October 5, 2015

Walking Together, Walking Apart and Finding Your Dog's Motivation

Although the photo above shows me walking both dogs as I so often do (my dad was the cameraman here, and if he joins us he walks Boca) but my goal for Walk Your Dog Week (October 1st-7th) was to do more one-on-one walking with The Ginger Sisters. I think they appreciate the focused attention, and they are two very different dogs with very different needs and motivations. 

This weekend I spent some time with Ruby and Boca individually. Ruby's solo walk was more of a solo play session using her long line and flying disc, but there is nothing she finds more rewarding than chasing, fetching and tugging, so I used that to our advantage to burn off some energy and also strengthen our bond through play. I've actually never tried using her long line with her flying disc before - we used to take it to the dog park or ball field but I decided to give it a whirl and it went spectacularly! Her line is only 15 feet and I now that I know how well this works, we have a 30 foot on the way. Being the paranoid helicopter dog parent that I am, I was sure to attach her little safety line (a toy dog coupler) from the base of the snap on the long line to her harness ring. 

I threw her disc gently so it wouldn't sail too far and then prepared myself to run as well so she didn't hit the end of the line. Ruby had a blast and even caught the disc mid-air a few times which is a big deal for my cautious, careful girl (she reminds me so much of myself in gym class, dodging the volleyball). After she caught it she would run gleefully in circles and even toss the disc up for herself to catch again. It filled my heart with joy to see her having so much fun. After she was sufficiently tired, we continued on a short walk around the neighborhood. You'll notice there is only one loose leash in the picture...I like to think less that Ruby pulls and more that I don't walk fast enough for her. The long line gave her room to explore and sniff while also coming back to me. Since Ruby will never be an off-leash dog, I need to utilize this tool more often to give her increased freedom. 

Boca is my easygoing, ambling girl. Individual walks with her are a pleasure; unless she is trying to snag a chicken bone off the ground she is always strolling at my side, mouth open in a smile, tail wagging. For her solo walk, I took along a pocketful of treats. Food is still the number one motivator for my former street dog. One of the things we struggled with in our beginning obedience class was a sit in different positions. Boca's tendency was to pivot and sit facing me rather than at my side. I was surprised to find that in our day-to-day informal walks and work on sit in the house, Boca has naturally picked up sitting at my side! She was eager to earn some tasty treats as we meandered around the neighborhood practicing that as well as some short-distance recalls. Since walking with a reactive dog (Ruby) requires constant vigilance and what I like to call "Defensive Dog Walking" skills, it's a wonderful break for me to be able to simply wander at will and not dart around the corner if we happen to see someone else coming. 

As the days grow shorter and colder, I know it will be harder to maintain my commitment to walking my dogs separately, but I'd like to make a point of doing so on at least one weekend day. Ruby would like to hone her skills as a disc-catching terrier and Boca clearly enjoys her snack-sprinkled saunters.

This post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads,Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. The hop happens on the first Monday of every month, and is open for a full week - please join us in spreading the word about the rewards of positive training! 


  1. That one-on-one time sure is important, especially with two dogs as different as yours. I'm glad the long line was a stunning success. It sounds as if you got exercise too, running to keep Ruby from hitting the end of the line! I agree, as you know, that play is so bonding!

  2. Great post! That's awesome that Ruby is enjoying her long line and frisbee! It's fun finding out what each dog likes to do separately. I love walking the girls separately. One on one time is so good for them!

  3. That's how I look walking the poodles. One loose leash (D'Art) and one not so loose leash (Teddy). I think Teddy might benefit from a long lead too as he loves to explore but doesn't usually go out of my sight when off leash. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I've found that walking the dogs one on one (or two on one) really makes them happy and their behavior is better. It makes our walks as a group better too.

    All of our dogs can be on long leads except Rodrigo. I have short leads for him and I gave him a break from them this summer, but he's going back on them now. It allows me better control when he's reactive.

  5. I'm so glad Ruby had such a fun time with her disc! I just got Barley a 30-ft lead, too, so we can toss toys with more ease. With the 15-ft. one, sometimes even when I run she hits the end of the line with more force than I'd like to see. We're waiting until the weather gets colder and everyone else goes into hibernation mode before we had off to a ballpark to try it out, though. I know that much freedom would make it very difficult to get her back under control if we saw another dog in the distance.

  6. I love the freedom a long line gives Nala, too! And I'm so glad that Ruby feels comfortable enough to chase a frisbee! Nala doesn't really like toys outside of our house and yard--she's still a little too worried about the environment, and not sufficiently driven for toy play.
    I think I first read the "walk faster!" loose leash walking tip on Sophia Yin's website. It's worked wonders for me and every dog I've ever walked!

  7. Blueberry is a pretty steady loose-leash walker - but when she catches a scent, it's up to ME to keep up with her. It's actually great cardio for me to have to double time it so we can keep up with what her nose is telling her. Thankfully, she doesn't walk super fast for long. Even when she runs ahead after trailing me (20 foot line) - she knows exactly where the leash ends and will automatically slow down without hitting the end of the line.

  8. I wish I had thought to walk my first dogs separately. It probably would have done them a world of good.

  9. I miss the option of walking the dogs together instead of taking three separate walks every day...however it is really nice (and necessary) to give them their own special attention and training while out and about. It's good one on one bonding time, for sure.


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