notes and thoughts
- it’s not just about the walk, it’s about your relationship with your dog and your entire life together
- it’s not about training your dog, or training it to understand what to do, it’s about leadership
- dogs do not understand English, only behavior
- dogs are pack animals and they will automatically follow the pack leader, no training necessary
- if your dog is walking you, that means that your dog does not consider you its leader
- if you do not display leadership, your dog will assume the role - because a pack needs a leader. that’s why they’re walking in front
- and that’s also why they’re high strung, tense, and on high alert - the pack leader needs to be alert and look out for the pack
I am not a dog psychologist. I’m not a veterinarian. I don’t exhibit or compete. I’m not an acclaimed academic or nationally recognized dog expert. I’m just a guy who has owned three dogs in the past few years and been forced to either figure some things out, or go insane. Maybe you can relate, and hopefully, you can pick up a thing or two to help you better lead and communicate with your dog.
It took me and my family years to figure out what you’re about to learn in this short but valuable book.
We got our first dog, Molly, a Golden Retriever, when I was eight. I think. Somewhere around there. And unfortunately for both us and the dog, we didn’t know anything about dogs.
But like any naïve new dog owner… we thought we knew all we needed to know.
It probably took us two or three years before we figured out how to properly go for a walk with a dog. It’s the most fundamental activity of dog ownership, the most basic thing you need to do to have a happy, healthy and harmonious relationship with your dog. How hard could it be? And yet, it took us years to figure it out.
Now, if you start off with the right information and the right mindset, it will take as little as one or just a few days to go from having your dog walk YOU, to you going for smooth, fun, relaxed walks WITH your dog.
A few years later, we got our second dog, Ida. She’s a Rottweiler mix (about 75% Rottweiler, and looks just like one except her head is slightly smaller and her brown spots are very faint and only visible in bright light). If you know anything about Rottweilers, you know they are playful and fiercely independent and confident. Not at all like our Golden Retriever. This was a new challenge all on its own. This time, however, we were more prepared. Within a year, we were regularly taking her for long walks even without a leash.
Our third dog, Lexi, was an American Staffordshire Terrier, or an Amstaff. Lexi was given to us when she was one year old, because her previous family couldn’t deal with her. That family had something like five small children and both parents were working all the time. She didn’t get the exercise she desperately needed, turning the whole thing into a giant, dysfunctional mess. We thought training a Rottweiler puppy was a challenge, but this was something new altogether. She used to be constantly high strung, on alert, highly stressed. The previous family was astonished when they learnt she was calmly passing out on the couch within one week of living with us. Today she’s happy, healthy, and fun as hell to have around.
I’m not saying any of this to brag, or anything like that. But rather, to illustrate to you the first thing any dog owner MUST understand: it’s not the dog, it’s you. A dog is a dog is a dog. If your dog isn’t walking happily, calmly alongside you when you’re out with her, it’s not the dog’s fault. It’s yours.
At the end of this book, you’ll know all you need to know not only to make your daily walks something you enjoy and look forward to, but actually change the very dynamic of your relationship with your dog into one of harmony, understanding and loyalty.
A note on gender
I sometimes use words like “she” or “her” when referring to dogs. This is just to keep things simple, so I don’t bloat out sentences by unnecessarily saying “him or her” all the time. All the advice applies equally to both male and female dogs.
There are really only two “big ideas” you need to understand. When you do, you’ll know everything you need to know to have your dog walk calmly alongside you, almost overnight.
Here’s the deal: if your dog is not currently walking calmly, following you, her leader… you are violating one or both of these principles!
Let’s dig into them with more detail.
Principle #1: Dogs Are Pack Animals
They are. No way around that. If you want your dog to follow YOUR lead, you need to understand how your dog thinks.
Hint: they don’t think like we do.
You can make logical arguments to a dog. They don’t carefully evaluate situations and make rational decisions.
Yelling doesn’t work. They can’t differentiate between words, they only hear your tonality. So they just think you’re barking, because that’s what they understand.
There’s a lot of debating going on among dog experts about what it really means to be a pack animal, or how similar dogs really are to dogs in the wild… whether it’s a linear hierarchy or if it’s more of a “family group”… etc.
I’m not going to go into all this here. I promised you a short book. I don’t want to fill it out with theory and fluff-talk. Rather, I just want to deliver straightforward answers that help you get a result, today.
For now, just realize that dogs are not like us. If you want to communicate with them, you must do so in their language. You have to talk to them in a way they understand.
Even amongst us humans, only 7% of verbal communication is predicated on the actual words used. 93% of human communication is body language and tonality.
That number is even higher with dogs, because they don’t use words. They may understand simple commands like “sit,” but it is not their primary means of communicating.
Here’s a hint for ya. I don’t need to use the word “sit” - or any words at all - to make our dogs understand that I want them to sit. I can tell them to sit entirely via body language, by looking them in the eye and pointing to the ground.
Sometimes it’s enough to “will” them to do what you want. You can communicate your intent just by looking at them, sometimes. Dogs are extremely perceptive and excellent at reading people and their intent — much better than you or me.
Principle #2: Dogs Instinctively Follow The Leader
That’s it. It doesn’t need more explanation.
When a dog accepts you as its leader, you don’t have to tell it to heel. They’ll do it on their own, because based on instinct alone, dogs know to follow the leader.
But how do we tell the dog to look at us as their leader? Well, remember principle number one?
We LEAD them. We have to step up and demonstrate real leadership. Dogs don’t understand English.
So here’s the deal. If your dog is walking YOU — not the other way around — that means that your dog does not consider you its leader.
When dogs lack clear leadership, they are forced to assume the role on their own, even if they don’t want to. Again, instinct. A pack needs a leader, and if no one else steps up, they will have to.
This is also why your dog might be constantly high strung, on high alert, stressed and tense. A pack leader must be alert and look out for the pack.
When dogs lack leadership, they become seriously dysfunctional.
This is pretty strange to sit here and write. When I’m not writing about dogs, I do a lot of work with people, coaching them on social skills and things like that.
One thing I’ve learnt is that we are all born leaders. I don’t have to tell you how to be a leader. When we are called upon to lead, we all know how to do it. You are already a leader. But fear gets in the way. It’s how we are conditioned, it’s the society we grew up in.
We get taught to care what others think, and defer to outside authority.
Here’s a Big Damn Insight you may want to write down:
99% of the issues and frustrations you have with your dog… all come from your OWN fears and insecurities!
That might shock you. But it’s true, no matter how little we want to hear it.
Have you ever restrained yourself from correcting your dog, or doing what you KNEW to do on a deep level, just because there was someone else nearby that you thought would judge you?
Yeah. Me too. But from now on, you owe it to yourself to do the right thing, other people be damned. You don’t know them, it doesn’t matter what they think. But your dog… that’s family.
If you want your dog to follow you, then your dog must see you as her pack leader. To make your dog see you as her leader, you must BE a leader.
I’m not going to give you the infomercial version of dog training. “How To Instantly Go For Perfect Dog Walks In 3 Easy Steps! (For only six easy payments of $19.95)” … No.
I’m giving you the real stuff. What really works. Shock collars are ridiculous. They’re just mindless torture devices that your dog will not understand. People who buy them are ignorant and do not care to make an effort to actually communicate with their dogs. With their family members.
A dog is much like a two-year-old human child. Would you electrocute a 2-year-old because they didn’t do as you pleased? Of course not! All you need to do is show them in a way they understand.
If being a leader means you must take a few steps outside of your comfort zone… or you don’t think you’re a natural leader… then snap out of it. Of course you’re a leader. You must be. You owe it to your dog.
You want your dog to look at you as an enormous resource. The more you mean to your dog, the more everything you do means to her. She will listen to you more. When you praise her, it will make her more delighted. And when you make a correction, she’ll take it to heart in a more positive way, and communication between you both will become much simpler.
A lot of leadership has to do with body language, tonality, intent and attitude… and most of all, plain old common sense.
It’s hard to teach someone how to be a leader, but as I said, it is fundamentally very simple. You already know how to do it, it is in your blood. You just have to embrace your role as a leader… and get a lot of practice. Fortunately, you’ll be taking your dog for daily walks where every moment is an opportunity to practice.
Leadership Does Not Mean Being A Slave Driver
In the workplace, the word leadership is tremendously positive. Business leadership means inspiring and motivating and guiding your employees.
But when it’s used in the context of communicating with your dog, people think it just means “showing the dog who’s boss.” Displaying force, being a hard-ass, low tolerance for “insubordination” and all manner of other bullshit.
Throw out any old notions you have about what leadership with dogs means to you.
When most people hear it, they put on a costume that represents their version of a “dominant alpha.”
But they are just fronting. Putting on a mask, and pretending to be someone who they are not. And the dogs can see right through it. So in the end, you’re just an asshole, not a leader.
Leadership simply means to guide, help, and SHOW your dog the way.
Listen. Leadership is not something you take. You don’t become a leader by demanding it. Leadership is something you EARN.
Think of a momma grizzly bear. They don’t need to be “hard asses” to their cubs. They are incredibly caring and gentle. And strong leaders. Calm and assertive, showing the way. THAT’S what you need to be to your dog.
You are your dog’s “rock.” The one who’s always there, that they can count on to show them the way through life, while still being a fun and honest companion. But, like a parent, you must also set clear boundaries for what is acceptable and what is not. You can reason with a child, but not with a dog. Anyone who’s a parent knows you can’t “punish” a small child for bad behavior. It just plain doesn’t work. You can only guide them, praise them when they do the right thing, and gently show them what do to instead when they don’t.
When you are a true leader to your dog, she will follow you not only when on walks, but through life as well. She’ll read your body language, sense your state of mind, and adapt and follow us, everywhere.
It also doesn’t mean unquestioning obedience or knowing 101 tricks
Let’s make one thing clear. Leadership and obedience is NOT the same thing. There are many (MANY) dogs who routinely astonish and amaze at competitions and dog shows, doing everything her owner asks of her. These same dogs could have an entirely different relationship with their owners in their homes. Some dogs only listen when they know they’ll get a treat for it. Obedience is not the same thing as leadership.
Our dogs can’t do much in terms of tricks, jumping obstacles, spinning and walking in figure eights, that sort of thing.
But we have leadership. We’re a pack. This means our dogs look up to us. When they don’t know what to do, they look to us for support and guidance.
When we’re in the middle of the woods and take off their leashes, they still PREFER to stay close-by, sometimes heeling, even when they know they don’t have to. Because we are their leaders, and they trust us, and feel comfortable and safe around us.
Teach your dog to read you
One of the hallmarks of good dog leadership is in your dog’s ability to read you and adjust.
Most new dog owners learn that the dog should always be walking beside or behind you. That you should always be the first to pass through doors, etc.
Things like that don’t actually have anything to do with leadership. They are party tricks. You can train a dog to do those things without really being a leader.
Sometimes, our dogs will walk slightly in front of us… but never pulling… and frequently looking back to seek guidance from us.
That’s what leadership means. Your dog trusts you and asks you what to do next. It has nothing to do with who’s first to walk through the door.
So here’s a helpful exercise that I learned from Swedish dog coach Frederik Steen.
Next time you are about to walk through a doorway, walk towards the door and watch and see what the dog wants to do. If she wants to go through first, show her with body language and physical contact that YOU want to go through first.
And if the dog waits for you to go through first, show her with body language and physical contact that you want her to go through first.
This way, you can teach your dog to look to you for guidance. Soon, your overt body language becomes less pronounced, and before long into something barely perceptible. You’ll be able to communicate and show your intent to your dog and it will be almost like telepathic communication, because your dog will be so good at reading you.
The vast majority of people live their lives through the eyes of others. Meaning, they make their decisions based on what other people will think, not based on what they themselves want.
This is called being reactive, because everything you do is a reaction to something else, real or imagined. It’s a terrible way of living your life, and a big reason why people suffer from anxiety.
When you stop making decisions based on external circumstances, and start making decisions in alignment with what you yourself really want, everything will change in your life.
That said, with other people you can live your life how you want.
But if you want to be a strong leader to your dog, you absolutely cannot afford to be reactive.
Leaders are proactive. They are sovereign. You do not let your environment dictate how you should feel.
How many times have you seen a dog owner struggle with their dog… where the dog starts running around and barking like crazy… and the more she barks, the more the owner freaks out, gets frustrated and angry… leading to more barking and acting crazy… in an endless cycle until the dog owner either sighs and gives up, or resorts to abuse and violence.
I see this all the time. The root of it lies in reactivity. So what then, do you do if your dog starts jumping on your legs, maybe barking, acting generally crazy?
You DON’T fall in line with the same behavior! You cannot let your own thoughts, words and actions be dictated by your dog. That’s the opposite of being a leader.
You ignore it. You don’t send any energy in your dog’s direction. You stand tall, breathe slowly, calmly look your dog in the eye until she stops. Do not yell. Do not get emotionally excited. If anything, do the opposite. Calm down even more. Soon enough, your dog will follow suit.
By not being reactive, you are demonstrating leadership ability. Your dog will respect that.
When you first start demonstrating real leadership to your dog, she might challenge you on it. This is new, you haven’t shown that you are a leader before. So what is this? Is it real? Are you really a leader or just pretending?
So she might protest. Act deliberately crazy. Barking, jumping, whatever.
It is important you don’t give in and become reactive. Don’t freak out. That’s not what leaders do.
You double down on your calmness and non-reactivity until she stops. Breathe slowly, relax. Your dog is acting like a two-year-old child who wants more ice cream but can’t have it. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a serious situation. You ignore it until she accepts her situation.
You are now the leader of this pack, and she needs to deal with that.
before the walk
- make sure your dog is relaxed and calm before leaving the door
- your state of mind influences the dog’s state of mind, if you’re high strung and anxious, the dog will be too, and the dog’s state of mind is everything
- don’t leave the door until your dog sits down, calmly, waiting for YOU to act or tell it what to do next
- You must go out the door FIRST, not the dog. The leader always goes first, whether that’s walking out the door or eating a meal.
#Before The Walk
Okay, so let’s dig into the actual how-to. And as you probably understand by now, what really works isn’t some technique to trick your dog into not pulling on the leash… but rather having a relationship with your dog where she considers you to be her leader.
This means that what you really need to be doing is NOT just restricted to what happens when you’re out walking. It’s your entire life together.
With that said, there are a few things to keep in mind before, during and after the walk.
State Of Mind
Make sure your dog is in a calm, submissive and relaxed state of mind before you leave the door.
A lot of dogs go into an exalted frenzy as soon as they understand it’s time to go out… and this is not OK!
Remember that your dog is a master at reading you. So make sure YOU are in a calm, relaxed state of mind before you go through the door.
If you are stressed out, high strung, anxious, your dog will pick up on that. And she will not follow you. Because a strong leader isn’t stressed or high strung. Remember, you need to be like a big momma grizzly, taking care of her cub. Calm, confident and assertive.
Whatever state of mind you are in, your dog will mimic.
Tools Of The Trade
You can use whatever kind of leash you want. Almost. Just don’t use the retractable leashes if you don’t know what you’re doing.
I see them all the time when I’m out with my dogs. It’s a cop-out. Dog owners use them because they think it makes their lives easier, because the dogs have more freedom to roam. Which sometimes mean they don’t have to put up with the dog pulling like crazy.
Retractable leashes are usually signs of a serious lack of leadership and a dysfunctional relationship between the dog and her master.
If you didn’t know, retractable leashes were designed for specific types of tracking and recall training. If you don’t know what they are, you have no reason to own one.
They are dangerous to both you and your dog. Since they are long, they allow your dog to build up a lot of speed, especially if they catch sight of something and their “hunter instinct” takes over.
Secondly, in some circumstances the line can be almost invisible. You and your dog both can get tangled up in it, or you can make a serious mess of a biker in a rush. Even the website of a well-known manufacturer warns against serious injuries like cuts and burns, even broken bones and loss of fingers.
Third, in a single moment of lapsed awareness, your dog could run into the middle of the street and get hit by a car. It can and has happened on several occasions.
Finally, they simply reinforce the wrong things. That the dog can simply run around as they please all the time. When they stop pulling, the leash pulls back, which constantly reinforcing the desire to pull and run off.
Short and strong
I recommend you use a simple, short leash. We use thick leather leashes with our dogs.
I also don’t recommend collars of the “choke chain” or “prong” variety. Most people use them because makes it painful for the dog to pull on the leash, which to a rational human being sounds like a good way to stop dogs from pulling. Thing is, if you do not have good leadership, and the dog thinks that she has to lead the pack, she will keep pulling on the leash even if it hurts. Because that is her duty as pack leader.
Sometimes, it can also lead to dogs growing freakishly strong around the neck, from resisting a hard chain biting into their flesh. This just makes it harder for you to control and guide your dog.
Instead, I recommend either a simple, flat leather collar with a buckle, or a martingale collar. We use leather martingale collars with chain loops.
Opening the door
People constantly misunderstand what leadership really means.
Should I let my dog come up on the couch? If I do, does that make me lose “leadership points” with my dog?
The answer is no, it doesn’t. The answer to this question is to be consistent. It doesn’t mean your dog can never come up on the couch, but that she must ask your permission before she does, fully accepting that the answer might be yes or no.
I work from home, in my bedroom, often writing for various clients. And Ida, our Rottweiler, really likes my bed. Sometimes she just chills out in my bed all day. She comes in and out of the room a lot, but she ALWAYS sits down by the foot of the bed and looks at me, “asking” if she can jump up.
The same goes for the question of who goes out the door first.
If your dog immediately tries to bolt out as soon as the door opens by just a sliver, then you have some work to do.
Firmly say no, and tell your dog to sit down. Don’t do anything until your dog relaxes and looks to you for instructions on what to do next.
So again, it doesn’t matter if your dog walks out the door ahead of you, but that she asks for permission before she does.
during the walk
- Walk in front of your dog. You’re the leader. Your dog should be walking at your side and slightly behind you in a relaxed state of mind.
- You need to be in the STATE OF MIND of a leader. To make your dog think of you as its leader, you need to be a leader. That starts in your own mind and the “vibe” you project to the world. Think of Neo in the Matrix. He starts off as a nervous wreck stuck in the matrix. Later, once he breaks out of the matrix and masters his new abilities, he is calm and assertive. He has a cool leadership energy to him. You need to become THAT Neo.
- Leadership does not mean overly dominant. Yelling is not Alpha. A real alpha is calm. Yelling “NO! STOP! COME HERE! NO! NO!” is something only fearful people do. Dogs WILL NOT respond to things you do out of fear.
- If your dog starts walking in front of you, calmly correct with a light but firm touch to the side to get his or her attention, then gently bring the dog back to your side.
- Corrections need to happen IMMEDIATELY. The very instant your dog starts looking in the direction of another dog, for example, is when you need to correct. Instinctual behavior will set in and your dog will start pulling, etc. You need to interrupt that behavior before it happens.
- Once your dog has walked happily alongside you in a relaxed state of mind for some time, reward it by letting it relieve itself and sniff around for a while. You can also play with your dog. And YOU decide when playtime is over.
- Use a short leash, not one of those retractable things. Remember the dog is meant to follow you, not run around in circles. A short leash gives you greater control and helps you more easily guide and communicate with your dog.
- Don’t half ass your walks. You need to be a leader. Be present in the moment, pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t walk with headphones in your ears. Learn to walk WITH your dog, like an exciting activity you both share. You can’t look at walking your dog as a chore or necessary evil.
- Don’t half ass, part 2. Don’t go for short 5 minute walks around the block. If your dog is high strung, nervous, maybe sometimes freaks out and runs laps around your house or your yard, then that’s a tell-tale sign your dog isn’t getting enough exercise. Go for a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes. Your dogs need at least one long walk every day. We have a Rottweiler and an Amstaff, and we take them for one 60+ minute walk in the morning, a 35 minute walk later in the day and a shorter 15 minute walk in the evening before bed. Don’t have time? You make time. Your dogs aren’t toys or fashion accessories, they’re actual living family members, and this is vital to their health and happiness, and probably for your own sanity too. Gandhi once advised a student to meditate for one hour a day. The student replied saying he didn’t have time for that. Gandhi said that in that case, he should meditate for two hours per day. This is kind of like that
#During The Walk
As a rule of thumb, your dog should walk at your side. But this isn’t necessarily what always needs to happen. Just like when walking out the door or jumping up on the couch.
For me, the most important thing is that the dog does not actively pull on the leash.
Ultimately, she should walk where you want her tom whether that means behind or in front of you.
Your posture and state of mind
When you’re walking, leash in hand, your dog picks up on everything. Tiny vibrations passing through the leash, like the “telephones” made out of cans and string that we used to make as kids.
If you carry tension anywhere in your body, your dog will pick up on it. If you’re stressed, she will know.
Keep your back straight, chin up, breathe through your stomach, and release all tension from your system.
You need to be momma grizzly. To make your dog see you as its leader, you need to be a leader… and that starts in your own mind. You must be in the state of mind of a leader.
Remember Neo in the movie The Matrix? He starts off as “Mr. Anderson” — a nervous wreck, a cog in a machine, stuck on the hamster wheel of life. Later, once he breaks out of the matrix and masters his new abilities… he not only has learned some new things, but his personality has changed. A nervous wreck no longer, Neo is now a true leader. The chosen one. He is calm and assertive, and he has that cool leadership energy to him.
Your dog can sense the vibe you give off to the world. So can other people, but your dog is even better at it.
You need to become like Neo.
If you are like Neo, your dog will walk happily alongside you all day long.
Once she has been walking with you for a good while, you can reward her by letting her sniff around and relieve herself for a while. Feel free to do exercises and play around with your dog… but remember, YOU decide when playtime is over.
If your dog starts walking out in front of you, or tries to bolt off to sniff a light pole or something, calmly correct with a light but firm touch to her side to get her attention. Once you have it, gently bring her back to your side.
Correcting behavior needs to happen immediately. You need to see around the corner. The very instant your dog starts looking in the general direction of another dog, that’s when you need to correct. Before instincts take over. You need to interrupt that behavior before it takes hold. We are talking milli-seconds here.
Meeting Other Dogs
This is a huge issue that a lot of people struggle with, especially if you have a bigger dog.
If you have a smaller dog, don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t have to work on this. It’s a critical thing your dog has to learn, or you’re creating all kinds of dysfunctions in your relationship with your dog… and also making life miserable for the other dogs and dog owners you meet!
Put simply, whether you own a big or a small dog, aggressive behavior around other dogs is NOT OK.
That said, I have a few tips and suggestions…
First of all, your dog is very sensitive to what you are feeling.
When you see another dog approaching, it’s very likely that YOU get tense and nervous because you “know” what is going to happen… and THAT is very likely what triggers your dog to become aggressive.
Also, aggressive is very likely the wrong word. It could be a lot of things that our untrained eyes simply perceive as aggression, at least until we know better.
- She may be afraid. Our amstaff has been bitten by other dogs in the past, and now she still has problems meeting other dogs. We’re working on it!
- She may be stressed because her space is being violated
- She may be overly protective of us
- She may be very curious
- Or just very excited
What we think is aggression is often just hyper-energy, eagerness, or inquisitiveness… and it’s important to understand what’s really going on with your dog, so you can appropriately communicate with her.
As soon as your dog starts to get stressed, interrupt the behavior… and LEAD.
What often happens is that WE tense up. You probably don’t even realize it yourself… but when you consciously stop, breathe, relax, calm yourself down… then your dog does too.
Your being nervous about meeting other dogs could very well be the trigger for an aggressive reaction.
Secondly, what I have found to be the best strategy is to simply IGNORE the other dog. Keep moving at all costs. Some people walk off to the side, sit the dog down, and shove an endless supply of treats down their throats, hoping to distract the dog long enough for the other dog to pass.
This is a pretty bad idea. What you are doing is teaching the dog that other dogs is a really big deal. Which it doesn’t have to be if you don’t make it so.
So just keep moving. It’s no big deal. Ignore the other dog, don’t send any energy in the other dog’s direction. Keep your eyes looking forward and keep moving at your normal pace. In other words, keep going as if there’s no one else around. In this way, you teach your dog to avoid rather than confront.
Do not trap your dog between you and the other dog owner. Keep her at your side, but on the opposite side of the other dog and her owner. Otherwise, your dog may feel trapped and feel it has no choice but to react aggressively.
And do not let your dog stare. Sometimes, dogs will drop into a position like they are stalking prey, staring at the other dog like a maniac. She is not being a good girl for lying down, she’s really just waiting to pounce. Do not allow this behavior. Correct it, ignore the other dog, and keep moving no matter what.
Try to train your dog into believing that meeting other dogs is just another day at the office. If you can, take your dog to a local trainer or dog club, where there are other calm and balanced dogs around. Get your dog used to being around other dogs. The more practice your dog gets in reacting aggressively, the better she’ll get at it. But the opposite is also true. Practice meeting other dogs in neutral environments. And you’ll probably get lots of help from other dog owners and trainers when you start going to places like these.
This is a pretty big issue that a lot of people struggle with, and certainly one of the most challenging ones we have overcome ourselves.
I may end up writing another short book or report on this issue. If you sign up for the bonus material, linked at the beginning and end of this book, I will send you an email if and when I do.
Don’t Half Ass
You are a leader. Have I said this enough times yet?
Probably not. I shall keep hammering it in.
Being a leader also means you can’t half-ass it when you’re out with your dog. You need to be present in the moment. You cannot consider it a chore, like a necessary evil.
Be present in the moment. Be aware of what is going on around you. Be aware of your dog, what she’s doing, what she’s feeling. Pay attention. No headphones, no smartphones.
Not half-assing also means you can’t take 5-minute walks around the block and think that’s enough. If your dog is nervous, high strung, and maybe sometimes freaks out and runs laps around your house or yard or living room, that’s a tell-tale sign that she isn’t getting enough exercise.
You have your life, and you can keep yourself occupied. But if you were stuck in a house all day, every day, with nothing to do, you’d go crazy too.
Go for a minimum of 30 to 60 minute walk every day, depending on the needs of your dogs. We have a Rottweiler and an American Staffordshire Terrier, and every morning we take them for a 60+ minute walk. Sometimes on roads, but sometimes we let them run free, off-leash, in the woods or on fields.
Later in the day, we take another 35-minute walk, and then another 15-minute walk right before bed time.
A dog who’s getting enough exercise and stimulation compared to one who is not… they are completely different animals.
Oh, what’s that, you don’t have the time?
You make time.
Gandhi once said “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”
It’s kind of like that.
Listen. Your dogs are not toys or fashion accessories. They are actual, living, breathing members of your FAMILY. And what we are talking about here is vital to their health and happiness, and probably to your own sanity as well.
After the walk
- Keep leading even when you get home. You should be the first one through the door, and the dog should sit and wait patiently while you take off your shoes and outerwear.
- Reward your dog after the walk. By providing a meal for your dog after the walk, you have allowed her to “work” for food and water.
- Whether you are walking your dog or vegging out on the couch, you are still your dog’s pack leader. Never forget that.
#After The Walk
There isn’t much to say here that you don’t already know by now. But what you need to understand is that whether you’re out walking with your dog or vegging out on the couch, you are still pack leader.
Never forget that. So you keep leading, even when you get home.
One more thing. After you get home after a walk is the perfect time to give your dog her meals. By providing a meal after the walk, you have allowed your dog to “work” for food and water.
#Odds And Ends
Just a few notes here, tips and tricks that didn’t get sections of their own.
It’s a primal thing
For your dog, walking is a primal instinct. Dogs of all breeds, shapes and sizes… that are taken for daily walks and made to walk beside or behind the owner on a loose leash, are much less likely to be destructive, obsessive, have separation anxiety or dominance issues, among many other behavioral problems. It’s important!
Your dog should not be sniffing around and relieve herself for the sake of marking. Her job on the walk is to concentrate on following you. You decide when it is time to go to the bathroom. Use your judgment
If you have just passed another dog or something else excited, your dog may be overly excited and unable to concentrate. Sit her down and wait for her to calm down. Then start walking again. Don’t call the dog when you resume walking, just walk. Pack leaders don’t call to the pack to come with them, the pack instinctually follows.
Also don’t praise your dog for walking calmly. You can create more excitement which could snap your dog out of her calm, submissive state.
For a dog, excitement does not mean happiness, as it could for humans.
For instance, if your dog goes nuts when a human pack member comes home, this is showing a lack of exercise or leadership, or both. Excitement does not indicate happiness. It is a sign your dog is not mentally stable. If this happens for you, completely ignore your dog for at least a few minutes after you get home. Do something else, wait for her to calm down.
Going for a walk is the best way to introduce new dogs to each other
New dogs that meet will sometimes challenge each other for dominance.
Take them out for a walk together, immediately correct any unwanted behavior. By the end of the walk, the dogs should have accepted you as pack leader, thereby putting them on the same level as each other in the pack.
If you go off to work in the morning…
… You need to walk your dog before you leave the house. This will put your dog in a resting mode during the time you’re gone. Not just a quick pee break on the front lawn. A real, honest to God, non-half-assed walk. If this means you need to get up an hour earlier in the morning, then start going to bed earlier and suck it up. You owe it to your dog. If you are not willing to properly take care of your dog, you shouldn’t be a dog owner.
Cesar Millan is the shit
You want to know how we originally started figuring out how to live with our dogs? We sat down and watched every episode of The Dog Whisperer.
When I’m not writing books like this one, I am a business and marketing consultant. One thing I have observed in the business world is that the very best, the very sharpest thinkers on business and marketers all have one thing in common: they have all been consultants at one point. When you are a consultant, you encounter thousands of different challenges and business problems, and it’s your job to figure them out and come up with a solution.
So someone who has consulted for hundreds of companies, they will have encountered almost every possible kind of business problem, and can instantly come up with solutions that business owners consider to be on a genius level.
Cesar is basically a dog consultant. Now, there are probably a lot of people out there who are extremely good at what they do. But Cesar is probably still among the best in the world. He’s seen all types of dog behavior ranging from mundane to bizarre, and he’s fixed them all.
What I’m saying is simply this. If you have problems with your dog’s behavior, he’s a man worth studying.
Dogs, of all breeds and types, that are taken for daily walks, and that are made to walk beside or behind the owner, are less likely to be destructive, obsessive, have separation anxiety and/or dominancy issues, among many other behavior problems. Dogs with higher energy should be taken for longer, more vigorous walks, some two or more times a day. For a dog, walking is a primal instinct. Fulfilling this need in your dog will make for a happier dog and happier owners.
If you are going off to work for the day, the dog should be walked before you leave the house. This will put the dog into a resting mode during the time you are gone. Dogs should also be walked before eating, fulfilling the dog’s instinct to work for food.
Walk at a good pace, keeping your shoulders back and your head held high. Dogs can sense tension or lack of confidence. Walk proud, like you are a strong leader. A dog will sense this and respond to it.
The dog should not sniff the ground and relieve himself where he pleases for the sake of marking; his job while walking is to concentrate on following his handler. When walking the dog you can allow it to tip you off of when it has to go to the bathroom and allow it to go if the spot is an acceptable place for a dog to relieve itself. The thing you need to watch for and use your judgement is whether or not the dog is relieving itself because it has to go to the bathroom or if it is simply trying to mark the area. It is ok if the dog tells you it has to go to the bathroom and to allow it to go, but it is not acceptable to allow a dog to mark its scent all over for the sake of marking on the walk.
If you pass a barking dog or other distraction, keep moving forward. If your dog averts its attention to the distraction, give a tug on the lead to avert attention back to the walk. If the tug does not work you can also use your foot, not to kick the dog, but to touch him enough to snap his attention back on you. If the dog is pulling, stop and make him sit. Correct any excited behavior from the distraction with a tug, and if that does not work you can also use a firm touch to the neck using your hand as a claw. Do this as soon as you see the dog starting to avert his gaze toward the distraction, or as soon as you see a look in your dog’s eyes that tells you he is going to begin barking or growling. Timing is everything. This must be done right before the behavior happens or at the exact moment it starts. You do not want to wait until it escalates. If you wait too long before correcting a dog (we’re talking seconds), the dog may not even hear you; he will be too focused on the distraction. When correcting your dog, match your dog’s intensity.
The lead should be short and hang loose. If the dog starts to pull, snap (tug) the lead up and to the side, throwing him off balance, then hold the lead loosely again (a very quick tug). If the dog starts getting too excited and you’re not keeping him beside or behind you, stop and make the dog sit. Wait until he is calm, then start again. Do not call to the dog when you start walking again, just start walking. Pack leaders do not call the pack to come with them, the pack instinctually follows. The dog needs to learn he is following you, and tune into you, the person walking the dog. Do not praise your dog for walking calmly. This only creates excitement and you are more likely to pull your dog out of his calm, submissive state.
For a dog to be mentally stable, you as an owner must take your dog for daily walks to release mental and physical energy. The proper way to walk a dog is the dog walking either beside you, or behind you, and never in front of you. This may seem petty in a human’s mind, however it means a lot in a dog’s mind. When a human allows a dog to walk in front, they are sending signals to the dog that he is leading the human. Instinct tells a dog that the leader goes first. A lack of exercise allows the buildup of the mental energy which would otherwise be released in a proper walk, and permitting a dog to be pack leader can cause many behavioral problems in a dog—such as, but not limited to, hyper-activity, neurotic and/or obsessive-compulsive behaviors—all of which are signs of a dog that is not mentally stable. An unstable dog is not a happy dog. Excitement in a dog is NOT a sign of happiness. Dogs that act very excitedly when their humans come home are showing signs of a lack of exercise and/or leadership. For a dog, excitement does not indicate happiness. In most cases it is a sign of a dog that is not mentally stable. When you come home after being gone, avoid speaking to your dog in an excited manner for a few minutes. Go and do something else first. When we see dogs as human, it is difficult to accept a dog’s excitement as not being a sign of happiness, however, we must remember dogs are canines, not humans.
I have heard many people say that making a dog walk beside or behind them is mean. Those who believe this are seeing the dog as having human traits. It is actually crueler to assume your dog is just like you in his feelings and instincts and not see him as the canine animal that he is. Think outside the box and accept that your dog is an animal with different needs than a human.
Many people take their dogs out for a daily walk, however, the dog is walking in front of them. Getting a dog to walk properly on a lead is not as hard as it may seem—yes, even your dog(s). (You can walk more than one dog properly on a lead.)
All dogs, regardless of size or breed, need to be taken on daily walks, jogs, runs, bike rides, rollerblading, or any other means you have to get your dog moving. Taking your dog for a walk is an important ritual in keeping your dog mentally stable. A dog, as an animal, is a walker/traveler by instinct. Packs of dogs get up in the morning and walk. Simply having a large backyard or taking your dog to the dog park is not going to satisfy this instinct in your dog. As Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer says, “To your dog, your backyard is like a large fish bowl in which they are trapped. Fish swim, birds fly and dogs walk. Having a dog should not be about only fulfilling our human needs, we owe it to our dogs, to give them what THEY instinctually need.”
If you take your dog for long walks daily and it is still hyper, ask yourself, when we left for the walk who led the way out the door/gate? Who leads on the walk? Was the dog following you, watching you for direction or were you following the dog? Was the dog smelling where and when it pleased? If you answered “yes” to these questions you are walking your dog while it is in an excited state of mind. Your dog is worried about leading which does not calm the mind. If you answered “no” to these questions, then you may have a super high energy dog that needs even more exercise. It is not a natural state of mind for a canine animal to be so hyper.
Keep in mind it is not solely the act of heeling, but also that you as the human are making the decision for the dog to heel. How often do you walk? Do you MAKE your dog heel or does the dog heel when it pleases just because it gets tired? Just because a dog walks well on a lead, not pulling, and for most of the walk walks beside the human does not mean the human is being a pack leader; it really is about who is making the decisions. Was your dog calm and in a submissive state of mind when you snapped on their lead? When you left your home, who went out the doorway and/or gate first, you or the dog? Does the dog decide to heel when it wishes, but pull to the side to sniff or walk out in front when it pleases? Or is the human consciously making the dog heel? If the human allows the dog to decide, because after all he walks “pretty good,” then the dog is making the calls and you are allowing your dog to be your leader. If it is all about who is making the decisions, can you decide to let your dog walk in front? No, since instinct tells a dog the leader leads the way, your decision to allow your dog to walk in front will be communicating to your dog that you are allowing him to be your leader.
A pack walk is also the best way to introduce new dogs to one another or to get dogs who already do not like one another to accept each other. Any unwanted reactions from one dog to another should be immediately corrected. By the end of your walk they will feel like they are one pack. It is important that the dogs who are out on the walk are all heeling beside the person holding the leash. Any dog that is walking out in front of their humans will begin to regard himself as the alpha of the group. By making the dogs heel beside or behind the person holding the lead, you are communicating to the dogs that the humans are above them in the pecking order and that all the dogs are on the same follower level. Remember, it only takes one alpha dog to set off any other dogs around. If you are walking multiple dogs that usually fight you may need more than one human to walk the dogs. Make sure all human walkers are making the dog they are walking heel and that they are correcting any signs of aggression towards the other dogs. You may allow the dogs to smell one another’s back end, but make sure you keep walking in the process. The key is to keep moving forward. Keep the dogs walking and remain confident. The dogs will feel your authority or your weakness. Stay strong.
- Walk in front of your dog.
Walking in front of your dog allows you to be seen as the pack leader. Conversely, if your dog controls you on the walk, he’s the pack leader. You should be the first one out the door and the first one in. Your dog should be beside or behind you during the walk.
- Use a short dog leash.
This allows you to have more control. Attaching the leash to the very top of the neck can help you more easily communicate, guide, and correct your dog. If you need additional help, consider the Illusion collar. Always keep your dog’s safety in mind when giving corrections.
- Give yourself enough time for the dog walk.
Dogs, like humans, are diurnal, so taking walks in the morning is ideal. I recommend setting aside thirty minutes to a full hour. The specific needs of each dog differ. Consult your vet and keep an eye on your dog’s behavior to see if his needs are being met.
- How to reward your dog during the walk.
After your dog has maintained the proper state of mind, reward him by allowing him to relieve himself and sniff around. Then you need to decide when reward time is over. It should always be less than the time spent focused on the walk.
- Keep leading, even after the walk.
When you get home, don’t stop leading. Have your dog wait patiently while you put away his leash or take off your shoes.
- Reward your dog after the walk.
By providing a meal after the walk, you have allowed your dog to “work” for food and water.
And don’t forget to set a good example by always picking up after your dog!