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I normally called it giving my dog head, but I always get snickers when I say that, so if it comes out at some point in the thread, I realize how bad it sounds, but bad habits die hard.

Anyway, I’m curious as to how you all treat walks. For the first 10-15 minutes of the walk, I give the dogs their head (or lead, or whatever terminology works for you), and let them explore, sniff around, mark every single pole in sight, basically not giving them commands or leading them anywhere specific. After that initial head, I reign them in with verbal commands to heel and we will do about 20-30 minutes of that, and then I give them their head again and let them cool down for the last part of the walk. I’ve always used this method, and haven’t had any behavioral problems or backlash while doing so. I did forget a poo bag once, and had to walk to the door of the owner and shamefully ask her for a bag so I could clean up the poo in their yard. Sigh.

It’s always been instinctual to walk all my dogs this way. Like all the way back to my first dog that was all mine at 14 years old. My dogs have always been pets, so aren’t training for anything specific, we just enjoy our walks.

I was out walking my Husky yesterday, and was giving him his head, and my neighbor pulls up in her car and makes a crack about the dog walking me (I never allow pulling, so it’s not like he was dragging me down the street) and tells me I should train my dogs better. Huh?!?? I give them their head because they are so overly excited and happy for walks, I give them their chance to work out some of the excited energy. Then give a command to heel, and release them from heel for their cool down. So what am I missing here? I honestly assumed that’s the natural way to do it.


Does anyone else do this, or do you keep them in heel the whole time? I’m not going to change the way I walk my Husky, or my senior GSD when she has the energy to walk, but with the new pup, and her comment, it lead me to questioning a normal walking for my guys. Is there a down side to giving them their head, an upside to heel at all times on a leash? They go off leash when we go hiking, and they have great recall, it’s just the way I trained early on for walks. If I need to bring them to me during their head time, they always respond (loose dog, kids seeing them coming and wanting to rush up to pet them) and immediately go back to heel until I release them again.

Just curious what others do out there, and the thinking behind it.
 

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I'm currently working on teaching my dog a loose leash command so she knows she can relax and enjoy walks. I moved and before she was nearly never on leash unless I was taking her somewhere so it was often more heeling.

I think as long as your dogs aren't pulling and yanking or keeping tension on the lead it's fine. They respond well to your commands and enjoy themselves so I don't think you're doing anything wrong. You and your dogs enjoy it so go for it. Different methods work for different people.
 

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I do a similar thing. My theory is that the walks are for the dogs not me so we do what they enjoy. I have a few rules though. If I ask for a heel, I better get it. No yanking, I don't mind a bit of tension put not dragging me along. I may make them heel for a minute or two here and there, but basically unless we are crossing roads or passing people they are free to roam. Sabi knew heel, stay close-meaning she could wander but only a few feet, with me-which meant beside me and road-which meant stop and cross beside me at heel. She was often off leash though since we routinely made use of parks and large tracts of private property. Shadow cannot be off leash so if I made her heel all the time she would never have any fun.
 

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I do it exactly the opposite.......commanded obedience and adherence starting from inside the house at the door......once exiting, the dog stays in the heel slot for a variable amount of time......dog performs this simple task and she gets full lead to scent and explore a bit but needs to maintain a loose leash.....basically as you mentioned " I give the dogs their head (or lead, or whatever terminology works for you), and let them explore, sniff around, mark every single pole in sight, basically not giving them commands or leading them anywhere specific."


I guess my approach was more designed on having the dog exhibit some impulse control at the beginning of the "walk"......when she was most amped up.




Yes......the old remark " who's walking who" has been said to me a time or ten.....but when my dog is using the full lead.... exploring, scenting, marking, rolling on her back......it's a reward of sorts for exhibiting a tight heel when commanded.




SuperG
 

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Walking next to me, either to the right or left is default. "Okay" for using the length of the leash without pulling. She tends to prefer staying close after "Okay" anyways. Down town, she needs to heel.
 

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I was out walking my Husky yesterday, and was giving him his head, and my neighbor pulls up in her car and makes a crack about the dog walking me (I never allow pulling, so it’s not like he was dragging me down the street) and tells me I should train my dogs better. Huh?!??

Ahhh..yes...those people. They are special.

I walk my dogs on a 15' line and let them go out in front of me. Walking my dogs is for their benefit. Not to show off their training. I do that on the training/trial field. They are free. The only time I want them next to me is if I'm walking by a house with loose dogs or a car is coming.

I normally called it giving my dog head
Horse person??
 

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Jax, yes, a horse person. I grew up riding and barrel racing. Never made that connection myself, so weird!

I do make the dogs sit while getting leashed up, make them sit by the door and not move until I say “good, let’s go,” then they know they can exit the door and begin the walk. And exactly like Jax said, I do the walks for the dogs enjoyment and it calms me too, he has his agility classes and obedience class, where he has to be “on” at all times, so he is aware of when it’s play time on walks, and when it’s time to buckle down and train.

It’s so very interesting to hear others opinions and experience, so thanks for chiming in, and keep them coming!
 

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My perspective on this is that dogs learn patterns too quickly! Since I want the dog to learn commands not the pattern, I constantly mix it up. One time I'll have her heel the entire time, another time I'll let her be free the whole time, and then I'll alternate the two (heel and free). I do this both on and off leash. I also use heel as a mild sort if punishment for any pulling, though that was in the past mostly, she does occasionally get too excited and forgets her on leash manners, so she looses out on a little free time when that happens...
 

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I think what you are doing is good, and your dogs sound well-trained!

I only use a loose heel for passing cars and people and other dogs...
the rest of the time he is free to walk and sniff ( on a loose leash).
I don’t care how we look, sometimes I joke and say, “my dog is taking me for a walk.” :)

I used to ride too...definition of looseleash to me is-
Leash hanging in a curve, like Western reining = loose leash
leash straight and you can lightly ‘feel’ your dog at the end, like English reining =still loose leash, to me
Leash straight and lots of pressure, like your horse has the bit or is going to eat grass = Pulling!! Do not allow dog to drag you around when he acts like this!

We are generally out rambling for an hour or more, and we both enjoy it. ( Personally for me, I think I would enjoy it less if he was heeling a lot! )
 

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I drive my car to where I walk my dog, a part industrial/rural area. Nitro's on a long, loose line. He knows
'lets go', 'slow down', 'quick quick', 'stop', 'wait', 'sit', 'drop', 'no', 'this way' (I'm 'challenged' when it comes to left and right). I use 'lift' for him to raise a paw if the lead is in his way, very useful. Sometimes I'll have him drop/stay, I'll walk to the end of his line, and throw a stick or toy for him to chase.

I don't let him pee on everything, 'leave it' command and he won't. I don't mind him air sniffing interesting parked vehicles, but no peeing is permitted on other people's property. What I find interesting is, if he stops to sniff something, and I keep going, he can run past me, but knows when he gets to the end of the line and slows down. Kind of like I know how much coffee I have left in my favourite cup without looking.

I'm happy to let him sniff as he's using his brain, the purpose of the walk is to get a mind and body workout, and to have fun. A couple of times when Nitro has been sleeping, I've been able to tell what he's dreaming about. One dream I watched was, tail thump, thump, thump, legs and feet twitch, twitch, twitch, and then he lifted his hind leg at right angles, all while sleeping. My interpretation was, he was told he was going for a walk (thump thump with the tail), he was walking/running (paw/leg twitching), he found something worthwhile to mark/pee on (hind leg at right angles).

On a walk he's checking in on me all the time. He heels when other people pass, but that happens rarely. In hot, humid weather I let him lie down when he needs to, to prevent overheating. Currently we're in winter, so he doesn't need to. We walk early morning/dawn, the best part of the day.
 

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A walk is for them but also for you. So as long as they don’t pull I would think it’s much more enjoyable to have a natural walk versus structured. Learning to walk on a leash there would be heeling on the leash and teaching the dogs to do that but other then that I like the dogs to be free as they can on a Leash. I went hiking at the shrine with my sister and kids and they just had mass so it was very crowded I had no issues with the dogs peeing on anything - well really max the leg lifter but he just seemed to know to not do this or the slightest reminder if he looked like he was going to do this- way to many beautiful statues and gardens and all in loose leash and still getting to smell everything.
 

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A "walk" for many takes a human and dog into many different elements..... the "walk" started off much different than what many are describing.....most are describing what it evolved into....due to training/repetition/ situations/ dog's behavior/handler's mindset etc.......the "walk" is not a showcase for the public but more so a learned behavior for the dog which complements the desire of the handler's choice of how dog and human should migrate together with all scenarios taken into consideration.



IMHO....a "walk" is not just for the dog......it is a joint effort of human and dog traveling together in sync. GSDs do this wonderfully well and a human can do this just as well.....keeping the breed's instincts in mind......traffic lead, long line or unleashed....it ultimately should be the same.




SuperG
 

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I did the mix of ways! At first on walking with him beside me most of the walk as learning loose leash, a mix of that and sniff time! Now days moo is getting up there, at least 12 (he was an adult dog when my son got him 10 years ago!) so it's a slow rambling walk! He stops when he wants to sniff or take in the sight or smells in the air! he doesn't mark any more on walks which was kind of odd at first to me, but maybe just part of aging, doesn't feel the need to make his presence known, he's content with the world!
 
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