Why should you put your dog on the lead?

If someone asks you to put your dog on the lead, it probably has nothing to with you or your dog. They are not trying to say that your dog is being unfriendly or out of control. Please do not take it personally. There are lots of reasons why they could be asking, such as:

  • They or their dog might be nervous
  • They or their dog might be injured/older/just had an operation/unwell
  • Their dog might have reached their stress threshold or just had another scary incident

When people ask other owners to put their dogs on leads, it is a request for support, and they will be grateful and relieved when you do what is being asked. They do not want your advice or opinion on their dog, they are working on the training and are in the best position to make decisions about their dog. Being judged by someone who has only seen a snapshot of their dog’s behaviour in a difficult situation is upsetting and demoralising for owners. It can really impact their confidence to have someone criticise their beloved pet who may be a rescue, have had a traumatic experience or be in pain. I spend a lot of my time trying to reassure owners that they are doing a great job and to keep going with the training. We never know what is happening in other people’s lives or pets, it is very easy to judge.

Lots of people try to give struggling owners advice, although the owners know people mean well, it often can be misinterpreted as criticism. Instead, perhaps just give a struggling owner some moral support, tell them how well they are doing or ask them how you can help. They might really appreciate your dog standing several feet away from their dog for a short period of time. If you are lucky enough to have a sociable dog who enjoys playing with other people and dogs, it is worth remembering that one random (or several) dog fight(s) or scary event(s) can turn the most delightful dog into a fearful, anxious dog.

We all love seeing dogs running around a field and if they can play with their friends, even better. When you see a dog that you do not know or have not met before it is always worth just checking your dog in or putting them on the lead before checking if they can play. The other dog owners will really appreciate your consideration and it will probably lead to nicer plays for your dog.  Everyone wins.

Lets all support each other so our dogs can have the best experiences and enjoy their walks.

Is your dog’s life interesting?

Our dogs provide us with unconditional love, are always happy to see us and listen to our problems, but do we give them enough of our time and attention? Is your dog’s life interesting? How often do we take the dog on the same walk, at the same time, perhaps even while on the phone and let them amuse themselves?  

Here some fun and easy activities that you could fit into your daily routine to make your dog’s life more interesting: 

Foraging – You can throw your dog’s food out in the garden and let them forage for it. Initially, you might have to put it in small piles and start to spread it out to teach them the game. Then you can start to put it in more and more difficult places around the garden.  

Food Toys – You can stuff their food into a Kong toy and let them work out how to get the food out. You could also pour hot water over the kibble, when it has cooled down and is soft, stuff it into the Kong and then freeze it so it is harder for your dog to get out. There are a variety of stuffable toys, you also could think about using toilet roll tubes or egg boxes and close the ends so that your dog has to get them open. In the hot weather you could put some of your dog’s kibble in a plastic container and fill with water and freeze. This will keep your dog cool and amused.

Learn to Earn – You can keep part of your dog’s meal aside to for training purposes so they have to earn their food. You can do basic training as part of your walk with dog and challenge your dog, you can you work towards a longer sit or an out of sight stay etc.

Find it – You can hide portions of your dog’s food around the house/garden and tell them to go ‘find’. Initially, you will need to let your dog see you hiding the food, then you could start to hide the food further away, then out of sight so they have to use their nose to find the food.    

Let your dog talk you for a walk – Where is your dog’s favourite place? Let your dog’s nose guide your walk and see where they take you.

Canicross – Have you tried running with your dog? Canicross is a where your dog runs ahead of you using a harness. It provides you and your dog with exercise, mental stimulation and helps to create a bond.

Agility – If your dog is over a year old and active, they may enjoy agility. Agility is where your dog jumps over hurdles and goes over obstacles such as the dog walk, a frame or through a tunnel. Agility is great for creating a bond with your dog and as well as keeping the focused.

Most importantly, have fun with your dogs.

Train When You Don’t Have To

Let’s face it, we are all busy and people are often trying to rush things and then get frustrated when it does not go right first time, every time. A typical example is getting your dog used to getting in the car, you are rushing for the school run or need to take your dog to the vet, in your head you are thinking this has to happen now! In reality, do you really need to take the dog on the school run? Can you walk to the vets or would it be better to pay the missed appointment fee for a non-urgent issue and rather than stressing your dog? When we start to rush and get stressed our behaviour changes and often make the dog more nervous. How many times have your rushed and it has gone wrong then when you are just going for a leisurely walk your dog hops into the car as if it is easy? They are reacting to our behaviour.

People often feel like they have to complete a behaviour sequence, when I have to ask why, they often do not have an answer other than it is what they would expect from their dog. This is when I ask: how have you trained the behaviour? Often this is confusing for people as they see the car as a nice thing for the dog because it means a nice long walk and why wouldn’t the dog like that? However, the dog might not understand this.

The trick to successful training, is to train when you don’t have too. Train your dog to get used to a muzzle, hop in and out the car, walk round a garden centre when you don’t need anything, go and sit outside a café with a takeaway cup so you can walk away if you need to. This way there is no pressure on either you or your dog and you can build up the behaviour as and when it suits you. When you are training it is best to work in small sessions that are successful without stressing your dog rather than one long session.