Enrichment, Exercise, or Engagement; What're you doing on your walks with Fido?

The Types of Dog Walks THE LEISURELY STROLL; Exercise with opportunities for Enrichment Goal: to exert some physical energy and to experience the environment How to do it: Allow your dog to take the lead, to sniff freely, and to choose the route. Maintain very basic rules and expectations with the goal to maintain safety mainly, but otherwise allowing your dog to feel empowered and make decisions. This might look like … no pulling, no lunging, and rewarding your dog for voluntary check-ins and engagement. Stopping at corners or obvious splits in opportunities or which way to go and asking your dog (if it is not abundantly clear already,) “Which way?” What are the benefits? For Fido: Physical exertion, feeling of autonomy and empowerment to make decisions, increased confidence For Human: Less decision making, more opportunities to be mindful and observing the environment around you, more opportunities to observe and appreciate your dog enjoying their experience THE TRAINING WALK; Engagement Goal: to uphold prior training and build on it. To teach your dog new tricks, rules, boundaries, and expectations. How to do it: Training walks are the most regimented type of walk and require more engagement from the human and dog companions. Training your dog, at its simplest form is about marking and rewarding behaviors you like and want to see repeated. For example: Your dog sits without being asked. To train your dog to do this on command, the second he sits down, Mark it and name it: “Yes! Good Sit!” and give a small treat or piece of kibble when possible. Continue to Mark and Reinforce what you like whenever your dog offers a behavior you like. Alternatively, if your dog engages in a behavior you do not like, ignore (and make it obvious that you are ignoring them and their behavior, by turning away, taking a step away, crossing your arms, etc.) or redirect the behavior if it is not inherently bad, but you do not like how it is being channeled. For example: Chewing is not an inherently bad behavior. It is often great for a dog’s teeth, is a tool for how they experience their environment, and channels energy. However, Fido chewing on your shoe might be a different story…. In this case, simply redirect the behavior by calmly exchanging the item Fido is chewing for a more appropriate one. In this example, we might take the shoe and provide an antler, a Himalayan cheese stick, or a chew toy they can safely chew. (always monitor chewing activities for safety!) Training gives you the opportunity to look for the positives and to build on them. What it might look like… If your dog wears any special gear for training sessions (like a working vest, a harness, etc.) as you get them suited up for your training walk, give them a cue that indicates you are going to train during this walk. This enables them to make the connection over time that they are going into work mode. With Penny Grace, we use the terms “Let’s get Dressed” AKA suited up in her work vest and gear and “Let’s go to Work” to indicate we are going into a training session. I do recommend a hands free leash or waist leash for training sessions as this allows you to have hands free for training and reinforcing, it allows you to use your body to guide the dog if needed, and it discourages using the leash as anything other than a fail safe to your training. The leash should never be yanked, pulled, held taught, etc. The goal of training is to empower your dog to make good choices independently. By training with this goal in mind, we keep things positive, light, and fun for our dogs and ourselves, and with time and consistency, we will continue to get positive results, all while building a strong, trusting connection with our canine. While there are many other training techniques that may garner faster results, they also most often utilize force, pain, fear, or other less positive techniques. Please keep in mind that these are damaging for your dogs’ mental and emotional health and for your relationship with them. One needs simply to consider how different it feels to do something out of fear of repercussions vs. choosing to do it because you know there is a benefit for you in doing it to see the differences between aversive training techniques vs. positive reinforcement training techniques. It is well researched and proven that both humans and dogs benefit from positive reinforcement training techniques significantly more than any other learning approach. Before setting out: Be sure to grab several small treats or a handful of kibble OR another positive reward your dog enjoys; (like a tug toy, a ball, etc.) Consider what you intend to accomplish during this walk: is there a specific cue you intend to teach or will you be addressing things naturally as they present themselves? Training Tip: To address things naturally as they come up during the walk, look for every time Fido offers a behavior you like. Mark it with your marker word, (Ours is a high pitched and enthusiastic “Yes!”) Name it, (“Good _____ !) and Reinforce with a small treat/ a moment to tug on a toy/ a throw of the ball/ whatever reward system works best with your pup, and then Build on it by continuing to look for the next positive thing that you can Mark, Name, and Reinforce. Repeat this throughout the entirety of the walk. Example: You get to a crosswalk and your dog sits, (whether you ask or they volunteer the behavior,) Mark It: Yes! Name It: Good Sit! Reinforce: Give a small treat (in addition to your verbal praise in the prior step) Build on it: Look for the next positive thing they offer and continue the process! What are the benefits? For Fido: Physical, mental, and emotional exertion, problem solving opportunities, f feeling of being successful and pleasing their human, feeling of autonomy and empowerment to make good choices, increased confidence, increased connection with their human For Human: Improving your communication with your dog, building your bond with your dog, increasing their trust in you, creating more opportunities to identify the positives in your dog and to build on them.* Keeps the human and dog focused in the present moment and engaged with each other in an cooperative partnership relationship. (*By practicing looking for the positives and successes in our dog, we are better able to apply this lens to other areas of our lives as well, and all beings, humans, dogs, and otherwise, learn better through positive reinforcement training than any other techniques out there.) To recap: Look for the positives and what you want to see repeated: Mark It, Reinforce, and Build on it! THE ENRICHMENT WALK; Enrichment & Exercise Goal: to experience and become comfortable in the world around them, utilizing a variety of senses and aiming to support their mental and emotional health. You may incorporate some activities like rooting, sniffing, digging, running, chasing, etc. or offering ample opportunities to stop and sniff, perhaps pausing for occasional training breaks, allowing opportunities to experience things like a new environment, trail, smell etc. You may break up this type or walk or any walk with training breaks to increase engagement, build your relationship, and to build confidence in your pup. What it might look like… You set out on your walk and allow Fido to sniff for the first 10 minutes, do their business, and meander a bit aimlessly, until cuing them that it is time to pivot and transition. For example, whenever Penny and I train, I cue her by stating “Let’s go to Work.” This indicates that we are going into a more regimented portion of her walk where I incorporate training and I expect her focus on me. We traditionally train for 3-10 minutes at any given time and then pivot based on how Penny is presenting in the moment. My goal is always to meet each dog wherever they are from moment to moment, (vs forcing my agenda and expectations on them.) For example: if Penny seems particularly interested in sniffing and/ or digging on a particular day, I am going to allow for opportunities to incorporate more of this, all while ensuring that I am clear in my cuing and expectation from moment to moment. This ensures she is clear on the expectation and that I can be clear in my enforcement of expectations. It is important to remember that consistency is key and that training happens 24-7. Even when allowing more freedom and autonomy from your dog, it is still your job to set them up for success and guide them consistently. Dogs become confused when expectations are unclear, wishy washy, or inconsistent and then attempt to problem solve what is ok vs what is not; (which can feel like manipulation or testing, but dogs do not reason this way. They are simply trying to determine what is expected vs. what is not and they don't generalize well.) What are the benefits? For Fido: Mental, emotional, and physical energy exerted. Opportunities to explore and become familiar with their environment and their humans’ expectations. Opportunities to become confident, curious, and to problem solve. Providing opportunities to get calm in a variety of settings and situations can better enable most dogs to tune into their human/ handler better and to ignore distractions, such as other dogs and people. For Human: Engagement in the moment with your dog, increased mindfulness and awareness of where you dog is in any given moment, improved communication, stronger bond with your canine friend, opportunities to see yourself reflected back to you in your dog (how is their energy? Their engagement? This is often a direct reflection of us and what energy we are putting out to our dog and the Universe.)

What is your favorite type of walk and why? Which will you try out next? Do you need some extra support in leash manners or structuring your walks more intentionally? Reach out and set up a consult to discuss how we might be able to help! Create your pet’s profile at www.petsinresidence.com to get started.


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