This morning I am sitting thinking about where to take the dogs. I'm not one to go on the same walk day in and day out. Lots of people do; I see the same folks walking by my house everyday, same time too. Don't they get bored? I get bored on walks easily, especially if I was just walking down the street. I like scenery so I always get in the car and go to a park, field or beach.
A couple of days ago I was at a park with Elsa, we were doing lots of heel training when a lady went by with her lab. The lab seemed like a nice dog. As Elsa and I took a sharp right turn the lab tried to follow us; the lady held on as the dog continued to choke itself. Yes it had a choke collar on. We passed this same dog a couple of times on our walk and as I watched the woman going around bushes, over bridges and around the field she was literally dragging her dog everywhere. This brought to mind the subject of communication. Why not tell your dog where you are going instead of simply yanking?
If you have a well trained dog then communication doesn't need to come in the verbal form, it can just be body language. Imagine walking with your human partner hand in hand and suddenly taking a sharp left, then in a few minutes you lunge right without any heads up. That person who's hand you are holding would more than likely be letting go of you pretty quickly. How annoying? More than likely in reality you would have said "let's go this way or that way" right? Then why not give your dog the same courtesy or 'heads up?'
The lady with the lab was with her small daughter who was riding a bicycle around the park. This meant that there was lots of direction changes many of them sudden. I even saw the woman trying to get her dogs head out of a bush by leaning back and putting her weight into a long and tedious tugging match. That poor dogs neck was taking a beating.
Teaching your dog direction changes is really easy. All you have to do is have their attention and repeat the same word each time before you turn in a certain direction. My words are lets go, turn and this way.
Let's go; mean to stop sniffing, looking or whatever you're doing and come with me. In the training stage they are rewarded for following along with me.
Turn; means that I will be turning into the dog. Typically this is used when I we are heeling. I want the dog to understand that they must hold back as I turn and then turn with me. This is learned very fast usually.
This way; has a broader use. It can be used on leash or off. What it means is that I am changing direction so heads up. Then the dog must follow whatever way I am going. On a heel it means I'm turning right so the dog must hurry around to keep up.
When you use these words or any other words to communicate direction changes it becomes routine. I use them without thinking and shudder when I see people just yanking their dog around as they turn or change direction. A simple heads up can make all the difference.