Many dog owners seem to feel that walking their dog is something that must be done; a chore that goes along with dog ownership. But walking your dog doesn't have to be a chore -- it can be so much more. When you're out walking your dog, you are spending time together, interacting with each other, and sharing the sights and sounds of the world around you.
The time spent walking your dog is also a great time to refresh training skills. Obviously, walking your dog is no fun if she is dragging you down the street, so teaching her to walk nicely on the leash is a good skill to emphasize. Have a few treats in one pocket, or if your dog isn't really motivated by treats, take a favorite small toy. When your dog begins to surge forward on the leash (before she is pulling hard), show her the treat or toy, tell her "Sweetie, watch me!" and make a 180-degree turn. Use the treat or toy to make sure she turns with you, and praise her, "Good girl! Super!" Give her the treat or let her play with her toy for a few moments. After a few surprising turns, she will begin to keep an eye on you when you're out walking. When she does, praise her.
Walking your dog is a wonderful time to meet and greet your neighbors. To protect your neighbors from your dog's enthusiastic greetings and dirty paws, teach your dog to sit when people greet her by holding her collar with one hand and tucking her hips under her with the other hand. Don't let your neighbors pet her while she's misbehaving; that would reward her bad behavior. However, once she's sitting (even if you have to help her do it), your neighbors can greet her and make a fuss over her.
You can also give your dog a job to do while walking. You might be amazed at how much satisfaction your dog will get from something as simply as carrying some of your junk mail home from the mailbox! Put a rubber band or two around several pieces of junk mail or advertisements, making the mail into a tube shape. Hand it to your dog and tell her, "Take it!" and encourage her to follow you with it. Praise her, "Good girl to take it! Super!" Begin by having her carry it just a few steps and make a big deal over her efforts. With praise and encouragement, she will be able to carry it longer, or even to carry a small bag home from the grocery store.
Walking your dog is so much more than just a chore. While walking your dog you are outside in the fresh air, you're getting some exercise, you're meeting people and you're practicing your dog's social and training skills. All these things are wonderful ways to strengthen your relationship with your dog.
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