’m swearing at the poor guy and neither one of us had a good time, he does know the sit and stay command and does well with it but the pulling and stopping to sniff is making the walk unpleasant for both of us please help!! He is one years old.

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    Minette Reply:

    Teach him eye contact and focus, search my articles on how to do that.

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