A lot of dog owners ask whether they should spend time training their dogs before they go out for a walk or is it better to put them through their paces once they home after the walk. Trying to train a dog before they go out for their daily exercise can be a bit challenging especially where young dogs are concerned. However, older dogs too can get over-excited when they know they are going out for "walkies" and therefore have trouble focussing on their owners. On the other hand, training your pet when they get back from a walk could mean they are too tired to concentrate. It can be a bit of a dilemma and one which needs a little careful planning and thought.
You have to remember that when it's time to go out for a walk, it is one of the most exciting parts of your pet's day (another being Food Time!) This naturally means that your dog is over the moon and exuberant about the whole situation. The key is to teach your dog to stay calm even when they are excited about the fact you have picked up their leads! Your pet needs to understand that the reward for them remaining calm is to be taken out for a walk! Whenever they are calm and well behaved, they receive a reward and this applies to when they are about to be taken out for a walk too. The reward can be in the form of a healthy and tasty treat or lots of praise and a pat offered to them in a calm way!
Most dog owners like to believe they are training their dogs when in fact, their pets are training them. Our four-legged friends are very quick to learn from their experiences and if they know something they do works and they get what they are after, they will do it over and over again because they know their owners will respond accordingly. This could be whining, barking, pawing, spinning or jumping up which are all doggy antics that display excited and exuberant behaviour – the response from their owners is to take them out for a walk. Next time you pick up their lead, your pet will repeat the behaviour because they like the "reward" namely being taken out for walkies!
The result is a lot of dog owners quite inadvertently train their pets to be a little too hyper. Your dog has understood that this kind of behaviour gets them a great reward, however, when they are calm nothing happens and they don't get to go out to do what they love best – to get out and about for a lovely scent driven walk. You have to teach your pet to wait calmly whilst you pick up their leads and then clip them on their collars.
The best training a puppy or dog could ever receive from their owner is to be taught that by remaining calm they will receive the best and biggest rewards. Together with positive reinforcement techniques, teaching your dog to learn new things and then be rewarded for doing well, is something they will enjoy and indeed look forward to. If you teach your dog to 'learn and then earn' they like the experience because they adore the rewards! These can be in the form of lots of praise, some nice, tasty and healthy treats or a wonderful walk in the great outdoors - with you!
This is a great technique to use on dogs that tend to be highly excitable - the reason being that owners get to reward their dogs for calmer behaviour and to ignore any unwanted and excitable antics which often occur just prior to going out for a walk.
If you are a first-time dog owner, then you need to remember that training your pet actually starts as soon as you wake up and get out of bed in the morning. A good example of this is when you let them out in the garden first thing to do their business. You should always ask your dog to "sit" quietly while you open the door and they should remain in the sitting position until you tell them to go outside. You should never let your pooch rush out of the door. With this said, you have to remember your pet may be "bursting to go" so it would be a little unfair to make them wait for too long!
You should also ask your pet to sit before you offer them a treat or before you stroke them which is a great way to prevent them from getting into the habit of jumping up! The key to being successful when training a dog to remain quiet and calm, is to always ask them to sit before you give or do anything with them because their focus will be totally on you – and this is what you want to achieve no matter how exciting a situation happens to be or how exuberant your pooch is at the time. This same approach needs to be applied before taking your dog out for a walk, whether it's a morning outing or a longer one later in the afternoon or evening. Only once your pet is calm, sitting quietly should you clip their lead on their collars. You should also make sure your pet is not ahead of you as you walk out of the door!
You need to act calmly around your dog so they remain calm too. If you get over-excited about going out for a walk with your pet, then they will feed off your vibe and get a little exuberant too – it's only natural! The more low-key your approach is to the whole event, the better the response will be from your pooch prior to going out for their exhilarating walk with their favourite person which is of course – you!
This all leads to the fact that training your dog before going out for a walk is crucial so they learn to remain calm at a time when they know they are going to so something they really love – after all it's one of the most exciting parts of the day for them and something they look forward to with relish. Your dog may learn quickly that by staying calm they will be rewarded with a wonderful walk or it may take a bit of time for them to get the message – this is where you as the owner, would have to exercise a little patience which will be rewarded ten-fold when one day, your beloved pet sits down before you ask them to and then waits calmly for you to put their leads on!