Now the title of this has probably grabbed your attention as we live in a society where we are told we HAVE to walk our dogs..
Well what if those walks did more harm than good??!
So today I decided to take Milo out on a walk round our ‘quiet little village’
Milo and I don’t go out on regular walks (you will realise why as you read this blog) so I thought as my agility training got cancelled and we haven’t been out round the village for a while that we would take a stroll.
**before I go on let me just firstly point out that he gets his physical exercise regularly in other forms**
Anyway, Milo is a dog who can get worried and anxious, I have done lots of training work with him and I know his personality very well. One of his choice behaviours when both anxious and exited is to bark. Although he is friendly with dogs he knows, he gets worried by strange dogs and certainly doesn’t like ones in his face or personal space as he can get worried by them. He can be noise sensitive and he sometimes finds things scary if he’s not expecting them to be there. Children can sometimes worry him. He absolutely LOVES food, this includes the stuff he shouldn’t eat too!
Today it is raining and Milo isn’t a huge fan of the rain. The rain can also amplify sound for dogs.
So with all this in mind we set off for our walk. When I walk my dogs my whole attention goes on them. I don’t just walk them I walk WITH them, we share the experience together. I am very mindful of their personality and needs.
Let me give you a run down of all the things that happened on the hour we were out:
- Loud bangs while I am locking the door from workmen down the road.
- Birds flying in and out of bushes right past Milo’s Nose.
- Wall walking – one of Milo’s favourite things to do!
- Off lead dog being walked along narrow pavement, ignores owner who asks dog to sit, owner lets dog come over and pester us despite the fact we keep walking!
- Lots of sniffs – some good and one that was a bit scary!
- Man in a wheelchair getting in a taxi via a ramp in the boot.
- Children going to school, all various ages.
- Dogs being walked of all ages and sizes but all lunging and pulling owners towards us to try and get to us.
- Off lead spaniel being walked through field, owner doesn’t put dog on lead at roadside, they continue to march past with dog off lead and don’t even consider to put it on the lead despite carrying one in their hand.
- 2 dogs on lead in field , one off lead (same owner) As we enter the field the off lead dog runs over to us at full speed barking constantly at us ( I was near the gate and left the field and waited politely next to a car – using the car to shield Milo from said off lead dog as it still hadn’t been put on a lead) Owner then rudely decided to tell me I could have waited in the field, when I explained Milo wouldn’t like the dog running up to him yapping at him, she then told me that “she’s only noisy” (I will leave the fact that this lady is also a dog trainer and keep my opinions to myself on that one!!)
- 2 dogs being walked on lead through field.
- Sheep in the field (further down but still in the same field – there is no fence separating them from the path)
- 3 separate dogs fence running and barking at us as we walk past their house.
- Loud bin wagon emptying an industrial bin.
- Jogger running past us.
- Car mechanic’s working on a couple of cars.
- Dropped sweets on the pavement.
- Neighbours going out with their crying grandchild just as we arrive back home.
So, the list above …quite a list isn’t it when we drill everything down to step by step moments?! It is fine, it’s real life .. all the above happens but it is the reason I don’t do it regularly with Milo!!
I KNOW my dog, it is MY job as a responsible dog owner to be his advocate, to protect him, to ensure he can trust me not to put him any scary situations at all!! Would you like to do something everyday that worries you? Probably not!
Was he worried today?
He didn’t bark or react once! – and I am not saying that to brag, I am saying it to let you know it is ok to do what is right for YOUR DOG!
Yes there were times on today’s walk that people looked at me gone out – like there was something wrong with what I was doing . .
- I didn’t allow Milo to say hello to any of the dogs I came across. I actively avoided them! I took a wide birth, I crossed over, I used cars to shield him. I ignored the comments of owners who thought they knew best! (just smile and keep walking!)
- We practiced disengagement from anything and everything (including dropped sweets)
- We had fun with loose lead walking games.
- We (well Milo) had sniffing time while we were in the field (on lead)
- We played on lead games in the field.
- He got to walk on walls which he loves!
- We paired anything that could be deemed as scary with lots of reinforcement.
- We trained on our walk.
- We had fun experiences together.
Could I have done things differently, yes I could. I could of had the walk others wanted me to have – to let him meet every dog there was to meet, I could have ignored anything that made a loud bang or that was a bit unusual, I could have let him off lead.
But I didn’t and because I didn’t we had a really successful walk – LOTS of fun, no dramas, no barking – just a good time!
What did I do when I got back? I made sure he had a comfortable place to relax (without our other dog pestering him ) In Milo’s case this is his crate as he loves his crate, it is his little safe den. I gave him a pizzle chew and I’ve let him empty his brain bucket, chill out and relax, I have given him time to truly switch off.
Just because he didn’t have a reaction, doesn’t mean it hasn’t had an effect on his arousal levels.
What did I take with me in terms of food rewards for training, well I have put a picture below:
So quite a lot!
Did I use it all, No!!
The picture above is what I brought home, I realised I wanted to write this blog and I quickly emptied my pockets to show you what I took and what I didn’t use. I often hear from owners that they don’t like using food as a reward – well let me tell you something your boss at work probably doesn’t like paying you each day, they would much rather keep the money in their pocket, but if they didn’t pay you then you wouldn’t work! Simple! It is the same with dog training – dog’s need paying for the good choices that they make! I have varying values of food which I can use depending on the training or what I want to reward at the time! His normal kibble is the brown round pieces – we mainly used that today, yes the food he will be getting today anyway!
We used his normal food for the majority of training on today’s walk. I used some chicken as a jackpot reward, a bit of the dried liver for training games in the field as it is larger so he could see it easily in the long grass. The rest I didn’t even use.
The moral of this blog is :
Please don’t be a D**K with your dog – yes your dog may like to say hello to others, but they might not want to say hello back! Put them on a lead around other dogs always unless the other owner has said it is ok.
Look after them – don’t put them in situations they may not be ready for if your not prepared to implement some training while your there.
Today on our short walk, even though it was fine, we had a good time, nothing bad happened, it reminded me why we don’t do it every day! Milo would hate being put through that daily and if he was I for sure would soon have a reactive dog instead of the one I have got.
Not every dog suits every situation. What is right for one dog may not be right for the next.
Your dog sees you as their protector – please don’t put them in situations where they may have to question that!
If you need any help with training for real life situations then please get in touch.