Walking Dogs - The Use of Pole Weaving
Recently, I started walking dogs regularly for a family; specifically I began walking THREE HUGE dogs. I enjoy it a great deal. However,
being a dog trainer,
I can’t just engage in simple dog walking; I always feel the need to engage in leash training while walking dogs. When walking these dogs, I have dealt with the usual issues in leash training; pulling, not paying attention, wanting to chase squirrels, etc. However, one of these canines displays a particular behavior which I would like to address here; she likes to go on the opposite side of poles from the side that I am on, thus getting her leash wrapped around those poles. So, herein, I would like to address a useful
dog obedience training
strategy which I have dubbed “pole weaving.” Pole weaving was actually a technique that I always used when teaching about walking dogs on a loose leash in dog obedience training classes; but I realize that I haven’t shared it with many people since then.
What is pole weaving? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like; weaving around poles. I find that schools with outdoor hallways are excellent places to practice pole weaving, but if that’s not convenient, you can just try this whenever you happen to be walking dogs and you come across a pole or tree along your path.
Why practice pole weaving? There are a couple of reasons. Most importantly, it teaches canines to pay more attention to their handlers when they are out walking dogs. In addition, it teaches these canines what to do if their leashes happen to get wrapped around something; a useful skill for a dog.
Here’s how to practice pole weaving: Whenever you are approaching a pole (or tree) while walking your dog, pay attention to which side of the pole Fido is heading for, and deliberately walk on the other side. If Fido is not paying attention, and you are it walking it on a loose leash, it will end up with its leash wrapped around the pole. Now, at this point, most people would just unwrap the leash from the pole. However, this teaches your canine nothing. The trick here is to make your dog’s only choice to be to come back around the pole to your side; thus causing it to unwrap its own leash.
This definitely can be some work, I admit it. Most dogs want to keep going forward, and will pull against the wrapped-up leash, and/or keep going around the pole to get back to their humans; thus getting more wrapped up. So, the first thing you do is back up a little as Fido’s leash starts to touch the pole. The resulting pull on the leash can be enough to get many canines to turn back toward their humans. They can then be guided back around the poles in question. However, if your dog keeps going forward, or tries to keep going around the pole, then you need to move your hand up your dog’s leash so that your hand is closer to Fido’s collar, and really pull your canine back around with the leash. Some dogs will fight this, so make sure that yours can’t pull its head out of its collar when it struggles. If the collar is loose, you will need to hold your dog by the collar as you guide it. If your dog just isn’t getting what it needs to do, then you may need to push your dog some in the right direction. Do not give up, and rescue your dog from being tangled. Make it figure out what it needs to do.
Of course, as with every new skill, your canine will need repetition with this; particularly if you have always been one of those people that simply unwraps the leash from poles anytime this has happened when walking your dog in the past. However, people who consistently do this when walking dogs, find that first Fido will come back around a pole as soon as the people start to back up; and, eventually, Fido will watch those people see what side of a pole they are approaching.
The need for repetition is the reason that I like to deliberately practice walking dogs at schools so that I can practice this. Schools with outdoor hallways have long columns of poles around which you can truly weave with your canine. Some dogs will catch on if you simply alternate going to the right, then left, then right, etc, as you go around these poles, and will start assuming that this pattern will continue. This can cause them to think it’s okay to stop paying attention to their handlers. So,really concentrate on how you can trick Fido into having to pay attention to what you are doing every time you come to a pole, by switching things up often. In many situations, it can just take one session of this pole weaving for canines to get this. You can actually observe canines, who have learned this, catching themselves before they get their leashes caught. This is a great victory for a dog, because it alleviates the stress they feel when all of a sudden their leashes are caught around something. It’s that stress that causes many of them to start fighting against their leashes. Canines that have experienced this pole weaving will calmly go back around poles, on their own. as soon as they feel that tug on their leashes from them touching poles, with no fight.
The huge bonus in this procedure is that your dogs will start paying more attention to their handlers, even when there are no poles. The pole weaving will help them to understand that paying attention to people, while being walked, is important. As for the dog that caused me to write this article, this is the technique that I used the most with her to teach her to pay attention to me. And today, when I walked her, she checked in with me throughout our walk. I was greatly pleased, and let her know. No leashes entanglements on that dog walk.
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