Using Packwalking as a Tool for Bringing New Members Into Your Family
By: Kelly Haywood
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!