By Cesar Millan
The single most important activity you can take part in with your dog is the walk. It provides exercise and mental stimulation for your dog, and affirms your position as the Pack Leader. In addition to maintaining calm, assertive energy, you should always use a short leash, with the collar located at the top of your dog’s neck. This allows you to give corrections with a quick tug to the side, which will redirect your dog’s attention.
On the walk, your dog should always be next to or behind you. If your dog is in front of you, then she is being the Pack Leader, not you. There are several ways to train your dog to stay in the proper position. One is to not allow your dog to move forward if she gets in front of you. Give a correction and stop, or change direction, and continue to do so until your dog walks behind you. You can also use a walking stick or cane, and hold it in front of your dog to keep her in place.
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Mornings are an ideal time for the walk, because your dog will have woken up with full energy, but it is essential that you allow enough time for the walk—at least 30 minutes to an hour—to properly drain your dog’s energy. This time may vary, depending upon your dog’s age and needs. Senior dogs may be tired out after 15 minutes, while young and energetic dogs may take 90 minutes or more. If your dog has any medical conditions, consult your veterinarian to determine safe limits.
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Remember also that the walk is not about your dog sniffing around or relieving herself. To maintain control, keep moving forward for at least the first 15 minutes, and then reward your dog by allowing her to explore or go to the bathroom. Keep this reward time shorter than the walk time, however, and continue the pattern for the duration of the walk.
Don’t forget to continue your leadership when you return home. Enter the house first, then invite your dog to follow, and make her wait as you remove and put away her leash. This is an ideal time for feeding, because your dog has just worked for a meal.
Taking the time to walk your dog is the single best method to give her exercise and help her maintain balance. It is also the best method for asserting your pack leadership in a positive way. You should go on the walk at least twice a day, allowing enough time each time to drain your dog’s energy and to maintain her calm, submissive state.
With the walk, you can practice all of my methods for maintaining a balanced dog at the same time. It provides exercise and discipline, with opportunities for some affection. It helps you to establish Rules, Boundaries, and Limitations, and can put you and your dog in touch with nature. Finally, it’s a great opportunity for you to learn to live in the moment and adjust your own energy. When you begin to put it all together, you will find that the walk is the most rewarding and productive time in your relationship with your dog, and you will both be better for it.