A structured walk is the backbone of your relationship with your dog. And for your dog, it is the most important part of his day.
For dog owners, there is nothing worse than when you are out in public and your dog lunges, barks, or aggresses towards another dog or person in any way. Many people see this and instantly judge you as a bad dog owner walking around with a dog that isn’t safe.
For many, when this sort of thing happens, right or wrong, they give up. At the end of the day people want a dog that can walk side-by-side with them in their lives and going through something as embarrassing as a wild, bucking, dangerous looking dog while your neighbors look at you and judge everything you’re doing wrong wasn’t on the menu when you picked up that puppy or that rescue dog at the shelter
When I was young, I had a boss at work who was helping mentor me to the next level of my career. I was working at a big company with tons of employees and he gave me some life-changing advice – make sure you say hi to everyone when you walk into the room, ask how their day is going, smile at people – the basics of being a good human.
It’s easy when your life is fast-paced and hectic to forget those little drops of positivity that you can give the people and dogs in your life throughout the day.
My boss was more strategic than just being a nice guy, though. He knew that because I was in a leadership position, I needed to build a bank of good will for when I needed to have the more difficult conversations. The way he explained it was that every “hello” or “how are you doing?” was a teensy-tiny deposit in the good will bank and you needed plenty of good will in the account when you go to make a withdrawal.
Well as dog owners, you too are in a position of leadership and it’s nice for you to know this rule as well. The same rule applies to your dog.
If you personally are feeling stuck in a rut, or you’re not happy with your life, the best thing I can tell you is that if you change your habits, you will change your life. That simple advice has always worked wonders for me.
Habits are tricky things because good ones are hard to form and bad habits seem to form almost effortlessly. The good news is, once new good habits are formed, they’re hard to break and your life will be changed forever. Just remember, when you started brushing your teeth as a kid you probably hated it and resisted it every step of the way. Today as an adult, hopefully, brushing your teeth is just something you do without thinking about it – with no resistance. I can say with certainty that you are much healthier and better off for conquering your original apprehension.
When it comes to being a good pack leader for your dogs and your family, the same rules apply: If you change your habits with your dog, you will change your dog’s life.
Here are a few simple habits you can add to your life to make your dog’s life exponentially better:
There are a couple of basic rules I have when it comes to being good with dogs – one of which is being able to control your space.
This is something that people understand very easily when it comes to interacting with other humans – we don’t sit on the laps of strangers, we don’t hang all over strangers, and most of us don’t excessively hug or kiss strangers.
In fact, getting into another human’s space is such an awkward action, we came up with a standardized way of getting into each other’s space so it doesn’t come off as hostile or awkward – the disarming handshake in our culture (in Europe and other cultures they have a similar, but still easily understood social protocol for entering a person’s space).
However, this basic concept that is so intuitive in our day to day lives with other humans is oddly difficult to apply to our dogs.
In the world of dog training, “leadership” is a complicated word. To most people, the word “leadership” conjures up images of alpha dogs and the military men who shout commands at them on the training field.
That is one type of leadership – unfortunately it’s not one that every person can authentically pull off. Some people have a softer touch than these obvious “alphas,” but can still lead dogs with expert precision.
When I am dealing with softer human personalities, I ask one simple question to help them understand leadership with their dog: Who is adjusting to whom?
One of the most underrated tools in self-improvement or dog improvement is that of visualization.
My first exposure to visualization came when I was a young man playing basketball and my father was my coach at the time. He must have read some article about visualization saying how great athletes were using visualization techniques to improve, because I clearly remember him telling me that if I couldn’t get to a basketball hoop, I should practice shooting free-throws in my head. That I should imagine setting myself at the free throw line, taking a couple of practice dribbles while looking at the hoop, and then going through the motion of what a perfect free throw looked like in my head.
Being a typical pre-teen, I blew him off and told him he sounded like a crazy person.
As with much of my dad’s advice that I thought was stupid at the time, I have to tell him now as an adult that he was right about a lot more than I gave him credit for.
Part of what makes an excellent pack leader or dog trainer is the ability to stay on an even keel. That skill comes from a combination of a lot of experience and practice, but also the ability to effectively visualize what success looks like.
Growing up as a wrestler and participating in sports in general, I could always get a sense for who the coaches didn’t really believe in as athletes. It wasn’t a lack of attention to these kids that gave it away. It wasn’t even a lack of friendliness or positive attention. They were always good guys and always treated us well.
Surprisingly, you could tell the coach’s favorite by who they rode the most in practice. Who they singled out for extra sprints, or extra rounds. A coach’s favorite was the one who had to run until he puked while the other kids stood around the side of the room glad they weren’t called out.
You could really tell a coach cared when an athlete had a poor performance and the coach was genuinely disappointed. There was no “good try” or “A for effort!” Just genuine disappointment.
I see this every day in the real world, too. If you’re someone who works and cares about your professional growth, you’re lucky if you have a boss, mentor, or superior who pulls you into his office and takes the time to tell you everything you’re doing wrong and how you can get better so you can contribute more and hopefully move successfully to the next phase of your life.
On the flip side, you probably feel a little empty if you have a boss who is either just annoying or worse – they don’t really say much about what you do - good or bad - and you just feel like you could disappear and no one would notice your work is being not being done.
When I look at a lot of clients and their dogs, I think about this crushing weight of low expectations.
This week here in Indianapolis we had a doozy of a storm. My dogs don’t care a bit about storms, but my wife certainly gets worked up about all the lightning, thunder and high winds that seem like they’re going to rip your house off its foundation.
Many dogs out there have storm phobia far worse than even my wife does. They might hyperventilate, pace, whine anxiously, or even get destructive. If that’s the case and a storm is coming, take a few steps to help ease your dog’s anxiety
And if you have a young dog who isn’t bothered by storms, not so fast – you’re not out of the woods yet! Storm phobia is often a phobia that is born later in a dog’s life – sometimes not showing up until they are 4 years of age or older. So you might want to pay attention too.
Here are 4 drug-free ways to ease your dog’s storm anxiety:
Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but love remains in the air. While most of us are primarily concerned with loving those special humans in our lives this time of year, we of course have plenty of love to share with our dogs.
From my experience with clients, friends, and family, there is no shortage of love when it comes to people and the dogs with whom they share their lives. People show this love in all sorts of ways – buying their dogs $600 dog beds, cuddling with them in bed, playing a game of fetch, and a bunch of other ways – hopefully not by buying them a box of chocolates, though!
Loving our dogs is a good thing. However, sometimes well-intentioned humans show that love in a way the dog either won’t notice or understand or in a way that will make the dog’s life and mental balance worse for the wear.
So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to give you 5 ways to show your dog that you love them that they will definitely appreciate!