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.