Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learn to walk your dog, seriously.

Before I go off on this rant, I want to point out that I am very well aware that not all dogs are the same.  I've had a few in my lifetime now, and they've all been pretty different.  I've had a nervous dog, an eager-to please with flashes of defiance dog, and a super-submissive dog.  My current dog, Freyja, is pretty easy.  She knows all sorts of commands like, "Drop it!" and "Go to bed!" and honestly, I haven't really taken the time to train her in any kind of a formal sense.  My other dogs I had to work with, and I couldn't get them to do half the stuff that she does.  So yeah, I get it.  Some are easier than others - especially when it comes to walking.

I tell ya, I don't know what it is, but ever since I moved, I'm wanting to yell at dog owners more than I have ever have before.  I take Freyja to a park that's just a couple of blocks away from my place, and that park is plagued by people who don't know what the hell they're doing when it comes to walking their dogs.

For Freyja, I use a pinch-collar, mainly because that's what I had handy after Argos passed away.  He worked best with that type of collar, and Freyja works well with it, so I keep using it with her.  I tried the "gentle lead" collar with him, but that wasn't happening.  (However, my dog Willy did much better with the gentle lead, and he was a disaster with the pinch collar.  Whatever, it's like I said - there are all types of dogs.)  She's a pretty good walker, and for the most part, she stays right by my side.  She tends to tug a little when she has to relieve herself, or when we get near the dog park, but usually a quick correction takes care of that problem.

What drives me crazy are people who just slap a leash on their dog's collar only to have their dog drag them along, gasping and heaving the whole way.  Even worse, there are those extendable leashes, where they might as well not even have a leash on in the first place.  With those types, you usually see the people stopping every five seconds so their dog can sniff something and/or pee for the thousandth time.  Who's walking whom here?  That's especially frustrating when I'm on a narrow path and they're right in front of me. I don't know whether I should try and pass them or not, as I don't know if their dog will lunge at Freyja when I try it or not.  (Luckily, Freyja is eager to get along with pretty much every dog.  That was not the case with Argos, who would take it pretty personally if another dog got up in his face.)

Don't get me wrong.  If you can simply use your dog's regular collar - or no leash at all - and your dog is walking alongside you, then keep doing that.  What's frustrating is that I see the same people all the time.  Don't they notice that there are people like me whose dogs AREN'T half-choking to death while on a walk? And perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that I use a collar that doesn't allow her to get that tight around her neck in the first place?

Again, I understand some dogs are harder than others, but when I see some of these dogs, I just KNOW that I could get it to walk properly if I had the chance.  In some cases, it's not even a matter of the collar.  It's a matter of the person's attitude.  I remember when I walked Argos, my neighbor asked me how I got him to walk alongside me.  "Because I don't give him a choice!" was my response.  Also, there may be some dogs that just aren't good at walking in the first place.  One time while I was at the dog park, I was talking to a lady with a German Shorthair.  That dog was basically just running up and down the park the whole time.  The lady told me that's what she had to do with her dog, as he was an absolute wreck if she tried to walk him - he needed to get his exercise by running, and after their trips to the dog park, he'd be a nice, calm, cooperate dog.

But if your dog is tugging and choking, or you're stopping every five seconds - you're doing it wrong.  Time to change your strategy.


Anonymous said...

If I see someone using a pinch collar on a dog, then my main assumption is that the person has no dog training skills whatsoever, hence the need to use a pinch collar to make the dog walk nicely. Pinch collar shouldn't be necessary unless your dog is very strong combined with really, positively uncontrollable on a leash.

Also, while my dogs are not allowed to pull on the leash, they are definitely allowed to sniff (except when we're jogging). Sniffing and marking is dogs' kind of social media; that is how they stay in touch with the doggy social scene in the neighbourhood.

The actual, physical act of walking - the motion itself- isn't the main thing for the dog, albeit healthy for the human walker. The social experience and 'experiencing the world' is.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I agree with much of what you wrote, but I think you're assuming too much with the pinch collars. The people who recommended it to me were pretty well versed in dog training (one even used to train police dogs).

As I said, some dogs are far easier to train than others, and some do much better with a pinch than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Some people are 'well versed in dog training' and promote the use of shock collars (they are generally not respected in dog training circles but still, they can claim to be experienced without lying). A pinch collar isn't as bad as a shock collar of course, but it does cause the dog pain.

I acknowledge that some dogs can be very difficult to train to walk on a leash, and if they in the same time are very strong, a pinch collar may help - until they learn it. Not a dog you have the chance to train from puppy, but let's say an adult big dog from a pound which has never had the right leash training as a puppy, and is very strong on the leash, agitated, hard to call to attention. (or has very thick & long fur, in which case a pinch collar may not be a big deal)

But you write that you use a pinch collar on an easy, well behaved dog. In the same time you look down upon how other dog owners handle their dog because you can make your already easy dog not pull when it wears a pinch collar.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

She's easy when I use the pinch collar. When I just put the leash on the regular collar, she notices it and then starts to tug. While a walk with a pinch collar might cause a little pain now and then, a walk without it causes a constant pain throughout the entire walk.