Springtime is right around the corner, and the weather will be ideal for spending more time outside walking with your dog. You wouldn’t think walking a dog could be overly complicated. You just strap on a leash and head out the door, right? Well, not exactly. If you want the walk to be safe and relaxing for you and satisfying for your dog, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
Bring the Necessities
If you’re going for a walk in warm weather or if you’re planning to be outside for a while, bring along a bottle filled with enough water for you and your dog to drink.
Also, bring along some high value dog treats like CANIDAE Bakery Snacks. Dog walks are a great time to brush up on your dog’s obedience skills; stop at random times to practice basic sits, downs and stays. If you’re working on new tricks, being outside is a good time to practice them because of the additional distractions. What’s more, the added fun of working on skills (and getting treats!) will further reinforce for your dog how enjoyable walks can be.
Don’t forget some type of poop bags. It’s a good idea to bring extras, just in case.
People seem to make the same dog training mistakes over and over, me included. It’s easy to get into a rut and continue doing what you’ve been doing. For the best results, however, it’s good to take a step back. Every once in a while, it’s important to reconsider how you’ve been training your dog and evaluate if things are progressing the way you hoped they would.
To that end, I’ve listed the most common training mistakes dog owners make—along with some easy adjustments—so you and Rover will have a clear and easy line of communication open. This list is not in any particular order. You may need to brush up on some or all of these. I’ll refrain from telling you how many I need to brush up on but I will say this, I need to take my own advice in a big way on some of these!
Dogs understand consistency, and if you vary your approach too often, your dog’s ability to learn will be compromised. For example, if you are tolerant with a stubborn dog one day but become impatient with him the next, he won’t understand you. Over time, inconsistency can damage your dog’s trust and confidence in you. Establish specific training methods and consistent expectations and stay the course.
A consistent timeframe is also helpful. Be careful not to let the training session go on too long or your dog will become disinterested. Likewise, make sure the sessions are not so short that the dog doesn’t understand what you are asking of him. Learn the length of time that works best for your dog and stick to it.
We went to the animal shelter last weekend to visit with the shelter pets and give them some one-on-one attention. We do this fairly often and it always pulls on my heart strings; I want to bring carloads of the sweet, homeless animals home with us, but I know it’s not feasible so I stay strong and do what we’re there to do.
On this visit, however, my heart strings were nearly ripped out of my chest. The puppies! Our local shelters are bursting with loveable little puppies. When I got over the initial cuteness-overload response, this made perfect sense. One of the most common reasons dogs are taken to animal shelters is because of excessive barking. This time of year, many puppies that were given as gifts over the holidays are now being relinquished to shelters for things like barking and biting and generally being a puppy. It’s reported that one-fifth of all the dogs adopted from shelters are returned within a few months. What a sad statistic.
Our recent shelter visit compelled me to review my previous article on Tips to Curb Puppy Biting and Aggression and expand the subject to include excessive puppy barking. My goal is to educate new puppy owners on what to expect from young, precocious pups and offer suggestions to curb or even prevent these unwanted behaviors.
Why does my puppy bark so much?
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, but it usually boils down to some form of communication, boredom, a request for attention, or a response to a perceived threat. Your dog wants to be a contributing member of the family and they often assign themselves the role of the protector. Everything is new to a puppy, so his barking may be a warning that a garbage truck is nearby or a neighbor is walking past the house or your hat is on crooked.
Don’t we all marvel at the calm, focused demeanor of service dogs? My husband and I were being seated for lunch last week when I immediately noticed a giant Newfoundland calmly lounging under the bar. The dog wore a bright red “service dog” vest. My eyes traveled up to the gentleman sitting above the pup, eating his lunch, and I gave him a weak, polite smile. I didn’t want to gawk, but the dog captured my attention and it was hard to turn away.
Some time later when I was convinced the gentleman wasn’t looking, I stealthily pulled out my camera phone and snapped a photo. Don’t judge! Have you ever seen a Newfie service dog? It was a sight to behold. Congratulating myself on my sleight of hand, I snuck a look at the image. The photo was blurry. I’m clearly not cut out for the spy business.
I really wanted a closer look at this dog before the guy left, so I approached him, introduced myself and told him I was an avid animal lover and was mesmerized by his dog. He beamingly said she was one of only a handful of Newfoundland service dogs, told me about her special training, and allowed me to pet her. When I got up to leave, he said “Do you want to take another picture? I’m sure the first one didn’t turn out too well.” I laughed and told him I was trying to be sneaky. He confirmed that I need to keep my day job.
I’ll never forget the day we met. I was living in that noisy place with lots of other dogs, sleeping on concrete. Lots of people came to that place. Most of them would look at me behind those bars and pass right by. Then on that fateful day, one of the workers came and took me out in the yard. He told me, “Petey (that’s what they called me there), we’ve got someone we want you to meet. Come on, big boy.”
And there you were, already out in the yard. You looked so pretty and white and dainty. And you smelled really good. You were fun to play with, too. Friendly, but you didn’t take any guff. You quickly let me know who was boss, and that was okay with me. We got along from the very beginning.
That was the best day ever. Meeting you has changed my life.
I love being your boyfriend. Your house is warm and you let me get up on the soft furniture. The food is good here too. I know you like me to wait until you have finished eating your CANIDAE before I start. It’s clear that you are the boss of me. That’s fine. There is always plenty to eat and drink. You are so good to me.
One of the best things about living with you is those two people who work for you. They feed us and pet us and clip our toenails. They take us for walks and car rides and runs in the woods. We even get to sleep in their bed. No more concrete floors! Thanks for letting me share them. I love you and our life together, Frosty. Thank you for everything.
A Valentine Message from Frosty to Al:
You’re a big, clumsy, stinky mess… but you’re my stinky mess. For many years it was just me, the humans and the cat. I didn’t mind being single, but being your girlfriend is more fun. When our people leave the house, I’m not alone. Well, I wasn’t really alone before but I can’t count the cat. He doesn’t like to play the same way that you and I do. See, that’s the thing: I like having someone to wrestle with and boss around. The cat won’t let me do that.
My favorite time together is when you and I are running free in the woods, racing each other at top speed. The wind blows our ears back while we playfully body slam each other, good-naturedly growling and snarling and yapping. Good times.
One thing I’d like you to work on, however, is your neediness. When the humans are petting me, you always run up and butt in. You push me out of the way and shove your head under their hand. And when I’m sitting on the couch curled up against one of them, you try to wedge in between us. Why must you be so desperate, Al? I find that a bit unattractive.
Otherwise, I appreciate you. When I hurt my leg you took such good care of me. You were attentive and concerned, you wouldn’t leave my side. When I tried to stand up and get around on three legs, you were right there, encouraging me to keep trying. You didn’t want to do anything that I couldn’t do. You didn’t even want to go out in the yard if I wasn’t there. I’m glad my leg is getting better but it certainly showed me how much you love me. You are a good dog, Al, and I’m glad to be your girlfriend.
There is a funky little strip of shops near our house. A popular local coffee shop, a Mexican taqueria, and an artisanal bakery are in this strip along with many other laid-back destinations. The area also houses one of the most well-respected boutique pet shops in town, which is the place my friends and I buy our CANIDAE PURE dog food.
I don’t know if it’s because of the pet shop, because of the bistro tables and chairs lining the fronts of the shops, or because of the relaxed nature of the patrons, but I’d guess one out of every three people that hangs out in the area has a dog with them. I always marvel at these dogs; how they’ll sit quietly under a table while their humans sip a coffee or enjoy a taco, how they’ll walk, unbothered, right past other dogs or children or skateboarders or runners.
Frankly, I’m jealous. If you have dogs you can do these types of things with, kudos to you. We don’t, not by any means. We are working on it, though. It all starts with learning how to desensitize your dog and maintain his attention in any situation.
Some dogs are raised in bustling cities and gradually become accustomed to loud sounds, people milling around and general commotion. Their composure develops via a steady, deliberate exposure to the chaos often found on urban streets. We don’t believe our dogs were raised that way. In fact, we have no idea how our dogs were raised since we rescued them when they were well past puppyhood. Once they were safely in our care, we made the mistake of doing all of their training in our house and in our yard; places that were familiar to them and didn’t hold many distractions.
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