Don’t let the dog walk you

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By Melanie Vittitow

There are three things you need to keep in mind before you begin walking your dog. First is that all dogs (large or small) need to walk.

Wild canines are walker/travelers. Running around the yard, house, or even the dog park does not satisfy their instinctive need to walk.

Second you must recognize that a dog is not human and does not have human feelings. The proper walking techniques that I mention below are not mean; they actually make the dog more secure and stable.

Last but not least, you walk the dog. He does not walk you. You have to be in front. Allowing the dog to be in front makes him the leader and he will assume responsibility and have to be on alert. If you are the leader your dog can actually relax and enjoy the walk.

Let’s begin with the leash. A short leash with a choker collar gives you control. The collar needs to be high on the neck, just behind the head to avoid actual choking and gives more control of the movement of the head. (Where the head points, the body follows.)

If you have an extreme puller, you may need to get a special leash called a “gentle leader,” which is even better at controlling the head.

When you are ready for a walk, call the dog to you and have him sit for the leash to be put on. Go to the door and make the dog wait again until you give the okay. Be sure you exit the house first. (All these steps are important to show the dog up front that you are the one in charge of this walk).

The collar should be hanging loosely. If (when) the dog pulls, snap the lead to one side. If this is not enough to stop the pulling, you should just stop walking and make the dog sit. When he is calm, start walking again. You don’t need to say, “Let’s go” (pack leaders don’t call out, they just lead). The dog should be paying attention to you and follow.

Another trick to stop pulling is to turn around and walk the other way. The dog soon learns that if he pulls, he doesn’t get to go in the direction he wants.

When the dog does get it right and let’s you lead, don’t praise him, this just adds excitement and what you want is a calm submissive dog.

Don’t let the dog stop and sniff along the way. Remember you are the leader and you decide when and where he gets to stop to potty or just sniff around.

If you pass a barking dog, a squirrel or other distraction, tug on the lead to divert his attention back to you and keep walking. If that is not enough, you can use a nudge of your leg or you may even have to stop and move his head with your hand to get his attention back to you.

Timing is the key to control. If you do your correction as soon as you see your dog begin to loose attention, and before he gets excited, you will not have to work as hard to bring him back.

Remember that we are discussing walking as exercise and to satisfy an instinctive need, so walk at a good pace for your dog. Those with high energy will need a longer walk.

You should walk comfortably with head and shoulders high. Dogs can sense confidence and will see you as a strong leader. This might sound silly if you are relating to your dog as a human but it works.

Dogs that get daily walks are happier and less likely to have behavior and emotional problems. This makes the owners happier also.

And don’t forget the extra added benefit that it’s healthy exercise for you. Good luck and have fun.

SPCA Events

This is your last chance to join us for a trip to the Horse Protection Association in northern Marion County. They are a nonprofit rescue that takes in abandoned and neglected horses.

We will be driving there Thursday, Feb 19. We will leave at 1 p.m. from the OTOW Arbor Conference Center. We should be back around 4 p.m.

If you would like to accompany us, call 873-8690. For those attending, don’t forget to bring an old towel for the Marion County Animal Center.

Homeless Dogs

The SPCA continues to try to place pets that need new homes. We have three dogs right now: a pug puppy about 8 months old, a 3½-year-old American Eskimo (spitz), and a medium-size mixed breed who is nine.

All of them are neutered and current on shots. They get along with other dogs and all are very friendly. The older dog is gentle and loving and would be a great companion for one of the seniors in our community. If you would like more information on any of these dogs, please call.

Till next month remember: “Pets are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.

Melanie Vittitow is an OTOW resident who does publicity for SPCA of Marion County. For SPCA information and directions to meetings, call Melanie at 873-8690, Jeannie at 873-2354, or Jodi at 861-9765.