Pack Walks = Pack Training

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In the Bay Area, there are many dog walkers and dog walking businesses. A dog walker is often someone in your area who is making a little money walking dogs because he loves dogs or has had a dog most of his life.

In some cases, like that of geriatric dogs or those with limited abilities, a little exercise and bathroom break may be all that’s required, which your neighborhood dog walker can easily provide.

But for most dogs, there’s so much more to dog walking than just walking dogs. Besides knowing all the safety issues and what to do if an emergency occurs, a dedicated, full-service dog walker aspires to give dogs new life experiences through exploration, education, mental challenges, and games. Like us, dogs need to be stimulated, not just physically with exercise but also intellectually and emotionally – and for those who believe that dogs have souls, even spiritually – in order to be well-balanced and well-behaved in and outside the home, on- and off-leash.

We all want our canine companions to be well behaved in any situation, but we also want them to experience fun, excitement, and a sense of well-being. This is what Pack Walks can provide. Having your pet walked with a group of six or more dogs is like sending him to school with his buddies.

A properly configured “pack” consists of six or more dogs (of which one or two are well behaved/trained to teach the others) and a strong Pack Leader (dog trainer) to direct the activities. The pack walk then becomes “pack training.”

Dogs naturally learn by example and in association with other dogs. A group of six or more dogs allows for a highly pleasurable and rewarding learning experience for these instinctive pack animals, as they play together and learn from one another. New dogs are introduced to the group of unfamiliar dogs all at once, which invariably goes well. The new dog learns quickly and begins to model the rest of the pack, which is already socialized, well behaved, and eager to welcome a new member to the pack.

Onlookers often marvel at the level of cohesion and cooperation that prevails among dogs during Pack Walks. Here is the way basic training works: The dogs learn to walk as a group on leash in an orderly manner and without pulling.

They learn to walk on leash as a group past other dogs, birds, people etc. without pulling away from the pack towards any distractions.

They then learn to walk off leash as a group in an orderly manner past other dogs, birds, people, etc. and to stay with the pack despite the distractions.

Other important benefits of pack-walking include:

Exploring different venues like beaches, hiking trails, parks, and city pathways provides mental stimulation and teaches dogs how to behave in and safely coexist with each new environment.

Playing games of fetch, soccer, chase, or hide-and-seek as a group provides exercise and stimulates thinking and decision-making. The pack environment teaches the dogs teamwork while they are having fun.

“Recall” while exploring or playing off-leash is much easier to teach, since dogs readily return to the pack, where all the fun is. (There’s always a dog or two that likes to herd and keeps any member of the pack from going too far afield.)

The Pack Leader typically starts group training sessions with simple group “sits,” “downs,” “stays,” and “heeling” while the dogs are off leash. Our packs will sit patiently and undistracted even when we have an onlooker walking around or through the pack. Pack mentality rules, and what the majority is doing is what they’ll all do, with the direction of the pack leader.

The pack leader instructs by using basic commands that are well understood by the trained and well-behaved pack members. These dogs then communicate to the rest of the pack what the pack leader is requesting by performing the action on command. The rest of the pack follows the example of the more experienced dogs and the result is a quicker and more deeply rooted learned behavior or action.

Directly after each training session, the dogs’ learning accomplishments are rewarded with another game. This gives the pack a sense of accomplishment for what they have achieved and makes the learning fun and memorable.

Pack-walking is so much more beneficial than a stroll with the neighborhood dog walker. All of the dogs’ senses are stimulated and challenged during pack walks. They experience new places and learn new things that will become integrated into their lives, all while having the time of their lives.

Pack-walking typically results in a happier, more balanced, and better behaved dog who brings more enjoyment and fun into his relationship with his human caretakers. And nothing could be a better reward than that.

Glenn McTaggart is the founder and a Pack Leader for The Love of Dogs, which serves the needs of dogs and their owners in Sonoma, Marin, and San Francisco counties. Visit www.theloveofdogs.net for more info, or call the dog concierge to schedule an evaluation at 707-775-8842.