BlackLabradorI have just been to see a Bramble, a black labrador – very much like my own Monty the Mont.

On the whole Bramble is very well behaved, though in some respect just the very fact he a dog being a dog is causing a litle bit of trouble. He likes to sniff.  With a dog’s nose being his number one sense for taking in information – immeasurably better than our own sense of smell – he can tell a lot about a visitor by sniffing them. I always smell very interesting and doggy, and I welcome a dog’s interest in me!

Owners feel, probably quite rightly, that some people don’t like being sniffed but it’s a big thing to ask of a dog not to investigate someone new coming into his house. In fact, a shy dog or a fearful dog won’t casually sniff someone – so a polite olfactory investigation indicates the dog is confident and friendly.

Bramble’s main problem is the usual – pulling on lead – along with too much sniffing and leg-lifting for the liking of his owners!

What is a walk to a dog? It has certainly nothing to do with exercise for its own sake or keeping fit, I’m sure. You would never see the wolves in Yellowstone Park running around for no other reason than to keep fit.  A walk to a dog is about sniffing, marking to exchange messages with other dogs, exploring and hunting. Getting a dog to forego all this to walk beside us is quite a big ask, which most dogs accept. I believe there is a compromise. Let’s make the walk as rewarding for the dog as possible whilst having him walking beside us and not weeing in antisocial places.

This means walking beside us like there is no lead at all.  This can’t be done on a heavy chain lead, but requires a lightweight longish loose lead, allowing him to hang back or go a bit forward or to the side for a sniff.  It means the owners compromise on their goal of getting to a pre-planned desination at a pre-set time and go for a wander. Be more relaxed about it.

We say ‘I’m taking the dog for a walk’.  A dog walk. What we often do is to force the dog to go on a human walk.  A no-sniffing, no-exploring route march. If his head is a couple of  inches in front of our left knee we jerk him back with the lead and ‘correct’ him.  This results in us sending our impatient emotions down the lead.  This results in discomfort around the dog’s neck. This results in some stress and tension – not a good state of mind for him to be in if another dog appears. Any dog would understandably think he’d like to get away from this discomfort. So he pulls. Other contributing factors to pulling are taking a predictable route and not giving proper leadership generally.

By going on a ‘magical mystery tour’ all over the place rather than on a set route, and by being allowed to do doggy things, Bramble should eventually enjoy walking on a loose lead now that his owners can see things from his point of view.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.