Happy New Year! Let’s talk about resolutions for your pet (and you!) for 2011…

Let’s face it, in January and the upcoming winter months it can be a little challenging to provide enough exercise for your dog. Snow and ice can make things inconvenient, and besides, it’s cold out there! So if we are to get in the spirit of things, a little planning might be in order to get the most out of it for you and your dog.

Well, not all walks are created equal.

Yes, I know many of you take your dog on a brisk walk for several miles, but… you return home and Pooch seems to have more energy than when you started. No, he is not on a sugar high but something similar. Maybe your dog is wound up because he/she is over-stimulated from the excitement of taking charge on your walk. When dogs walk ahead of us they are the leaders. They sniff and see things way before we do. If you would like to stop your dog from chasing that squirrel, barking at another dog, running after a car or just putting you on “drag,” the dog must walk calmly on a loose leash at your side. It’s up to YOU to take charge!

It is good to remember all dogs were bred to do something: Pull a sled, follow a scent, or sit in a lap. The walk is like a work out for dogs! So let’s give our dogs something to do and some direction to follow to get the most from these chilly outings. A good walk is Doable!

Let’s go for our first “work out” walk:

  • Before we step out the door our dog must be calm. No jumping in excitement to get that leash snapped on.
  • When your dog is sitting quietly waiting at the door, only then, should you calmly attach the leash to the dog’s collar.
  • Praise comes in the form of a soothing lower pitched voice. Your excitement raises his excitement.
  • Who goes out the door first? Yep, you guessed it, you do.
  • All of these little things establish in your dog’s mind who is walking who.
  • If your dog forges ahead a quick upward pop of the leash reminds your dog to wait for you.
  • I am often asked-what about going to the bathroom? Your dog will automatically pull to the side when it has to relieve itself. Praise, praise, and more praise. Soon this will become routine.

When you return from a walk your dog will be tired. This walk takes thought and mental energy is draining too.

In my next blog post, I will focus on the difference between Alpha and Leadership.


Julia the Dog Behavioralist

Julia Levitt is the founder of In Harmony Dog Training and Ann Arbor Animal Hospital’s “Miss Manners” for dogs! She is available to help your dog be a better canine citizen, and answers questions about Canine Behavior here on our blog from time to time.

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Ann Arbor Animal Hospital is a locally-owned animal hospital operating for over 90 years in Ann Arbor, MI.