Dogs need exercise, and so do we. That being said, walking the dog sounds like a win-win proposition, now doesn’t it? But beyond physical exercise, there are many benefits that come with regular dog walking. Teaching your dog to walk obediently on a leash is one of the most basic, and most important, aspects of training a dog. Just as no gym workout is complete without squats, no method of training a dog is complete if it doesn’t incorporate walking your dog.
When you take your dog for a walk, you’re training a dog in the ways of your pack. You will determine when he walks out the door, for starters. In fact, that’s a critical time to draw your line in the sand and emphasize that you are the pack leader, thank you very much, and you will be going out the door first, rather than him bounding through, dragging you helplessly behind.
You determine the pace of the walk, as well as whether the dog walks beside you or behind you (never in front of you), and you will be the one who allows treats along the way, such as sniff breaks and potty stops.
To provide your dog with some mental involvement and focus, take a slow, deliberate walk so that the dog has to work to adjust his pace to yours. Ensuring that your dog walks obediently next to you stimulates your dog’s brain, while chasing squirrels and checking out other dogs’ markings don’t require any mental effort at all. Believe it or not, a slow walk requires a great deal of focus for a dog, though it may be a no-brainer to you, and this kind of concentrated effort and assertion of pack leadership also strengthens your efforts in the overall training of a dog.
The physical exercise that comes from taking a walk is a given, of course, but if you don’t provide a controlled walk, the dog may well end up with even more energy than when you started. Though a vigorous walk may make you want to come home and put your feet up afterward, it can actually give your dog more energy. But this is easily remedied with mental stimulation, such as occurs when training a dog to walk on leash while taking direction from you.
While training a dog may seem like a daunting proposition, something as simple as a slow walk with a dog can provide measurable progress for the both of you. Walking your dog reinforces your pack leadership position, which is the most critical component of successfully training a dog. If you understand your role as pack leader, then training a dog to behave and perform well on leash is an outstanding way to strengthen the fact that you’re in charge.
Once you have the walk mastered, add other concentration and focus games to your dog’s everyday routine. If you can carve out certain times in your day and evening to construct games and puzzle-like activities that reinforce your pack leadership while engaging your dog mentally, he will be ready to rest and relax, and you’ll both enjoy the calm.