Episode 27 - Life Changes: Easing Your Dog into New Routines

Hello dog lovers, and welcome to Muttz with Mannerz™, Canine Training Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips and educational information to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach, and we are all about enriching the lives at both ends of the leash. And today I want to talk about the benefits of community walks, which does just that. 

One question I get asked as a trainer often is, How can I get my dog to walk nice on leash? I hear that they either pull a lot, maybe they’re reactive or fearful, or they just put on the brakes and they won’t move. Our training classes do help with those issues. And I thought I could do more and introduce community walks so I can gather pet owners together with their dogs, and help owners when we go on a walk. 

We know dogs are social creatures who enjoy exploring their world and meeting other humans and pups. And we also know how important exercise is for our furry family – another reason why we decided to host the community walks. Our community walks were introduced to allow pet parents and their furry family to experience the energy only felt on a group walk. This is a time where you can strengthen the bond with your pup and let them experience their world on a structured walk with other dogs and owners. A benefit if you join the Muttz with Mannerz™ community walks is, I, Corey, go on the walks and I’m a trainer. So I will be adding training tips and answering questions during the walk to help those walks be more enjoyable. 

So what is exactly a community walk? It is a group of dog parents going for a walk together in a structured environment. A community walk is good for most dogs as they feed off the energy of the group. A community walk is a great way, as I said, to exercise and properly socialize in a way that is safe and fun for all. And I’m not just talking about the dog socializing. I’m talking about the owner socializing too. And whether you have a big or small dog, they’re usually always happy to go on the walk. So all can enjoy this, whatever size. 

Did you know that there is a science behind group walks? Dogs do have a strong instinctual need to socialize with and explore the world. As we know, many dogs are reactive to other dogs, and I’ve owned a few of those. But these dogs still need to get out and socialize. And I find that some owners actually avoid that if their dogs are reactive. Community walks help satisfy this need for socialization. Dogs can safely socialize without physically interacting, and even though the dogs aren’t physically touching each other, they can smell and see the other dogs which is still considered socialization. 

I think we all know that walking our dogs is extremely important, not only for their physical health, but also for that mental stimulation. And that’s how they explore the world. Fenced yards, which I have a very big one, is great to exercise my dog, but it’s not enough. Dogs need to explore and get out into the world to see everything and also to hear everything. Even a short walk would easily satisfied their need to explore. And I don’t think people realize how much mental stimulation the dogs get when we go out for walks, which some dogs are lacking. I know a lot of people focus on the physical and if you’ve listened to our previous podcasts, you will hear us talk about the importance of the mental stimulation. And the mental will tire out a dog a lot faster than the physical stimulation. So as I said, some people have a fenced in backyard and they’ll just let their dog run and they’ll think that’s enough. It really isn’t. Because the mental side is really important too. And when you’re on a walk, your dog is doing many things that mentally stimulate them – seeing other things, smelling other things, doing quite a bit. 

Walking together seems to form a positive relation in dogs that you more readily won’t see in other activities. What I have found on the community walks is when new dogs will join, and I might have been approached to say, Can we come on a community walk but my dog might be a little bit reactive? I will always say yes, and I’ll make sure that everyone is safe. What I do find is the dogs who are reactive to other dogs all of sudden form a sense of unity with the dogs that they’re walking with after we’ve been maybe walking for 10 or 15 minutes. And they may come across a new dog that is not part of our group and then they might react to that dog, but the other dogs are calm. So it really does help them. And community walks really encourage dogs to walk along together without even that interacting face-to-face. 

Over time, I’m really encouraged to see that there is a trust that builds when we are walking. So if we are doing our community walks, and we have dogs that start coming regularly, I really do see the trust build, there’s no competition, there’s no insecurity. And they just start forming a group or a pack, you could call it. What I have seen in dogs that play together in free play, such as at a dog park, they can start to show aggression over time. However, dogs who are walked together regularly in a group, rarely develop new behaviors. They kind of just start getting in sync. This is because group walked dogs are consistently socialized in a structured way that doesn’t allow for that problematic exchange. Even dogs who have done very poorly at a dog park or a daycare can do great on a structured group walk. And that’s something I have encouraged a lot when we see dogs that are reactive in our daycare. We will encourage them to join our community walks. And we find it does help, not only, provide comfort for the owner, and support, but it also starts building trust and confidence in the dog not to react. Because sometimes when they’re with their owner, and that owner has confidence and control, it can really help them on a group walk. 

I mentioned at the beginning that it doesn’t really matter about the size when we’re doing community walks because community walks are a good activity for dogs big or small. And we get all different sizes. We have our little wiener dogs our Dachshunds, and then we’ve got Skye, my girl, who’s a medium dog, and then we’ve even had a Malamute on the walk. So we get all different sizes and shapes. And it really, it really does work well. Because walking dogs that are different sizes together allows for that safe controlled interaction, while it also enables dogs to enjoy activities and really build a bond with different breeds, different sizes, and different people. 

And we do find that dogs really do learn from each other. When you’re walking your dog, you can work on teaching them the appropriate behavior and redirect them for any inappropriate behavior. But what you might not realize is the degree to which dogs can teach one another. Dogs look to one another for cues about how to behave. So it’s a really good benefit, the community walks, because your dog is also learning from the other dogs. And a surprising number of negative behaviors really does come from a lack of knowledge about better ways to behave. So on a community walk, dogs who pull can see demonstrations of dogs walking without pulling. Dogs who bark are shown that dogs that do not bark at everything they see or hear. So they learn to kind of trust the environment and some of that behavior does subside. And yes, indeed, dogs can negatively influence each other’s behavior as well. This is why having the skills or learning them is important to control and curb that. And as a trainer on a structured group walk, I can help guide the behavior and show you how to redirect undesirable tendencies. 

And I really encourage rewarding positive behavior. Because for owners that may have a reactive jog, or a barky dog, or a nervous dog, that can also make the owner nervous. So we can sometimes forget, because we’re so focused on our energy and is our dog going to react, that when we do get that good behavior we forget to reward it. So I’m always there encouraging when I see the positive behavior, when I see the pulling stop, or the barking stop or the jumping stop, and they’re walking nicely, I’m really making sure that their owner’s giving them positive reinforcement and letting them know that they’re doing a good job on the walk. Also, I am making sure I position the dogs on the walk to keep everybody safe and match the well behaved dogs who model that good behavior maybe with the less than well behaved dogs so they can learn from one another. So I’m always making sure too that people are positioned on our group walk in a place that they feel comfortable too. So if your dog is reactive, you might not want to just put them with everybody else and you might want to stay a little bit behind or go a little bit ahead. And that’s where I’m there to guide everybody too.

I think everyone knows their dogs need a degree of training and exercise. And sometimes fitting that in can be a challenge, especially if your schedule is limited and you’re super busy either with work or with kids or with sports, or maybe your living environment is not conducive to training and exercise. I know many that live in smaller townhomes or condos have a challenge with exercising their dogs indoor. So community walks are a great way to get out and give your dogs that good exercise and training at the same time. So while the dogs are walking and exploring, they’re also learning to practice that self control and develop social intelligence and listen to you more. So these skills will show themselves in a dog that is better behaved and more relaxed. And this can all come from the community walks. 

When dogs do go on a community walk, they’ll settle into, I call it the sync or the groove or shared energy, with the other dogs that they’re walking with. They’ll get into a rhythm. And for most dogs, that’s something that is a huge relief for them because they feel like they can just relax and go with the flow and enjoy the walk. 

Another thing I’ve touched on – reactive. So some dogs are aggressive or very fearful, fearful of people, fearful of other dogs, fearful of noises and sounds, and the community walks can be a great way to help reactive dogs overcome their aggression or overcome their fear. 

So I think I’ve touched on some of the benefits that a community walk can offer. If you want to get your dog exercised, socialized, or trained safely and regularly, a community walk is an excellent option. Muttz with Mannerz™ offers two options, our community walks that I’ve introduced where we walk together and walk in our community, and sometimes we’ll visit local pet stores, or another option is our Women and Dogs Circles where we meet monthly at local areas in York Region, most often a forest trail, and it may be a different one each time. And the walks will range from 30 minutes to one hour. And they’re a great way to get some exercise and meet up with other dog owners. And I can’t tell you how many things I’ve observed on our walks, such great things, such as fearful and reactive dogs being able to walk comfortably with other dogs, leash pullers, barkers, ones that jump up, that become comfortable and just relax and enjoy the walk. The best reward for me is when I see a dog that started out on the community walks, and they were fearful, jumping, nervous, and then all of a sudden, they’re just showing up, the owners happy, the dogs happy, and we’re just having a great walk. We’ve seen lots of puppies join our walks too, which is a great thing for them to be socialized with some of the mature dogs. And it’s a great way for them to learn and be safe with the other dogs. So there’s just so many things with these community walks that can benefit the dogs and the owners because they’re getting the social time too. 

So I hope I’ve shared some information that’s going to encourage you to get out in your community and walk with your dogs. And those that are listening today, I thank you for taking the time. And if you are not in our community, you can look for other dog friends and you can start your own community walk or your own group walk regularly that can get some of the benefits for your dog and yourself that I’ve mentioned in today’s podcast. 

If you want to know more about our community walks, and our Women and Dog Circle walks, you can visit our website at, www.muttzwithmannerz.com, to find out when they are. And we also have other blogs or podcasts and a list of classes that you can find on our website also. And if you have a topic you’d like to know more about and featured on a podcast, please email us at, info@muttzwithmannerz.com. We are here to enrich the lives at both ends of the leash and provide training and tips for you to have a well-mannered dog. I thank you for listening today. And until next time, this is Corey McCusker, Canine Coach, and founder of Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Training Academy. Thanks everyone and have a great day.


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