We all know that walking is great exercise for both people and dogs. Too often, we will not walk with our dogs because their on-leash behavior is awful. They pull and jerk us around, but we cannot blame the dog for that.
Dogs will do what they are allowed to do. We need to be in control and turn that pulling madness into a pleasurable experience.
Dogs need exercise. A dog will make a better walking partner if he has had some more strenuous exercise before the walk begins. Burning off excess energy is easy if your dog is trained to fetch a tennis ball or Frisbee.
Dogs need some time to be allowed to sniff and mark the trees along the walking route. They also must learn when that is allowed and when it is not.
Pat Miller, in her column, "Good Dog Walking," in the March 2007 issue of The Whole Dog Journal, emphasizes that teaching your dog good leash manners is "worth all the time it takes."
Time and patience are required. She recommends using a clicker and treats to reward the dog when he or she is walking nicely beside you on a loose leash. She begins the training by using the phrase, "Let's walk." This means that the dog can do a little sniffing, leg raising and exploring as long as he is not pulling on the leash.
Holding the leash and the clicker in your left hand and the treats in your right hand, move forward. When the dog is beside you, click and treat.
Bring your right hand around to his mouth. You do not want him to move around in front of you to get the treat. Click the dog frequently in the beginning for being close enough that the leash hangs loosely between the two of you. Before too long, he will realize that the treat comes when he is reasonably close to your left side. Once the left side behavior is learned, have the dog walk on your right side -- clicking and treating. Dogs quickly understand the words "right" and "left."
Occasionally, your dog will be out ahead of you pulling on the leash. Stop.
As Miller wrote, "Be a tree." Eventually, the dog will turn around and look back at you, and as he does so, the leash will slacken. Click and treat.
If that does not work, back up slowly, increasing the pressure on the leash. As soon as he moves toward you, click and treat.
Later, when the dog has learned to stay close enough so that the leash is always slack, you can begin to teach the "heel" command, which is a very precise position used in close quarters or while walking in a store or among a group of people and dogs.
By training both the "let's walk" and the "heel," your dog will be a pleasure to walk with anytime, anyplace. It takes some training, but it is well worth the effort. However, remember that our dogs need more strenuous exercise as well. They will behave better if they have had a chance to run.
Pet issue awareness
February was a busy month for recognizing pet issues. I missed most of them but they are worth mentioning.
February was National Pet Dental Health Month. It is so important to be taking care of our pet's teeth with regular brushing and a regular checkup by our veterinarian.
Many diseases in dogs and cats, primarily those that settle in their organs, may be caused by bacteria from the mouth.
Our pets are prone to periodontal disease, just as humans are. A gentle brushing of the teeth and gums helps keep the mouth healthy. At first, our dogs and cats hate it. But soon they will accept it. Keep at it.
February was "Have a Heart for a Chained Dog" month. One of the tragedies in our world is dogs that are chained night and day in disgusting surroundings. Do you have a chained dog in your neighborhood? Is there something you could do to make his or her life more tolerable? What about offering to help the dog owner put up a fence? Imagine a dog that has so much love to give and is so eager to learn and become a welcome member of the family, being tied up, away from those he wants to love.
February also included Spay Day USA. The Payson Humane Society is doing such a great job in making low cost spaying and neutering available to everyone. A low-cost spay and neuter clinic will be in Payson on Thursday, March 29. The Plateau Land Mobile Clinic from Flagstaff will be located behind the Humane Society building. The fee for all animals up to 60 lbs. will be $45. Vaccinations will also be available. Call toll free for an appointment, (888) 241-9731. This is a great opportunity.
Also, the Payson Humane Society has spay and neuter assistance programs for both cats and dogs. Call the shelter for more information, (928) 474-5590.
You still have a couple of weeks to train your dog for the "Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound" 5K walk/run on Saturday, March 31. Sign up now.
For $25, you will receive an event T-shirt for both you and your dog. Day of event registration is $35 and you are not guaranteed a T-shirt.
Loaner dogs are available for dogless folks from the Payson Humane Society. You can register online at www.paysonparks.com or stop by the parks office at 1000 W. Country Club Drive.
Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210,Strawberry, AZ 85544.