how to walk a dog

How To Walk A Dog That Herds Sheep

Border Collies

How to walk a dog for many dog owners is based on a myth – the myth that a dog must be walked every day. I remember reading a report by a dog behaviourist that told Border Collie owners that they MUST (I thought the use of the word “MUST” was interesting) walk their dogs 50 miles every day! The logic used was this: a Border Collie’s natural environment is a farm and they are designed to cover this distance when they round up sheep. Therefore – because they are bred to do this – they must receive this amount of exercise.

(Cracks fingers) Right…

Firstly, a farm is not a natural environment; it is a construct created by humans. Secondly, sheepdogs do not round up sheep every day. In fact, they only do this a handful to times i.e. to move the sheep from one paddock to another or when it’s time to dip them. The rest of the time, they are doing a lot of relaxing and sleeping. I worked on a sheep farm so I know this is the case.

Border Collies Don’t Use Fitbits

Also, even when they do round up sheep, do they look at their Fitbits afterwards and, upon realising that they can only covered 48 miles, go for a little jog to make up the distance?

How To Walk A Dog In Australia If You Don’t Want To Be Fined

Of course, it’s not only Border Collie owners who are put under unrealistic and unnecessary pressure when it comes to giving their dog exercise. I recently saw that a state in Australia was planning to fine people who don’t walk their dog at least once a day. This immediately puts anyone in a wheelchair in a bind. I have worked with dogs who have been trained to help disabled people have a more independent life. However, they cannot walk their dogs and – crucially – it does not cause a major problem.

How To Walk A Dog Without Risking Hyperthermia, Pneumonia And Electrocution

Even people who are perfectly capable of walking can find themselves having a terrible time when out with their dog. I have seen people with their poor pooches in the street during a thunderstorm (I have gone past them in my car – I don’t subject myself or my dogs to that). I know that neither would be outside on their own, yet there they are, risking hyperthermia, pneumonia and electrocution…

Walking  a Dog Should Be A Pleasure NOT A Nightmare

Walking your dog should be a pleasure for everyone, yet for countless people and dogs around the world, it’s a nightmare. Some folks are anxious before they even leave the house, worrying about how their dog will react (by the way, we know that dogs are excellent at reading how we feel both physically and emotionally, although they do not blame themselves for the anxious state of their humans. They think we are worried about what we might find out there).

A Bizarre Belief

By far the biggest obstacle to having an enjoyable walking experience is the bizarre belief that dogs should be walked every day. This is a recent development in our long history with our canine partners – I don’t remember ever seeing my grandparents walk their dogs  and they didn’t have any issues. Similarly, have you noticed that the calmest dogs you are likely to see in public are with homeless people? How much do you think these people worry about the amount of exercise their 4-legged friends are getting?

Walking A Dog Can Become Redundant For People With Gardens

The truth is that dogs would not waste their valuable energy doing something with no purpose. In Nature, canines move for a reason. In particular, they will cover great distances to hunt for food. If you feed your dog at home (and you have a garden where your dog can go to the toilet) you need never walk your dog again…

This idea does not go down well with a lot of people who are still trapped by the notion that they must walk their dogs all the time, even if it means getting struck by lightning. This is not helped by many dog trainers who claim that exercising a dog with behaviour problems will calm it down. If exercise did actually lead to good behaviour, football players would be angels…

A Hyperactive Doberman

I helped a lady in Belgium who had a hyperactive Doberman. She believed this whole “exercise leads to good behaviour” argument and ended up running 5 miles a day to try to calm her dog down. At the end of the day, one of them was exhausted – the other one was a Doberman that was still convinced that it was the decision maker. However, all the exercise made her fitter and even more hyperactive.

Walking A Dog Needn’t Be A Daily Routine

If you’ve made it this far without flaking out, congratulations! Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that you should never walk your dog, however I liken it to learning to drive a car. If you drive, you might still remember your first driving lessons. If your instructor was good, they would not have taken you into the middle of the city at rush hour and “hope for the best”. I am guessing that you started somewhere quiet with no distractions to give you time to get used to the controls. Knowing that you are not required to walk your dog every day gives you the time to get it right; believing the Dog Walk Fascists (DWFs) means you could be out there in the big, wide world with no idea of what to do (and maybe getting soaked through in the process).

Walking A Dog Daily Will Not Make An Out Of Control Dog Better

If a dog is climbing the walls, exercise is not going to address the real reason why they are out of control. Giving them an easier job description is the answer. The great news is that this does not require going for long walks to try to calm them down. Don’t let the DWFs bully you into thinking otherwise.

Try Training Your Dog Indoors When It Rains

Next time it rains, maybe think about doing some training indoors. You can still walk around for 10 minutes, giving your dog physical exercise and something to think about. Even throwing a toy for them to run after is great (provided they bring it back – there’s a reason why some dogs don’t but that’s for another time). Your dog gets a workout and you both stay dry – result!

©Tony Knight 2020

www.tonyknightdoglistener.com

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I have been a dog trainer for 20 years and I travel all over the world sharing my expertise with countless dog owners in a positive and fun way. As well as helping countless people in the flesh, my eBooks help even more to understand their dogs and to solve all kinds of problem behaviour. My style of teaching makes dog training easy to learn and people enjoy themselves as they do so. I am able to talk both directly to camera and in an interview style. I have created several eBooks covering different subjects such as breed issues and specific behaviour problems. I have also produced many audio books and contribute regularly to newsletters, blogs and online Q&A sessions. I have a good working relationship with numerous rescue organisations whom I have helped implement techniques to successfully rehabilitate and rehome countless dogs. I love public speaking and have been told on many occasions that my presentations are like a stand-up comedy show. I bring everyday dog behaviour problems to life and people learn while they laugh. I divide my time between living in France and Australia. I speak fluent French and run courses and classes all over Europe. My eBook "Think Like a Dog" is available via www.tonyknightdoglistener.com. I have also written the foreword to the French-Canadian dog behaviour book "A l'Autre Bout de la Laisse" by Jacques Galipeau, as well as for the Swedish book "Det Goda Hundagarskapet" by Mervi Karki.

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