If you tracked a typical dog walk you would see the owner walking around the path of their local park in straight lines, probably entering the park by the same gate each day and leaving by the same gate. A lucky dog may get to play a little with the owner en route.
I always tell owners that a walk in the park for a well-mannered dog should be his time. He should get to run around, sniff things, play with other dogs, and generally explore and interact with his environment. However your role should not just be to clip his lead off at the start of the walk and clip it back on at the end. You can be part of his fun too!
A lot of dogs quickly learn to disengage from their owners in the park since we are simply too boring and predictable. They may give an occasional glance back just to make sure you are still following but apart from that you may hold little interest for them. Will your dog quickly come running back to you when called? Perhaps he will plod back if nothing better is going on? Does he see you as just too boring?
The first step of making yourself more interesting in the park is to get off that path around the parameter of the park and change direction. What happens if you turn around and go the other way, will your dog even notice? Try it! Don’t call him, just change direction. When he comes bounding back to you give him lavish praise, a treat, a toy game and let him go again quickly. This will encourage your dog to tune into you and follow you around since you have now become a little more interesting and rewarding.
Rainbow Dogs offers Groundwork training in Brighton and Hove parks for disengaged dogs. This is designed to provide your dog with a stimulating walk in which the owner is central to the fun. We then perform a handover session in which we share with you the new skills that your dog has learnt.
Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.
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