Walking the dog has a lot of potential to be a relaxing, stress-free stroll, but oftentimes, that walk in the park gets interrupted by a dog who demands to stop every ten feet or so to sniff and explore in his own way.
This article is part two in a three article series about walking the dog. (See Part 1 about stopping pulling on the leash here.) Hopefully, by now, your dog is well on his way to not pulling during walks. That will go a long way in ending these stop ‘n sniff sessions! Or maybe your dog doesn’t stop to sniff, but rather to leave a scent marker to tell all his doggy friends (or enemies…) that he was there. We’ll tackle both of these problems here today.
My Basset Hound, Lou, used to be a classic Stop ‘N Sniffer. Not only did he care a lot about every scent he could find, but he also liked to leave his own scent behind. He is now a recovering Stop ‘N Sniffer (because, trust me, if you slack at any point in these dogs lives and allow them to sniff on their terms, you’ll have to start over with training!) and by practicing the following techniques, your dog can learn to enjoy walking without stopping too.
First and foremost, start teaching your curious pup a “Leave It”command. You can do this by placing a treat on the floor and covering it with your hand while you say “Leave It.” As soon as your dog looks up at you (after trying hard to dig, lick, and push your hand), say “Good” and give him a treat. Work up to having the treat uncovered and using your body or foot to block him after saying “Leave It.” Please keep in mind that your dog should never get rewarded with the treat on the floor! Leave It means “This is not yours and NEVER will be.” The treat should always come from the opposite hand.
Alright, now that your dog has a basic understanding of how to leave things alone, time to get out the leash. If you have a dog who likes to mark his territory, stop in your front yard for a minute or two to make sure he gets a potty break before the walk. This step, I admit, is more for the owner than for the dog. Knowing that your dog has had the opportunity to use the bathroom before leaving will make it mentally easier for you to prevent him from doing so during the walk!
Then, you’re off! Then instant your dog decides something really awesome is lurking in the bushes, or is dried to the side of a tree, tell him, “Leave It, Let’s Go.” You must use a firm voice and then follow through with your words, meaning don’t stop walking!
This doesn’t mean to just drag your dog along – there is a technique to it. When your dog stops, grab the leash close to his collar, keep your arm straight and next to your body and walk onwards. The instant your dog responds by following, loosen your grip and resume holding the leash your standard way. The goal here is to apply an unwanted feeling on his neck (pressure), then the second that he takes the first step and starts walking, the pressure goes away! This technique is for dogs using an Easy Walk Harness, a Martingale Collar, or a standard flat-buckle collar.
With dogs who are using choke or prong collars, use a treat to guide them away from their sniffing adventure after saying “Leave It, Let’s Go.” (Dogs using any kind of collar or harness can do this too!) In order for this to work, your treat must be really smelly – think hotdogs or chicken – and you must get close to your dog and literally stick the treat in front of his nose. Once you have his attention on the treat, move it back to the sidewalk and reward him while he is walking!
Since these dogs are generally motivated by environment interactions, it is necessary to allow them to stop and sniff sometimes. The key to this is doing it on your terms.
When you decide to take a break, or to reward your dog for an awesome first half of the walk, have your dog Sit facing you. Then give him a cue – it could be “Free Dog,” “Go See,” “Sniff” – anything you like! This will signal to your dog that he is free to enjoy the scents and his surroundings for a couple of minutes. Give him 1-2minutes to look around, then say “Let’s Go” and continue on. Best of both worlds.
Next week, we’ll take a look at how to help dogs who bark at their doggy and human friends.
If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle the submitted questions, and give practical advice to solve common dog behavior issues. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.