January is National Take Your Dog for a Walk Month!
Clearly, whomever created this national observance month does not live in the Northeast. Usually, at this time of year, Northeasterners would be buried in snow and it would actually be a horrible time of year to be walking your dog outside. But, global warming has afforded us a snow-less beginning to our winter which means it’s still great walking weather! So, take advantage of clear roads and sidewalks, make those New Years resolutions happen, and take your dog for a walk!
Walking your dog on a regular basis is a great bonding experience. Walking together builds good communication between you and your dog. Still having trouble getting your pooch to walk nicely on a leash without pulling? Regular walks give you plenty of opportunities to practice these behaviors with your dog so you both can become pros! Walking as a regular form of exercise can help to curb destructive behaviors in the home since your dog will be both mentally stimulated and physically stimulated from being outside. Plus, it is good exercise for both you and your dog, too! Add in a few uphill climbs to burn some extra calories!
Using the “Heel” command, your dog should walk calmly at your feet with a loose leash in hand. Their body should never be walking ahead of yours as this is a sign that they are in charge (and this will commonly result in pulling behavior).
If your dog does not know the “Heel” command, it’s never too late to learn. You may want to start inside off-leash with this command before testing it on a walk if you have never done it before. Start your dog in a sitting position. While standing directly next to them, place a treat in your hand at your side. As you make your first step forward, ask your dog to “Heel”. Likely, they will follow the treat and automatically be following your command. Make sure to treat them when they have done what they are asked. You can use this follow technique for increasing lengths of time in your home until you think your pooch is ready to attach a leash, then try again. You will know you are successful once you can turn in multiple directions with Fido at your heels the entire time. Once you have mastered this indoors, it’s time to try it outside on a walk! Congratulations!
A helpful tip: This command works best when your dog is on the same side of your body every time. It doesn’t matter which side, but pick one and stick to it! Dogs are creatures of habit and will do better with commands when they are performed in the same manner each time.
Remember, a good dog is a tired dog! Walks are important! Get out there and have some fun!