By Adam Summerford
I wanted to write a followup to the pack walking blog from a few weeks ago. Kelly’s post was a good example of how pack walking can help add new members into your pack, such as having a child, getting a roommate, or a new dog. Pack walking is an invaluable training method that should be integral to your pack’s life.
So what is packwalking? Dogs in the wild would go on a pack walk in order to hunt for food. It is in their innate nature to go out as a closely bonded group in order to achieve a goal together. While I doubt you are going to be hunting caribou with your pack, the basic premise is still extremely helpful in creating a strong bond with your dog. There are a few important points to remember as you start packing walking.
1. Placement: When you are on a pack walk it is important to pay attention to how you and your dog are positioned. Dogs should be beside you, not walking in front of you- this it what makes pack walking a bonding activity. This is important for a few reasons. First, you want to be the one leading the walk, not your dog. This helps reinforce positive behavior,leadership, and taps into the innate understanding of what a dog truly wants out of life- someone to show them the way. It is our job as owners to be benevolent leaders to our dog and show them what we expect out of our world. Packwalking shows the dog, without telling them, leadership through your actions. Secondly, this is a bonding activity, so you want to all be in a line, not spread out across the road.
Because pack walking is so important to bringing new members into your pack, doing it correctly is key to your success. So you want to start with the owners walking beside each other, with the dogs on the outside. Once the dogs attention is focused on the owners, not on all of the outside distractions, you can start mixing up the placement of the dogs so that they are attentive to both owners. You can start alternating owner – dog – owner – dog. Or even owner – dog- dog – owner.
2. Intention: When you are on a pack walk you need to have a purpose. Even, if this purpose is just to walk down the street and back, think of it as your pack out on an adventure together. If you are getting the mail, you are both going to get the mail together. If you are going to get the mail and the dog is focused on sniffing the bushes, then you guys have two separate purposes. Remember this is a together thing, so it is important that you are all out to complete the same task.
3. Tools: Keep your dog on a 4 or 6 foot leash, never a retractable leash. This is important because it allows you to control your dog and makes sure that they stay near you. Using a shorter leash will keep your dog close to you, reinforcing that you are working together. Your dog should always be on a loose leash, you shouldn’t be pulling them back or restraining them.
The most important thing to remember about pack walking, is that it is a bonding activity, it is about togetherness and doing something as a pack. Dogs are naturally pack animals, so training activities such as this tap into the innate knowledge of dogs. It helps demonstrate leadership and respect to your pack. It is also a fun way to get exercise and spend time with your dogs.
We know you love your dog and you want to make sure that they are eating healthy and nutritious food. With so many brands on the market it can be hard to figure out what the right choice is. The first step is to look at the ingredient panel of your dog’s current food and to know how to identify what are good ingredients and which ones you should stay away from. The chart below shows some of the most common ingredients that you want to watch out for. Additionally, you can see how commercial brands often use these cheap fillers in place of quality nutritious ingredients.
Once you know how to read the back of the food bag, you can decide which food is right for your pup and your wallet. Dog food that is made up primarily of cheap fillers, provide only modest nutrition per cup, so you will need to feed your dog a lot more. Looking at the same four popular dog food brands, we can see the difference in how much, on average, that you would feed a 50 lb dog. So, it might actually save you money to buy a slightly more expensive bag of food.
Another great tool for picking dog food is to check out sites that provide nutritional analysis and information on hundreds of brands of dog food. Sites such as dogfoodadvisor.com rank food on a scale of 1-5 stars, can help you choose food and keep you up to date on recalls!
At the end of this week, I’m getting married. Lot’s of changes have been happening and all 100% great…at least for the humans in this relationship. My fiancé (Bailey) and I both have a dog so we are becoming a pack of 2 adults and 2 dogs. Not only has our pack doubled, our attention has shifted from our dogs to each other. To a dog, this is a huge adjustment.
Bringing this pack together has taken some work. His dog/my new dog (Buddy) is a 3 year old carefree, happy dog and my dog/his new dog (Riley) is a 9 year old restless, semi-grumpy old lady. Luckily, our dogs get along pretty well – Buddy has taken on the role as the annoying little brother with gusto while Riley is the bossy big sister. Adjusting to a new home, new family and new routine can be tough on any dog…and humans for that matter!
For the last couple of months, we’ve been doing a lot of blending: our stuff, our styles, our routines and our packs. Bailey and I decided we needed to give the dogs something they can count on every day – a pack walk.
Each morning, the alarm goes off between 4:45-5:00 AM. The humans guzzle coffee while we get dressed and then it’s walk time. When we first started, the dogs anxiously paced all over the house, whining and going back and forth between us and the door. After a couple of weeks, that has gone away. Buddy and Riley wait patiently around the house while we get ready because they have settled into the routine and they know the walk is coming.
Typically, we walk for about 30 minutes. Buddy is a great walker while Riley “needs improvement”. She is rarely on a leash – I’m lucky enough to have one of those dogs that doesn’t run off. I’ve always exercised her with a Chuck-it, tennis ball and an open space. Walking has not been something we’ve made a priority until recently. After a couple weeks, she got better. Walking as often as we do, Riley has figured out that this is important – her job – what the pack does. Maybe she is competing with Buddy – who cares! She’s happy and loves it.
When we get home, the dogs settle in with a drink of water and lay around the A/C vent while they wait for us to feed them – another huge change. When we first merged our pack, Buddy would start pacing the house around 4AM ready for breakfast which made Riley start pacing. His old routine was breakfast at 5AM. For an hour, I’d listen to him pace back and forth. Thankfully, that has stopped. His new routine has changed his thinking – he knows he has got to do his job first then breakfast.
The trainers at WTD push pack walking all the time – is the most basic, important thing you can do with your dog. I know clients aren’t taking it seriously – I was a client so I know your mentality. Typical excuses: work, travel, social life, kids, tired, sick – life in general. I’ve seen some pretty incredible things happen with dogs in my 3+ years at WTD, but in the last two months, my own personal work at home with pack walking has blown me away. For us, here it what’s happened with our pack:
1) Improved behavior from both Riley and Buddy
2) Improved walking manners from Riley
3) Buddy doesn’t pace from 4AM – 5AM
4) The dogs are calm in the morning
5) The humans are getting exercise 7 days a week
6) The humans have 30 minutes together to talk or just be
7) The pack has bonded – the four of us all do something together at least once a day
8) Buddy and I are bonding and Riley and Bailey are bonding
Really…we couldn’t ask for better results!
During the lifespan of a dog, your life is going to change and you are going to have to make certain adjustments to stabilize your pack. Marriage, divorce, new babies, new job, moving — life. Your dog is part of your pack and as a dog owner, you get the privilege of taking care of your dog. Grab your spouse/partner/boyfriend/girlfriend and your dog and go walk. Put your kids in that stroller you registered for and never use – or put them on skates/bikes/skateboards (or just in walking shoes) and go spend time as a pack walking. Giving your pack a little bit of time and attention is going to make a huge difference – I promise!
This week we wanted to share the story of one of our training clients Romey, the Havenese, who came to We Talk Dog for training after a culmination of aggressive behaviors that resulted in Romey biting Libby, his young owner.
After the family dog died when Libby was two, she excitedly counted down the days until her 5th birthday, on which she was told she could get a dog. Romey, the Havenese, joined the family when he was 12 weeks old and started attending daycare at We Talk Dog shortly after.
Libby immediately became Romey’s biggest advocate and the two have been inseparable ever since. For awhile the family had noticed some mild “grumpy” behaviors that eventually escalated into Romey biting Libby when she tried to pick him up from a chair. Romey came to We Talk Dog the next morning and stayed for two weeks of training.
While in training Adam worked to modify some of Romey’s behaviors and teach him the rules and boundaries that he would need when he returned home. Romey learned a lot about how to interact with his owners, especially the smallest leader of the pack, Libby. He also learned structure so when it is time for things like homework, Romey can go and lay in his bed and relax. He learned that children play differently then how dogs play.
Libby wrote about Romey’s training for a school project. She learned that Romey acted out of fear from being startled and that she could modify her behavior to make sure that Romey was not woken abruptly. She wanted to share the information she had learned about dog training with her classmates.
The whole family was an active part of Romey’s training and they worked with Adam during training and upon Romey’s return home to make sure that he became a well mannered member of their family. The family learned how to give Romey the security that he needed while continuing to reinforce positive behaviors. Romey learned that his family would take of all of his needs and he did not need to be stressed or concerned with anything.
With Halloween right around the corner we thought it would be good to reshare some information to keep your pups safe and happy this Halloween.
Ok, so it’s time to torture ourselves with our best frien-emy ever…Halloween candy. And our pups usually love it as much as we do! While candy is ok for us in moderation, there are some foods and candies we love that can be lethal for dogs even in the smallest amounts. Be sure to keep your furry family members safe this Halloween with some helpful tips on candies and how to help them make it through trick-or-treating!
Pet Poison Helpline’s Top Halloween Dangers for Dogs
ASPCA’s Top 10 Halloween Safety Tips