A prep course for owners of dogs who are starting walking in Melbourne.Very recently I have had a good few FREE consultations with prospective clients for dog walks, and it's reminded me of some of the common concerns that owners have. So I thought I would explain what off lead dog walking does for dogs here.
These dogs are mostly small to mid-sized dogs, so I will mainly be addressing the issues that those owners have.
1 Small, fragile puppyMany owners get a puppy from a shop or a rescue group and quickly realise that their energy when they leave the at home to go to work ends up wrecking much of the house. Dogs chew from boredom and for teething issues mostly, and while walks won't prevent teething, we can recommend Healthy Dog Treats chews to assist natural chewing and great nutrition.
The puppies are almost invariably innocent looking, fun and happy, but there is a critical window between weening/ new owners getting their dog, and the 4 month time when they need to be with other dogs to learn appropriate social norms.
If a puppy is not socialised at the very start of its life, it will always be awkward, never reach its full balanced potential. Sure a quick other dog sniff while walking around the block can help, but its not the same as off lead play. However even if your dog hasnt had that socialisation, we can still help later in their life.
Usually by about six months mark most dogs bones are sufficiently grown, and their muscles strong enough around those bones to do adult dog off lead dog walks. These walks strengthen their bodies, but its really about the dogs learning proper dog etiquette, how much they can play, about staying with a pack, with bonding. Sure they get a lot of fun and satisfaction along the way, but this article is about what's in it for the owners !
DOGS are a major pack animal, not allowing them to walk in a pack is depriving them of a universal dog NEED.
In our pack walks, we pay extra attention to dogs that have specific issues that can make their walk a little more challenging for them. Puppies will be easily distracted, they may try and run to other dogs in other packs, join other owners and keep walking. Play too hard, be too submissive, any number of things.
Our pack is full of social dogs that by direct action and osmosis (puppies observing how other social dogs play) are perfect for teaching young puppies how to play, walk and enjoy life.
There is no safer or better place for your puppies to learn and burn energy than in our walks. Even if that is on lead initially !
2 Anxious dogsWe have met many dogs that do not display a balanced behaviour even inside of their owners home where everything should be safe.
A balanced dog does not protect the home (become excessively territorial) nor does it try and bite, defend or run away and hide behind furniture.
They are usually either curious or just a little excited with a new play friend coming around.
We always try and bring a social dog to visit on a consult so we can gauge the level of social skills and dog that might potentially be visiting with our walks.
Anxious dogs operate out of fear of the unknown. They let their imaginations run away with them and might go into fight or flight mode unnecessarily. Our walks really reduce the stress for these kinds of dogs as they soon learn that there rarely is anything to fear around social dogs.
Eventually when they walk off lead, they learn to make their own choices, become more confident and much more at ease in their life, making their home time much easier for everyone!
3 Overly aggressive or dominant dogsWhile hunting dogs and guard dog breeds, can have learned to be very independent or see many objects as prey or to be dominated, they don't have to be. Regardless of a breeds main ancestral training, most of the behaviour a dog will exhibit will be learned by the training or lack of training from the owner, and its socialisation.
Even mid-sized, non hunting dog breeds, when allowed to be alpha in a house, can be more aggressive than they should be. They should not attack an owners friends or be at a level that they can't safely be taken out to a coffee shop (outdoors cafe).
We frequently see this level of dog play - and of course many owners are shocked to hear this is not normal.
BTW dogs can be submissive, neutral or dominant. This is not good or bad, its just 'personality' that a dog has learned as a puppy. Any of these things are OK as long as they are not too impinging on other dogs. Dogs in an off lead pack learn how to use these traits to their benefit and the benefit of the pack.
If a dog is slightly dominant with our social dogs, and they persist to dominate, but are not too aggressive, they may be allowed to join our pack for trials.
IF we have any feeling that this domination may lead to a bite within the car on or the field, we ensure owners get a bite muzzle - not a hush muzzle. Or we stop their participation until dog training resolves any immediate issues.
Our usual process is that if we trust a new dog with our own dogs, we will have the new dog wear the muzzle and walk on lead, until we believe that they understand acceptable dog behaviour. They walk on lead in our off lead dog sessions and watch how other dogs greet each other. They have dogs come over and sniff and try and interact. They have to take time to assimilate.
We will often then allow a dog that appears ok to walk off lead with muzzle, then off lead no muzzle, but the time for this transition varies for every dog.
Not every owner likes a bite muzzle, but really we find a lot of the time that is fear that their own dog cant protect themselves or its human ego. We dont allow dogs to get into situations that they cant control that is our job.
We are walking these overly dominant dogs with these behaviour issues, mostly on lead very near to us, and our parks are full of social dogs. It is not a problem for us, because we are not emotionally overly attached to every dog so we can use regular techniques not bringing extra emotion into the situation. Often owners will inadvertently add their own anxiety to their own dogs that makes an anxious or dominant dog more unstable. We take that out of the equation.
Every dog we meet at a free consultation is different, as are their owners, and its the owner interaction that helps us understand much of how a dog got to be where they are. This is no major judgement, this is just us learning how to assess the dog and how it will fit into the pack on its chosen days of walks.
Many of a dogs negative issues can be from lack of socialisation. Dog training can resolve extremely dangerous issues, our ongoing walks prevent new issues from developing. Not every owner has the time or patience to get their dog into the right state of mind or go for a daily off lead dog walk. But regular dog walks are the only way to keep EVERY dog happy.
Dogs are 100% pack animals, no matter how your dog might seem to react to other dogs. Some breeds initially might have less desire to play with other dogs in the pack, but they need to be around other dogs to remember what it is to be of their own kind.
Whether your dog is an innocent puppy, a little bit anxious, or a little bit dominant, we can help . If your dog is completely neutral but overweight, our walks help.
If your dog is perfectly social, regularly walks with you, but you cant always walk with them because of other commitments or injury, we can help.
Call us and let us help.