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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5 Tips for Walking Multiple Dogs

by Michael Baugh, CDBC CPDT-KSA 
Tanner and Oliver Enjoy a Morning Walk

Here’s the scene: you and a couple of dogs, maybe three, on a pleasant stroll through the neighborhood.  You nod and smile to a friend driving by. There’s a breeze. All is well.  If it’s a romantic comedy (yawn), the love of your life comes along and pets your dogs – the music softens and you swoon.

If it’s a really funny romantic comedy, though, your dogs freak out. They jump all over the guy. They bark at the car driving by. Better yet, all three dogs chase after a squirrel at the same time and you go flying behind them. What a hoot!

I guess it all comes down to this. Which movie do you want to be in?

If the goal is to walk multiple dogs at the same time, then the first step is learning how to walk one dog at a time. Hate me if you must, but there are no short cuts. Let’s teach each of our dogs to walk nicely with us on leash before we make it a group project.

Give me your attention. Thank you. Let’s praise and treat our dog for looking at us (paying attention). Clicker training speeds this process along. So better yet, let’s click and treat our dog for looking at us. We haven’t started moving yet; we’re just getting our dog in the groove of looking at us – a lot. We’ll practice this inside first, then out back, then with a leash on inside, then out front with a leash on, then….

Let’s take a step. Nice. Can our dog stay attentive to us while we are moving? Yes? Click and treat. We’re only taking one or two steps at a time at first.  Still, there’s some skill involved here. Moving and praising and clicking and treating all at the same time takes practice. We can do it though.

Now let’s step it up a bit. I’ve found that walking dogs at a pace a bit faster than a human stroll works well. It also gives us a nice little cardio workout. Let’s move! We’re watching our dog. When he looks up (checks in) we click, treat, smile, and praise.

This way! Let’s practice changing directions now. I like to call out my intentions to my dog before I turn. This way! We’ll click and treat our dog for following along. Since we’ve taught our dog to pay attention to us already, this should be a relatively easy next step. It will come in handy if we need to lead our dog away from a potential distraction or hazard.

Break time! It’s okay to stop and let the dog sniff around a bit. That’s part of the fun. Okay, off we go again.

After we’ve taught each dog how the game works, then we can try taking a couple out together. This is really more fun if you have another person (each one with a dog). But it’s doable with one person and two dogs as well. Here’s what we want to avoid.
  • Devices that connect the dogs to each other. These can be dangerous and they really don't look comfortable.
  • Extendable leashes. These also are a safety hazard (tangling, tripping, inability to control the dogs in an emergency). Add to that they are illegal in muicipalities that require dogs be on a leash 6-feet or shorter.
  • Yelling. Don't do it.
  • Talking on the phone or texting while walking. It's dangerous distraction. Leave the phone at home (or in your pocket) and enjoy the walk.
  • Including a dog with known behavior issues. Don't do it. Dogs that bark at, lunge at, or bite humans or dogs need individual attention and care. Some may not be suitable for walks in public at all. Seek help from a qualified dog behavior consultant.

Let’s keep our group walks short at first.  We want to make sure we all still have the hang of it. Praise, smile at, and click and treat each of the dogs for walking nicely. None of the rules of the game have changed, just the number of players.

And relax. Move. Breathe. Have fun.

Look, just down the way. There’s Ryan Reynolds. Oh, this is going to be a good movie after all. 

Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA teaches dog training in Dallas, Houston and Katy TX. He specializes in aggressive behavior and fear-related behavior in dogs.

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