Dog walking mistakes to avoid

Although dogs are domesticated animals, never forget they are animals. Their natural instinct is to forage, hunt, run and claim territory for their own. Taking your dog for a walk is an opportunity to act out these instincts and they are happiest doing so. Why then do we feel the need to have them trot along beside us as if this is what they most want to do?

An untrained dog can run out in front of traffic, disappear over the horizon or start fights that result in painful injuries. As caring owners, it is our duty to protect our pets and one of the best ways of doing this is to train our dogs to respect boundaries.

Training is not about discipline. Dogs enjoy being challenged. It forces them to focus, keeping them interested and if there is praise to be gained at the end of it, you’ll find they respond with the kind of glee that encourages you to continue with their training. Dogs don’t learn from punishment techniques. If you punish them for doing wrong, they’ll fear your company and you’ll have an unhappy dog acting out your impulses like a robot. Praising a dog every time they do something right will result in a dog eager to as you ask. Good behavior needs to be reinforced.

If a dog pulls on their lead, don’t yank them back and hurt them. Simply stop, forcing them to stop and wait. When you are ready (not them) continue. If they strain against the leash again, stop. Dogs love walking and they’ll soon learn that if they want to continue enjoying themselves, they’ll have to walk beside you.

Barking at other dogs is often misinterpreted as a sign of aggression. It’s actually a greeting (you’ll be able to tell if there is genuine anger there. If so, your dog may need introducing to other dogs in more familiar, controlled environments). Encourage your dog to sniff and play with others. It helps their social skills and means both your dog and you will be less surprised if expectantly discovering a strange dog in your path.

Many dog owners will drive their dogs to the park to avoid roads and traffic. This is a mistake. Your dog needs to be familiar with the sounds and smells of busy traffic so they are no longer scared or startled by it. Keep your dog on a short leash as you walk along a road, reassuring them constantly and then reward them with a play when you arrive at the park.

After your walk, make sure your dog has access to ample water. After a good drink, your dog is likely to fall fast asleep and looking forward to your next outing.

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