I’m a dog trainer who doesn’t walk her dogs!

Its true.

brown dog sniffing grass

Sniffing is so important for dogs!

I don’t walk my dogs. I have 3 dogs, and I don’t walk them.  Most dogs don’t enjoy walking in a neighborhood, and mine are certainly no exception. When I tell this to many of my clients their jaws hit the floor.

“You have to walk your dog for them to be happy!” 

“He’s so excited to go for a walk! I can’t take that away from him!”

Both of these statements are probably false. (There are those dogs who are emotionally and physically stable enough to enjoy a walk around the neighborhood. Those dogs are the exception to the rule!)

Let’s take a look at a few things I’ve learned to look for to determine if your dog actually enjoys their walk in the neighborhood.

She is not Reactive

Can you get through a whole walk without your dog barking at anything? Not a dog behind a fence, not a person coming out of their house, not a goose on the sidewalk. I find that dogs who bark at stuff are actually prepared for something to come and get them. They are terrified to be on their leash, tethered to you and unable to escape the things that are going to eat them alive.

He can take food while on a walk

There is a bit more to this than just eating food. Can your dog eat kibbles or lower value treats while out on a walk? Is he taking treats gently? If you drop food on the ground, can he use his nose quickly to find the food? If your answer is no, then maybe reevaluate how much your dog actually enjoys your neighborhood. He maybe feeling a little overwhelmed.

She knows you exist at the other end of the leash

Does your dog check in with you while you are out? Do they look back to see if you are coming too? If you talk to them do they respond? Do they respond to leash pressure? Most people find they are just an anchor at the end of the leash, preventing their dog from exploring all the really interesting stuff in the middle of the neighbors yards.

You can put on their leash or harness without drama

Do you find that you are chasing your dog around in circles or dealing with a bunch of barking before you go out? Is your dog trying to climb the walls while you get them dressed? This might be a temper tantrum because they actually don’t want to go, and they know you are going to make them go. This often looks like excitement to leave the house, when really they are scared and trying to tell you they would rather not.

Why I don’t walk my dogs. Case Studies:

Pixie: Is terrified of life. I have tried numerous times to get her comfortable being on a leash in many different environments, and she can’t do it. She has soft stools, can’t take food gently, stress pants, and otherwise wants to get back in the car as fast as possible regardless of where I take her. She has also been attacked by numerous loose dogs while on walks and approached by terrifying people. At this point, the experiences she would gain from going for a walk, would just make her aversion to being on a leash that much worse.

Opie: Opie is the best boy, and he can go for a walk, but for him they are boring. There are no people who want to pet him, no critters to chase, and no dogs to be friends with. He can take food gently, he responds to leash pressure, and puts his harness on without much drama. He would rather play some training games with me, visit with people at a trial, or go swimming at the park than walk by my side down the street.

malinois on trail

Cargo in the park

Cargo: Some of you may remember that I forgot to teach this puppy how to walk on a leash. That’s been our training goal the last few weeks. While she still finds walks boring and a bit stressful because the other dogs bark at her, neighborhood walks are becoming a “job” for her and she is falling into “work mode.” If we were in “work mode” every day we would lose it. (Vacations are necessary!) Same with our dogs.

Note: these are not all the things I observe, but the most common.

So what do we do instead?

Our walks are hikes in the woods where they can go swimming, chase skinks and sniff all the grass they want to sniff! (Pixie doesn’t leave the house and she’s fine) We play training games, and puzzle toys. They each have a conditioning plan that we try to stick to to make sure no one gets too fat and lazy. On the surface this seems really difficult to get in. Truthfully, after a little tweaking and planning ahead it becomes automatic. Give it a try! Replace your neighborhood walks with a puzzle or a hike in a park or big open field. Let us know what changes you have observed!

I have a little secret for you!

No one wants to hear it. 

It can’t be true. 

The winter holidays are right around the corner y’all!

Are you are telling yourself, those pool parties were a disaster because of the crazy dog? Then the time to come up with a plan for your holiday get togethers is NOW.

Yes, your puppy will be a little bit older and wiser, but we have a short 7 weeks until Thanksgiving, and lets be real, that last week doesn’t count.

So what can you teach your pup in 6 weeks that can prevent a winter meltdown? Thankfully, quite a few things if you get started now!

Here are a few free tips from us at The Freckled Paw. Three things to work on to keep your sanity!

  1. “Go To Mat”

    This one is especially useful for a number of situations. The most common use of “place” in my house, is while I am cooking, when people come in my house, and today, while I am soaking Opies foot because he wanted to chew it off. (Cargo wants to “help”)

  2. Nose Touch

    A cheap behavior that can quickly be rewarded and can quickly redirect your dog to something more appropriate. We emphasize telling your dog what you want them to do instead of telling them “No.” Since “no” doesn’t give your dog any information on an alternate behavior, come put your nose on my hand is an easy way to keep your pup out of trouble.

  3. Puzzle toys

    My current collection of puzzles is a little larger than this

    Okay not a training tip, but we are all busy during the holidays. Make life easier, by having your dog work for his meals. We are lazy dog trainers. (Meaning we want the shortest path to our goals with the least amount of resistance) A bored dog makes our lives harder. If putting kibbles in a $10 toy everyday makes my life easier, I am all for it! (Pro Tip: it does make my life easier, you should try it!)

Give these quick tips a whirl. If you find that you are in need of a little more assistance getting ready for the busy winter season, let us know! We can get you squared away! Just don’t wait until December to reach out. By then it will be too late!