In Part 2 of our leash walking series we discussed your dog giving you attention in order to start the training process of polite walking. That is just part of the equation. It is a huge part of it, but what’s at the other end of the leash – you – is the other part!
Why should your dog give you attention if you do not give them attention?
I see examples of this all the time with people walking their dog. Sometimes it is just that people are in their own heads while walking and are not paying attention. More frequently it is actively not paying attention to their dogs. I see people talking on their cell phones ignoring their dogs. I see people talking with another person they’re walking with while not paying attention to their dogs. I see people stopped and talking to a passer-by and not paying attention to their dogs. So often I see dogs paying great attention that is just being ignored. Behavior which is ignored, will eventually extinguish (go away). All that attention you trained is unintentionally being punished by ignoring it!
Many people get dogs to have a walking companion and help make sure they get out and exercise. That is great, but let’s think about what is a walking companion? If you were out walking with a friend and they completely ignored you while you were talking to them, would you keep talking? Probably not! If that same friend talked on the phone instead of talking to you would you be annoyed? Probably! If you had to stop and tie your shoe and your friend kept walking, turned the corner and you did not know what direction they went, how would that feel? Not very good! These are no different than doing the same thing to your dog if they are your walking companion.
We expect a lot out of dogs (sometimes too much!) and they should expect the same from us. We have relationships with our dogs, it is not dictatorship.
Next time you’re out on a walk think about how there are two ends to the leash when it comes to attention. Don’t ask your dog for something you can’t give him back in return. The communication between the two of you will just make that walk all the better!