Social Distancing On Dog Walks – Guide by StarPetStore

It’s new, this widespread practice of people and their dogs socially distancing from others while on walks. Though not pleasing to everyone, I think a lot of good has come from this particular societal change. I have long believed that random on-leash greetings can be problematic.

Some dogs—even those who get along well with others when off-leash—don’t like to be greeted when they’re on-leash and unable to decline the opportunity. Other dogs are pushy, which ruins the experience for those they greet. Plenty of dogs are cautious and would rather just walk on by.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that many owners do not recognize the signs of distress, anxiety, nervousness or fear in their dogs during a greeting that isn’t going well. Instead of removing their dogs from a situation that’s upsetting them, they remain in place. As behavioral geneticist Alice Moon-Fanelli, PhD, CAAB, observed in an opinion shared by many canine professionals, “I think it’s fabulous that owners are being obligated to learn to teach their dogs to focus on the owners and social distance. …The casual free-for-all introductions trouble me big time.”

Will we or won’t we? Uncertainty about dog-dog greetings leads to tension

In the before times, when walkers and their dogs approached one another, there was often uncertainty about whether there would be a greeting. The “will we or won’t we?” greeting conundrum causes angst and excitement, which motivates dogs to act out in ways based on their personalities. Social dogs try to make contact by pulling, barking and whining, and fearful dogs do their best to avoid contact by pulling, barking and whining. Both types of dogs are letting their owners know what they want. So often, inconsistency about greeting other dogs while on-leash is part of the problem. Many dogs get themselves really worked up, perhaps because they don’t know what’s about to happen and are trying to express their preference. Suspense and inconsistency are not ideal for keeping a dog calm and in control. Now, there’s no uncertainty about the situation. The answer is always no.

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Young dogs are learning self-control

There is a huge benefit, especially for young dogs, who are learning to practice self- and impulse control, to not greeting other dogs while out on walks. Developing those skills is critically important for them to mature into pleasant, polite adults who are able to handle all kinds of situations, including those they may not thoroughly enjoy. Learning good manners is often about controlling oneself, and dogs who have to watch other dogs walk on by when they want to greet them are practicing that on a daily basis. Exuberant, friendly dogs of any age may not love social distancing, but they can benefit from it, nonetheless.

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Social distancing offers many training opportunities for dogs

Teaching a dog to do something other than run up to greet another dog takes a considerable amount of effort, and lately, more people are focusing on it. As Barbara Long, professional dog trainer and owner of Paw in Hand Dog Training in Chapel, Hill, N.C., notes, “It has been an excellent training opportunity. My own puppy loves every dog she sees and thinks that all dogs love her. It’s so good for her to learn that she can look at other dogs without meeting them.” Many dog owners have noticed that their dogs also love the extra treats they get as they change direction on cue, crossing the street or heading off the side of the trail when they see other people and dogs coming. Happily, this extra training is making some dogs more attentive and responsive to cues in other contexts as well.

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Shy dogs are in heaven!

For dogs who are shy or scared and prefer not to meet new dogs, social distancing is the best thing ever. Many owners are noticing that their shy dogs seem more secure. After months of not having to cope with dogs running up to them or people trying to pet them, they are less vigilant and more relaxed.

People with reactive dogs may love this new normal the most

For people whose dogs are reactive or aggressive, this may be the best thing that’s happened to them in a long time. With other owners keeping themselves and their dogs at a distance, life has gotten a lot easier for anyone dealing with a dog who’s at her worst when approached. Not only does it make each walk a better experience—not so stressful or requiring such constant vigilance—but many of these dogs are improving overall and becoming less reactive.

After months of having far fewer experiences that cause them to react, they’re better able to deal with various triggers without reacting in a negative way. (The way dog trainers tend to express this is by noting that it’s easier for the dogs to stay “under threshold.”) As dogs who used to struggle go on many consecutive walks without a problem, they are adding to the daily successes that are so essential for long-term improvement. Each time a dog reacts on a walk, that dog is more likely to react again—even to milder triggers—because she’s primed. It’s kind of like getting the giggles and then even slightly amusing things cause you to laugh uncontrollably, or seeing a scary movie and then the smallest sound makes you jump.

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It is, however, hard on social dogs and social people

Even with all of the concerns about on-leash greetings, I feel for the many dogs who enjoy greeting one another and aren’t able to do so. Humans and canines who seek frequent social interaction enjoy the greetings, conversations, hellos and meeting over smells in the grass. Not only do such individuals cherish the chance to connect with others they know, walks also offer opportunities to make new friends. Dogs are great social facilitators, and it’s easy to meet new people when you’re out walking your dog. The dogs greet, you get to talking, and the next thing you know, you’ve planned a weekend hike or arranged to meet up for cocktails. That was then, this is now, and the now is lacking in spontaneous contacts that lead to friendships. For dogs and people who love the interactions that happen on walks, it’s just a big bummer.

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Greeting practice is good for some dogs

Here, I’m referring to dogs who need to practice greeting to remember how to do it correctly. It’s not a common problem; many dogs who don’t have good greeting skills don’t get any worse without opportunities. And very social dogs may get excited and overly enthusiastic when they’re finally able to greet other dogs, but they don’t truly forget how to do it. But for dogs who were never well socialized and had to be taught proper greeting skills when they were older, lack of practice can be an issue. It’s analogous to learning a foreign language as an adult: it’s never as good as your native language, and you require more practice at it to keep from forgetting what you learned.

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What does this mean for socialization?

While it’s absolutely true that puppies have fewer opportunities to meet and greet other dogs and people, it’s important to question the assumption that this is a bad thing. Sure, it could pose socialization challenges for young dogs. However, it may make it easier to guarantee that all the exposures dogs have to people and other dogs are positive, which is the actual goal of socialization. When puppies were vulnerable to others charging up to them, there was always the chance that they would be scared, stressed or overwhelmed. With others at a distance, it’s far more likely that owners can control the situation for the sake of their new puppy by insisting others stay away without being perceived as rude or unfriendly. They can easily turn and walk away if they decide that’s what would best serve the puppy at that moment. They can offer treats, toys and happy talk every time a person or dog is in the vicinity without concern that the people or dogs will charge over and ruin a potentially positive experience.

Clearly, there are pluses and minuses to socially distancing on walks. On the up side, many dogs are happier and more confident, which allows them to learn and practice new skills. On the down side, the social opportunities for both people and dogs to greet one another while out on walks is greatly missed by many. Not all dogs are reacting the same way to the change. A friend has two dogs whose responses are exactly opposite one another. She describes her dogs’ experiences succinctly: “This is heaven for Saylor. She’d like everybody to remain physically distant for eternity! Marley, though. He’s not digging it at all.”

Has social distancing on walks affected your dog? We’d love to hear your take on the matter.

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TOP 20 FAQ’s About Dog Walk:

Walk in Front of Your Dog

Walking in front of your dog allows you to be seen as the pack leader. Conversely, if your dog controls you on the walk, he's the pack leader. You should be the first one out the door and the first one in. Your dog should be beside or behind you during the walk.

Walking them separately lets them all walk at their own pace. 6. Loose leash walking is easier with one dog. Of course multiple dogs can be taught loose leash walking through proofing.

Yes, dogs can get bored of the same walking route. Just like humans, dogs can get bored of the same walk day in and day out. Dogs love to experience new sights, smells and people! If your pup is acting out of sorts, it might be time to change up the same old boring routine.

Also, a general rule-of-thumb is that your dog should spend between 30 minutes and two hours being active every day. A general guide for exercise per breed size is: ... They have moderate exercise needs with a daily walk of 20 to 30 minutes.

In general, most dogs benefit from between 30 minutes to two hours of physical activity per day (source). That averages out to 3.5 to 14 hours of walking per week. Many people break that time up into two or three walks per day.

Handy Tips:
  1. “Heel” is traditionally on your left side for obedience and rally competitions.
  2. Hold your treat hand at your chest. ...
  3. Be sure to treat with the hand next to your dog to prevent him from crossing in front of you to get the treat.
  4. Always tell your dog when he is correct with a click or a “yes.”

Possible reasons why your dog looks up at you when walking are that it wants to see what you are doing, it is looking for direction from you, it wants something from you, or something such as you pulling up on the leash.

To use positive reinforcement training to get your dog to stop walking ahead of you on the leash you would do as follows:
  1. Start walking it on the leash with some treats.
  2. Stop when it is about to walk ahead of you and get it to pay attention to you.
  3. Reward it for stopping and paying attention to you then carry on walking.

Walking The Same Side Or Different Sides

Dogs that are familiar with each other and your walking routine will walk by your side and not zigzag across the street. When you see a dog about to move to the other side, quickly step into that space. Lead the dogs, don't let the dogs lead you

Frequently asked questions about walking your dog

The amount of exercise your dog needs will vary according to its breed, but every dog should have at least one walk a day, often two.

Yes, canine owners can lose weight by walking their dogs. Daily walks at a brisk pace around 30 minutes can help you burn anywhere from 90 to 200 calories. ... For some dogs or people, walking won't be enough exercise to lose weight. Fortunately, there are many fun ways to exercise your dog properly.

Dogs, like us, need to increase fitness over time. If they are not used to more than a 10-minute walk or playtime, suddenly expecting more than an hour of activity can set them up for injury and medical problems.

Dogs who exercise before or after eating can develop bloat. Mostly a problem with large breed dogs, bloat is a digestive problem that causes the stomach to blow up like a balloon.

Most dogs can tolerate 20-30 minute dog walks on a daily basis if they have a relatively good body condition. Some dogs in great physical health can tolerate walks up to 2 hours or go hiking for hours at a time.

Exercise is essential for all dogs. It helps keep them in shape but is really important for their mental health, too. It's so important that all dogs get a daily walk to keep them happy and healthy. ... Not getting enough exercise can cause health problems, such as obesity, but can also lead to behavioural problems.

Hook your pup to his leash, call his name, and start walking away briskly without looking back. Your pup should follow you and try to catch up with you on the side you have the leash held. If he does, give him a treat. If he doesn't come to your side, slow down, call his name, and use a treat to lure him to your side.

With the dog in front of you (waiting for his treat) put the right hand treat in front of his nose (don't let him have it) and lure him around behind you until he can see the treat in your left hand. Tell the dog 'yes' as he moves into the heel position on your left and give him the treat from your left hand.

A general rule of thumb to use is, If the outdoor temperature is too hot or cold for a human to be comfortable, it's too severe for your dog. Hot temperatures, combined with humidity, can cause dehydration and heatstroke. Temperatures lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit can cause hypothermia or frostbite.

Pulling and dragging a pup can not only injure their necks and dislocate knees and elbows that are still rubbery (and with growth plates still not closed), but also give them a highly negative, unhappy association with you, the leash, and going on walksDragging and using force can only make matters worse!

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