« Back

Who are walks for?

12/04/2023 - Training Tips and Principles

Going for a walk? Whose walk is it?

What are walks for?

Or maybe the better question would be "WHO are walks for?"

We have all done it. We have time pressures - 30 minutes before work. We feel we need to get our dogs out for exercise, so we rush around to get them as far as possible in the time we have. Sometimes we want to have some human fun, to look at the view or meet a fitness challenge. Or maybe we are down at the beach wanting to blow away the cobwebs.

A lot of people come to me because they take their dogs out for a walk and their dogs are pulling on the lead, lunging, and not listening. For some dogs a walk can be overwhelming, exciting, frustrating and is the world whizzing past them too quickly. Often we are not taking the time to understand their needs in that moment.

No-one wants one of those embarrassing moments where their dog barks and lunges, or pulls you in the bushes to the ‘tuts’ of other dog walkers.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • How will my walk affect my dog?
  • How will my walk affect me?

If the answers to either of these questions mean that your or your dog’s emotional state will suffer, you have to ask

‘Should I be going out on THAT walk?’

Less about training … more about being

Sometimes it is simply about slowing down yourself, and allowing both of you space to breathe. I often work with clients on slowing down walks. Here are my top EIGHT hints and tips for your next walk —

  1. Choose a place that both you and your dog can relax. It may not be a large space, but there will still be lots for your dog to explore. As a human you could rush down the high street looking in all the shop windows, dashing from one place to another, or you could spend an amazing time in your favourite shop. Choose somewhere that you can feel calm. If you don't feel calm, your dog may not find it easy to be calm themselves.
  2. Choose a place that you can see far enough to spot and prepare for any of your dog's triggers. Don’t wait for the trigger to be on top of you before you react, the earlier you decide to move, the calmer you can be.
  3. Walk slowly and calmly—this may be slower than you are used to. Don't think about doing a circuit or meeting a goal, but more about the time that you have for a walk. If you want to do loads of steps yourself, find another way to do them. You dog's natural pace, when they are sniffing and being a dog is likely to be much slower than you think.
  4. As you slow your pace, watch your dog—what happens to their behaviour? Allow time for you dog to take things in. Allow your dog to take some control of the situation and guide where the walk goes. Sometimes we move along not allowing our dog to 'look in all the shop windows' let alone go inside for a browse.
  5. Remember to breathe, and watch your dog’s breathing.
  6. Try a 30 second practice of a simple behaviour in different places. Don't make it complicated, pause in your walk, take a breath, allow your dog to relax. If your dog is unable to respond, don't nag, just think why? It may be that they are overwhelmed, or it may simply be that the context is not somewhere that you have practiced. 
  7. If on lead, keep it loose and if safe to do so, have it long enough that your dog can make good choices and have a sniff.
  8. Capture behaviours while you walk, if your dog is doing what you would like them to be doing, then for dog's sake let them know. If you dog checks in with you when off or on lead, that is the perfect time to tell them they have done something you want them to do. What is reinforced is more likely to happen again. 

Remember, when OUR behaviour changes, our DOG’S behaviour changes


Simple stuff, isn't it?  Give it a go.  Your dog will thank you for it.