A Bonding Walk
When I was young, our village was full of dogs, dogs who were just allowed top walk the streets then went home to go to bed. These dogs were never inoculated, never aggressive, never running, never unhappy and never unwelcome. The butcher used to throw them some of their waste meat, so they were often a stop on the route for the dogs. I remember seeing the dogs at the same time every day passing my house on their way top their next port of call. They often used to hang around the grassy area opposite our house if the weather was nice, just laying down, enjoying the sun and watching the people pass by. There was never a dog poo problem and never children who were frightened of these dogs.
Dogs routinely lived to 18 and very few suffered from arthritis and dysplasia. They were often so cross bred we had no idea what their heritage was and the pure bred dogs had very few health issues. There was no such thing as a puppy farm and cross bred dogs were not worth any money.
Fast forward today, no dogs allowed to roam (not a bad thing ad due to the increase in traffic they would get run over), a major dog poo problem, a major dog aggression problem and dog anxiety issues. I do believe these all go hand in hand. The dogs are generally inoculated with routine yearly vaccinations, some studies have shown that too much vaccine can cause other health problems; stuck in a house more, they have less experiences, more time alone, more intensive walks, causing joint problems but much less time to socialise. Cross bred dogs are all the rage, often costing more than a pure bred, many having health issues due to the cross, their parents may be cheap dogs with no health checks and they fund someone’s holiday every year. Other times, they are bred in a shed to a mum who has just lived to breed, people often feel so sorry for the puppies, they buy then to get them away from the horror and encourage the breeder to breed again!
Dogs today have many issues, ranging from physical to mental. They routinely pass away before they reach double figures and many have some physical issues, even from birth. Dogs are often bred for their looks, not their health.
Many people have less time than people did, people have to work more to fund their lifestyle, expensive phones and gadgets are common place and these also take
up their time, so quick energy release walks have the desired effect, quickly removing the energy and leaving a lethargic dog home alone to sleep, so they don't get bored and destructive, but what we are teaching is an erratic mental state, which does not teach a calm state of mind, but that running around and using lots of energy in short bursts is the way to
be, so when you have a weekend and want a lie in, you have a demanding dog that does not want to chill, but rather go out for its crazy run that is damaging its joints. Puppies are needing runs when their joints are not fully formed, causing a life of damage, but their owners feel this is the only way to stop them eating the furniture.
All dogs can be taught that using their brain is as good as the physical stimulation. Brain games are great. Play scent games at home. Have plenty of chews around the house, plastic bone chews, antlers, horns etc., the more the merrier and chewing these not only stops puppies learning to chew the furniture, but it triggers calming effects to the brain and helps them chill out.
Bonding with their human is very important too. A good bond improves good manners, being a unit with their human and improves attentiveness. Praise often, this can not be stressed enough, dogs love to think you are happy with them. Be unpredictable, it stops them getting bored, and it encourages them to be attentive to you, they like change, and if they think you may suddenly wander off, they are more likely to be aware of what you are doing, encouraging them to follow you. Play games and teach them tricks, this makes their brain function and gives them something to think about afterwards.
Group sniffing is a great way for dogs to bond. It teaches them unity and trust. We need to learn from them. Take a bag full of treasures. Take some really smelly treats, such as cheese, meat, sausage etc. Take a rag with some scent on it (lavender essential oil is good for the calm state, but fox poo adds a great natural scent for them), put it in an airtight labelled box. Take an item for them to explore, this could be a toy, a plastic bottle, a piece of hose pipe etc. Take a chew toy or one time chew that they can eat. Take a long line lead. At no point on the walk encourage barking or running. Trotting or walking with a calm state of mind is the aim of the game. Choose a route, try and keep it varied, it does not have to be long, just as peaceful as possible and as varied as possible.
Keep them on the long line, travelling calmly by you. Walk to a quiet area where you can bond. Talking very quietly, no shouting or reprimanding. If they do something that had an elevated state of mind, calmly pull them in on their long line, sit or stand calmly and quietly and just wait until their mood stabilises. Once they are calm, you can continue on your way. When you get there, where? Anywhere really, aim for a place with very little distractions to practice tranquillity and bonding, go in your bag and pull out a food treat. Get them interested in what you are holding. Hold it in a closed hand and show it to them, encouraging them to sniff it. Use a phrase, such as “what's this?” still using your quiet, calm voice, when they are showing an interest, open your hand and say “eat it!”. Then pull out your smelly thing, hold it closed in your hand, again say “what's this?” encourage them to smell it, and join them in the fun, this is a natural bonding process for dogs. Then use another food treat, repeat. Then get out the item, encourage them to sniff it, they can hold it if they like or lick it. Then put it away. Finally give them the chew, they can lay down and enjoy it. When you are finished, pack everything away and calmly go on with your walk. This will help them to use their brains, encourage bonding with you and teach them how to self calm.
The bonding walk needs practicing frequently, it is especially useful for puppies who should not be out on long walks, but restricted to roughly one minute walk per week of their life, and dogs who are struggling to be so active or when the weather is very hot and you do not wish to have dogs collapsing around you due to the heat.
Have fun bonding.