Your ability to bond with your dog will greatly affect your dog’s behaviour in all areas of life. The daily walks you have with your dog are an important opportunity for establishing a meaningful bond with your pet. Here are some things to consider when dog walking to establish a strong bond:
Learn your pet’s behaviours
Spending time with your dog on a walk is a great way to learn more about your pet’s personality and idiosyncrasies. As you walk, notice: how do they react to other people and other dogs? Cars? City noise? Wild animals? Do they respond with curiosity, enthusiasm, or anxiety? How long can you walk before your dog gets tired?
Monitoring and understanding your dog’s behaviours will help you take better care of your dog. It is especially important to notice any changes over the years. For example, a dog that suddenly is unable to walk as much as they used to might be having challenges with mobility or joint health. Learning about your dog in this way can help you become aware of changes in behaviour that can occur throughout life, which may be indicators of underlying issues.
Go on leadership walks
Just as with other humans, spending time in the physical vicinity of your dog doesn’t count as bonding if you are distracted, say, on your phone. Quality time isn’t quality unless you are deliberately spending this time together. There is a difference between walking your dog and being walked by your dog. You might see this sometimes as dog owners are being dragged around by their pet!
It is imperative to focus on your dog and to walk them properly. This is called a leadership walk. The goal of a leadership walk is to train your dog to walk alongside you so that they focus on you and the walk, instead of becoming distracted by every passerby and blade of grass. It is essential to learn how to walk your dog properly and to keep your dog under control.
During a leadership walk, your dog learns that you are the leader of the pack and that they are to follow your lead. Your dog learns that you are the one who sets the pace and decides the direction. You take charge. Walking your dog properly in this way will help to set the foundation for good behaviour in other areas of your pet’s life.
Talk to your dog
Communicating with your dog during walks is important for establishing a good relationship. Just as you might respond sternly if your dog does something inappropriate, be sure to praise your dog generously when they are walking calmly at your side. Dogs are typically very eager to please the leader of the pack, and positive reinforcement can help to encourage more of the desired behaviours.
Obviously, enjoying each other’s company is one of the benefits of having a strong relationship. But there are also practical benefits. Taking the time to bond through walks helps to establish trust, which means your dog is more likely to listen and to be well-behaved. Almost everything is easier when you have a strong and trusting bond. When you take the time to bond with your pet, they will be more likely to be calm and emotionally regulated, and to respond well to training. Put the time in your pet, and you will both enjoy a strong and trusting relationship.