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The Lost Art of Leash Walking

AKC has just announced a new fitness incentive program for people and dogs called FIT DOG. Its goals coincide with the recommendation by the American Heart Association that people walk at least 150 minutes per week. People who walk their dogs 30 minutes three times per week receive a car magnet. (Personally, I’d throw in a shirt and a coupon for a pair of good walking shoes, too, but you have to start somewhere…)

With more than 50 percent of the canine population of the United States overweight, it sounds like the nation’s dogs would benefit from a stroll around the block, too.

But those walks need to be pleasant walks, and many people struggle with cooperative leash walking with their furry friends. Some dogs are strong enough to pull you over, and not every family member charged with walking the dog is strong and agile. Although we must abide by leash laws, we could do with more leash training, starting when puppies enter our homes.

Puppies may learn to drag a leash, follow a person holding a leash, and yield to moderate pressure. Adolescents are ready to navigate patterns and turns, wait at thresholds, and demonstrate impulse control. All dogs benefit from learning not to sniff or hunt on walks; rather, they should interact with their owners and ask for permission before exploring the environment.

Walking the dog should engage you both in heart-pumping exercises, bonding, and obedience practice. If the AKC’s new program gets you excited about the prospect of getting the dog out of the house and into the world, I’m all for it. I love the promise of renewed socialization, environmental enrichment, and exercise 150 minutes of weekly leash walking offers.

If you’d like help getting traction on walking the dog — for relief from pulling, sniffing, lizards, and more, please call us. We can check your equipment, teach you how to navigate doors and foyers safely, stop hunting, and introduce patterns that will teach your dog to follow your leg and walk without pulling.

You can get more information on AKC FIT Dog here: AKC FIT Dog