Friday, January 12, 2007

How to be the Top Dog in your pack

There are two things that your dogs needs more than anything else. More than love, tummy rubs, ear nuggies, kibble, biscuits or his own spot on the couch - exercise and a leader.

Lucky for you, you can get both birds with one stone. WALK YOUR DOG.

Your dog need a lot of exercise and being let out into the yard is not it. Dog want, need, like, love....fill in your own suggestions walk. Wolf packs wander the entire day. I watched the wolves at the Brookfield Zoo this past June. They had a decent sized enclosure and they were totally in charge of it. The group worked it way across the entire area, looped around and did yet another patrol. They were molting pretty bad so they looked terrible, yet decidedly happy. I think the happiest of all the animals in the zoo.

I know you and your dog can't walk together all day. I few lucky farm dogs around here get that gig, but most dogs are family pets and the best they get is a walk once a day.

So, you want your dog to be happy, get him his walk. If you want him to be really happy and very well behaved you have to LEAD him on his walk. Dogs function in a pack, pack have leaders, and you are supposed to be the leader.

This is how you lead.

Your dog should be next to you at all times, never in front.
He is not a marlin and you are not reeling him in, throw away those extending leashes. Get a fabric mesh lease with a heavy latch, look for the lobster claw ones. Get a metal choke chain for your dog. The reason for the heavy latch and the chain collar is to focus your directions to the dog at his neck, that is were dogs communicate their dominance to each other.

Now, I learned how to have my dogs walk right next to me on a slack lease with no tugging from John McCurdy over in Price. That was 11 years ago and I can still walk, easily with both dogs by my side. It is still nothing less than a miracle to me. If you are in my area, I highly recommend that you have John train you to train your dog. If you are not so lucky, you will have to find a trainer to help you.

Meanwhile, I will try to explain the basics of HEAL and Lease Training:
Put the collar on so that when the lease is held tight the collar pulls up tight, but that when it is slack, the weight of the latch releases the chain of the collar. This is simple to see and impossible to type out. Try it, you will get it.

Pull the collar up to the top of your dog's neck just behind the ears.

Have your dog on your left. Hold the lease with just enough length to get to your left hand, hold the end of the lease in your right. The left will reinforce commands with a pull of the lease, and the right is looped in the lease in anticipation of the bolt. (which we all know is coming)

Say your dogs name and 'Heal!' and start to walk. Walk straight, turn, walk, turn, walk, to the left, to the right, straight for awhile. Every time your dog gets in front of you, away from you, stops to smell something, anything that is not with you and paying attention to you. Turn and make the dog follow with you.

That is it. Do this for 15 minutes or more each night and your dog will be walking with you in no time. Then it is time to try the same lesson where there are distractions, start walking your street or get a friend to train his dog along with yours.

You want your dog to behave when there are eleventy billion exciting things to smell, chase and bark at. That is when your training really counts.

Now, get out there and walk your dog.

I was taking my own advice, but today is awful, it is like being sand blasted with snow.

Another day of grumpy dogs for me.

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