Walk the Walk

    When Dogs Are Under Control, We All Win

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    A friend of mine is afraid of dogs and always imagines scenarios that might unfold when someone approaches with a dog that does not appear to be under control. In Richmond and the surrounding counties, there are leash laws that require dogs to be on leash, although each municipality can specifically designate at the local level. Most localities designate dogs must be on leash in public areas and may be off leash, and under verbal control, in designated off leash areas.

    If you are approached by a dog that is off leash, standing still is your best strategy.Reprimanding the approaching dog in a deep voice has had success in warding off an approaching dog as well.

    Of course, first, it is the responsibility of the owner or handler to have control of their dogs at all times and to maintain a proper distance from other people and dogs. It is also the responsibility of the handler to be responsive to a dog’s reactions to possible distractions – such as people and other dogs or prey – while on leash or off leash and subject to a verbal command. Verbal control simply means that a handler can stop her dog from reacting to distractions with one simple verbal command. If the dog is not completely compliant with this verbal command, it is courteous and smart to have your dog on leash.

    Maintaining proper distance from other people and dogs is a courtesy, comparable to letting folks exit an elevator before entering. In order to maintain this space a handler must be aware of her surroundings, pay attention to her dog’s behaviors and signals, and have strategies for correcting and calming a dog when a reaction happens. Handlers should quickly adjust to gain better control of the dog by shortening the leash and using calming techniques with corrections or redirection to maintain leading the walk.

    Having control of your dog at all times simply means keeping your dog close to you, leading the walk while having your dog pay attention to you a majority of the time, and being aware of your surroundings and ready to respond when necessary. Having control does not mean keeping your dog on a taut leash. Having control does mean learning how to have a structured walk, with your dog walking by your side on a loose leash a high percentage of the time. This walk is for both mental and physical stimulation. A structured walk is a key element to achieving a balanced dog. Another aspect of properly managing your dog on a walk is knowing your dog’s temperament. With this knowledge, you can become an advocate for your dog and introduce your pup to other dogs and people with polite manners and proper etiquette.Leash work is a training skill for both you and your dog to master. Leash manners will help you feel more confident and comfortable walking your dog and will help others feel safer meeting your dog.

    The structured walk is a three-part process – creating calm before the walk, mastering the loose lead heel walk, and having reactions-to-distractions strategies.With these parts in place, you can see positive changes in your dog’s overall personality. Remember: A balanced dog is eager to please you, follows commands, rests when not engaged, follows the rules, and does not demand attention. Teaching a dog leash manners, etiquette for greeting, and the structured walk will allow each of us, whether we have a dog or not, to enjoy the outdoors – in neighborhoods and parks throughout Greater Richmond.

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    Jennifer Kyzer
    Jennifer Kyzer has been training dogs and their humans since 2005. Owner of 2 Speak Dog and a mom of two, she and her family live in the city. She works wherever the dogs take her.