Walk, Walkies, Heeling

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WALK, WALKIES, HEELING There is often much confusion about the concept and difference in training for these activities.

Dog owners know that their dogs need exercise and usually maintain a fairly set routine of taking them for walks. This often turns out to not be enjoyable for both because it becomes a struggle to control the dog or worse, the dogs become aggressive and start barking and lunging at people and dogs.  Some owners get dragged along the route; dread the thought of meeting another dog or walking past the gate where other dogs are barking. Others expect the dog to “heel” when they are supposed to be relaxed and enjoy the outing.

I make a difference between Walk, Walkies and Heeling the dog. 

Walking starts in the home and dogs usually get very excited when the leads are touched and tend to rush about. They become “deaf” to anything the owner may say. What is required is a calm start with self control from the dog.

With the lead in full view, simply stand still and wait for the dog to calm down and sit. Alternatively sit down and start reading a magazine or paper and the dog soon gets the message. Praise a calm sit because sitting is the cue for more action. Clip on the lead and move towards the door where you again wait patiently until Bozo sits and looks at you. Now give a “Sit” command and enforce it so that you can pass through the door first to be followed by the dog. This is very important because we are teaching the dog that from now onwards you are going to follow me and I am going to be very pleased with you. I find that by shutting the door as soon as the dog begins to move towards it, he soon realizes that trying to rush out is not going to work. At the gate the same ritual is followed. Close the gate once the dog once again sits calmly outside the property and the walk can begin.

WALK: When I “walk” my dog I shorten my leash to about 15 inches (40cms), move the collar or check chain to just below the ears and say, “Let’s go” and then stride out at a fairly fast but comfortable pace with my dog on a short but loose lead on my left side. The dog must remain next to or behind me. I do not allow my dog to smell, urinate or look about because the two of us are striding out on what is going to be a good physical exercise for both of us. Walking like this for a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes soon lets your dog get the message that we are walking as a team and are next to each other and there is no pulling involved. Remember to talk and encourage your dog especially in the beginning and also to maintain a loose lead after each small correction aimed at getting your dog to ignore distractions and rather to enjoy being with you.  When passing a gate with barking dogs I simply say, “Leave” and continue at the same steady pace, not allowing any form of confrontation. Do not attempt to meet with strange dogs during the walk.

After a good walk we are ready for “Walkies.”

WALKIES is when my dog is on a longer or extended leash and allowed to smell all the messages other dogs have left along the route. My dog can now water every tree, walk ahead of me or fall behind while smelling. I am at a more relaxed pace and will even wait for my dogs to finish a good sniff where needed. Walkies should follow the WALK and can be up to 10 minutes in time. At this stage dogs can be given off leash freedom in a safe area.

Returning home requires much the same resolve as when you leave. Sit, wait, I go first, “OK” and the dogs follow. However, with Juno getting on in years I allow “walkies: as we near home. The dogs then go ahead and wait at the gate for me to open and allow them to follow. They rush to the laundry where their treats are kept and we conclude the walk with a pleasant ritual of being hand fed a special treat.

HEELING takes place during obedience competitions and when you and your dog are in traffic, on a pavement and crossing streets or roads. “Heel” simply means “hold that position’ i.e. close to your left side and paying attention to your every move.

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