Why Does My Dog: Seem reluctant to go out walking on lead?

Q            Alfie, my collie, seems to be reluctant to go out walking on lead now. He’s 5 years old and used to get really excited when it was time to go for our regular walks. I take him out for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. We used to go to the park, but he was attacked (not seriously) by another dog and since then we have been road walking on lead. Sometimes I have to use treats to coax him to go out. I have had him checked by the vet and he is in good health.

 

A            Collies are high-energy dogs and need lots of exercise as well as mental stimulation. Alfie was happy to go to the park with you, but since he had a bad experience there you (and he) obviously want to avoid a repetition of the incident. Quite often when we take our dogs out for a walk from home, we go the same route so often that it becomes monotonous. Dogs can become bored with treading the same paths, just as we do and need a bit of variety to satisfy their natural instincts. Collies are working dogs and are happy to work from dawn to dusk, so a domestic pet collie needs to be motivated and use up its energy. The outings need to be fun and challenging for you both. Simply by taking different routes introduces more interest and new smells. Practice basic training skills during the walk and maybe find a few other parks where you can play and interact together. A short car journey to new places may be all that is required to rekindle Alfie’s enthusiasm to go out.

It is worth pointing out that if we, as dog owners, do the same things and go the same places day in day out, we too become bored and this transmits to our dogs. Try to introduce new games, teach him to find his ball or a toy that you hide – don’t forget that dogs can find things at all levels so don’t always hide the toy on the ground. Dogs can easily pick up the scent of a toy if it is in a tree or on a fence, for example.

Keep the walks short at first so that you finish with Alfie still wanting more. Instead of him being bored and lethargic, motivate him to want to do things with you. Structured lead walking is an essential ingredient of good dog behaviour, but so too is allowing the dog to run and play. Once a dog knows your rules and boundaries, he will respond with enthusiasm, because if he works well for you, you will want to build your relationship and have even more fun together.

Why Does My Dog: Pull on the Lead?

Q            My dog pulls on the lead; it’s always tight when we’re out on the walk. It’s as if I’m not there, because he takes no notice of whatever I tell him. Even if I stop I’m hindering his progress to wherever we’re going and sometimes it’s such an awful experience I wonder why I bother to take him out at all. Is there something I can do to make him realise that going for a walk with me is a nice experience?

A            A tight lead and a tense dog can produce unintended consequences, such as over-excitement and boisterous behaviour or aggression to other dogs or people. Walking a dog on a loose lead is a pleasure, so the lead should be a reasonable length – 3 to 5 feet (1m-1.5m) – and should be sturdy enough to give you the feeling that you have control. Longer leads or flexi-leads should not be used on the walk; it sends out the message that it’s a restraint and doesn’t allow much if any communication between you and the dog.

Think of the lead as a means of communication, not just as a means of preventing the dog running away. Dogs pull on the lead, because they haven’t been told not to in a manner that they understand especially if you’re tense and anxious. This type of energy betrays your emotion and sends the completely wrong message down the lead. When you decide it’s time for your dog’s walk, from that moment you must take control. A dog that is rushing around, bouncing up and down getting over excited will take that behaviour out with him and immediately you leave your home he takes control.

So, be determined to be the decision maker from the outset. Be calm and send the signal to your dog that until he calms too, you are going nowhere. Of course, this may take some time initially and may even result in you not going out at that time; if that’s the case, put the lead away and wait a while before you indicate that it’s time for the walk. It can be very frustrating, but dogs pick up signals – both verbal and body language – very quickly. Just remember that pulling you around on the lead is a learned behaviour, it’s been normal for your dog to do so, but now with a calmer, more confident attitude you, as the leader, will be giving your dog a clear indication that unless he listens and watches you, he’ll not be going out until he realises that you’re the boss, not him.

Why Does My Dog: Bite Me?

Q            My puppy Jack Russell is very boisterous and goes mad when I put a collar and lead on her. She’s ten weeks old and bites me when I pick her up. Perhaps I got the wrong breed? Will she always be so aggressive?

A            Our approach to puppies of any breed is generally the cause of them biting us. They’re cute and cuddly, so we want to show our affection and give them everything we think they need to make them happy and love us. It’s a sad situation when puppies bite their adoring owners, but all is not lost. I would suggest that you take a step back and let her see that biting you won’t work. It’s her way of trying to control you, just as she would have done with her siblings in the litter. Handling/touching a dog is reward in itself; it is in fact our primary means of giving acknowledgement, praise and affection. It’s really high value to a dog and if we give attention that is not earned we are falling into the trap of reducing our status in the dog’s mind. Expect your puppy to earn everything: her meals, cuddles, playtime etc. Ask her to “sit”, “come” or give you her immediate attention – “watch!”. That will put a higher value on you and what you give her. In addition, ensure that she is adequately socialised with other dogs and people.

Contact Sue at Essex Dog Academy if you need more help on 07867 988 711