- Posted by Gilleen Witkowski
- On January 31, 2017
- 6 Comments
- Canada, dog training, dog-walking, dogs, pet care, pets, positive reinforcement, puppies, Toronto
Have you ever noticed how dogs all have their idiosyncrasies, the little behaviours that make them unique?
Like when a dog nudges your hand for treats. Or gives you a judgmental look when it’s time to turn back home on your walk. Or paws your face when you’re on the couch together. Gobbles up their food in four seconds flat. Farts unabashedly. Runs around like crazy when it’s play-time. Plays it super cool around everyone except their favourite person.
Whatever it is, dogs have their own personalities and habits, and sometimes those habits are downright hilarious. As dog walkers we get to observe some of these habits as we are getting a dog ready for their walk. For instance, barking when we come in. Showing off a favourite toy. Playing chase or keep-away.
Sometimes, dogs have behaviours that we try to shift, because it will make the walk experience more comfortable and safe, both for the dog and the dog walker.
For instance, dogs can have seemingly strange reactions to their harness. They might eye it apprehensively, or avoid it altogether.
Shelby loves going on walks but didn’t want anyone other than her parents to touch or put on her harness – we would simply bring it in her direction, and she would growl, bark, and sometimes snap.
Hmm…let’s see what we can do about this harness reaction.
Our head dog walker Tonya started patiently working on it. After a few weeks of practice, Shelby became fine with her touching and putting on the harness!
“I did it by trial and error of Shelby’s comfort level, and through long-term trust building,” Tonya says.
When there is a strong reaction or behaviour that we want to help change, it feels good to make progress.
Another behaviour we try to make improvements on is pulling on leash – while out on a walk, determined pulling (squirrel! Garbage to try to eat! Random bush that maybe another dog peed in!) can really tire out the dog walker’s arms and shoulders. The goal is to encourage dogs to walk calmly with us. Front-lead harnesses help a lot with this, as do time and calm walk practice.
Harnesses help the crew walk more calmly.
If there is a bigger issue that we can’t work on through gradual trust-building and time, we recommend trying positive reinforcement-based training with experts such as the Toronto Centre for Canine Education. We have also heard great things about When Hounds Fly, Follow The Leader, Meet Your Mutt, and Tailspin Petworx.