The crisp Fall days are behind us and the darkness of winter is descending upon us. As the days get colder and shorter, do you find that you feel less like walking your dog? Are there times when taking your dog for a walk seems more like a chore than a joy?
Here’s a secret … I train dogs for a living and there are some days when I just know that my relationship, will do better if I do an activity with a dog that does not involve walking on a leash. When I am having one of those days, we do other things together. Fun things like playing hide and seek in the woods, working on the basics of frisbee or retrieving, or any other non-stressful activity. My goal is for the dog to learn, and for both of us to enjoy our time together.
So, if you are having one of ‘those’ days when walking the dog seems like a monumental chore, it’s ok!
Rather than going for a walk with your dog on a leash, find a different activity to do that brings joy to you both. Other activities may be more productive during these times. For example, throw a ball for your dog to retrieve, hang out together in a quiet place, or walk in a safe open area. (Attach a long line if your dog is not yet reliable when off-leash). The long line will allow you to walk together at a safe distance from each other, without stress.
What Really Matters
Your relationship with your dog is what matters most in your life together. Your dog knows you better than you know yourself. They know how you are feeling, often before you do!
Relationships are influenced by energy. If you are having a bad day, or simply don’t feel like walking, your dog will know it and, they won’t be sympathetic! Instead, your dog will sense that you are ‘disconnected’ and your weak energy is threatening their safety. They will feel vulnerable and will want to distance themselves from you.
Your dog may show his concern for his own safety by pulling on the leash! Likewise, he may sense that you are disconnected from the situation and will simply dismiss you. Sniffing or wandering to ‘find things’ will feel safer and more interesting than you. You may interpret your dog’s dismissive behaviour as being defiant. You may become even more frustrated because “the d*&^n dog is not listening to me!” GRRRR!
Who Ya Gonna Call?
The leash in your hand is like a Direct Telephone Line to Your Dog’s Brain! When you hold a regular-length leash (6-foot or shorter) in your hand, your thoughts, and feelings immediately travel from your hand to your dog’s brain. Putting it more clearly, when you are in a less-than-ideal frame of mind, the leash in your hand is screaming your mood directly into your dog’s brain!
Your dog will ‘hear’ and sense every thought that is in your hand, I mean … head!! If you are happy, your dog will know it … and vice versa! If you are not happy, rather than feel bad for you, your dog will sense that they are not safe. They will want to be far away from you and your frustrated, angry, or otherwise weak energy.
What’s Really Happening?!
This means that your dog may not walk as closely beside you as you would like, and the cycle begins . . . Your dog senses that something isn’t quite right with you and doesn’t feel safe. For his own safety, he tries to pull away or becomes more jumpy than usual. In response, you may mindlessly yank the leash. Or worse, you become angry and lash out at your dog for being “bad.” You haul him up so close to you that his feet barely touch the ground. By doing this, you may believe that you are “teaching him a lesson.”
In reality, you have just confirmed what your dog already knows. – Something is not quite right with YOU! Your dog is trying to do what is needed for protection from you! He wants to get as far away from you as possible!
It Takes Two To Pull!
Walking your dog when you just aren’t that into it, perpetuates the pull cycle. – Your dog forges ahead to distance himself from what he senses is an unsafe situation. Or, simply dismisses you to explore something that is much more interesting than you. In response, you yank on the leash to force him back to your side, and the cycle begins . . . The more that your dog pulls away from you, the more you yank him back.
Your frustration intensifies with each forge-yank cycle. Consequently, what should be a happy, recharge time together erupts into a battle zone. The result is that neither of you is happy at that moment. You may blame the dog for “being bad.” In reality, your dog may be confused or frightened by what it ‘senses’ travelling down the leash from your hand to his brain.
The Good News Is …
Dogs are very forgiving. They live in the moment. Your mistakes of a few minutes ago, are in the past. Your dog is eagerly looking forward to what is happening next. When you are having a ‘bad’ day, or the weather isn’t perfect, do something different together. Protect and grow your relationship with your dog by doing an activity that is easy and enjoyable for the two of you.
Do whatever it takes to shift your state of mind to a happy place. This will help your daily routine to get back on track as soon as possible. When you are happy, your dog will be happy.
In the next issue, I will discuss 3 Key Factors to consider when selecting the best leash for you and your dog to get maximum enjoyment on your walks together.
In the meantime, … Do Something With Your Dog!
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