[Videos Inside] An Inside Look At Pet Waggin’s Staff Training: Mastering The Dog Walk
At Pet Waggin’ we’re committed to making sure your dog receives the best care. That’s why we provide our amazing staff with specialized training and continually offer continued education opportunities. There are always better methods being developed in pet care, and we want our staff's knowledge base to be current and relevant.
We were so excited in May 2021 to be able to offer our staff a training session with Jill Guin of Underdogs Long Beach. Jill is a highly qualified dog trainer who specializes in dogs that are considered “difficult”. Her training focuses on positive reinforcement and establishing communication between you and your dog. She is focused on helping dogs be the best version of themselves and educating their owners on how to facilitate this.
If you’re curious about the training we provide for our staff, here’s an inside look at our training session with Jill!
Mastering The Dog Walk
The training session focused on some of the challenges that dog walking can present. Some of the most difficult parts of pet care are getting to know fearful dogs, earning their trust along the way and how to handle dogs that are reactive on the leash. During this workshop, we learned how to adjust our approach to create a more harmonious experience for the dog and ourselves.
The topics below were just some of the things we covered during this session. Jill educated and demonstrated, and our team took turns putting what we learned into practice.
The Importance of the Meet and Greet
The first time we meet with a dog is when we begin to establish our relationship. Your dog needs to trust us, and that’s why the meet and greet is so important. During the meet and greet, it’s so important that we get to know your dog so they are not being walked by a complete stranger. We need time to build their trust, especially if you have a fearful or reactive dog. Several meetups may be necessary to make your dog comfortable and reduce their fear.
When meeting with a new dog for the first time, our approach sets the tone for the visit. There are three ways that dogs typically react to a pet sitter coming in:
Anxiety and fear - this is very common in dogs that we’ve just met
Excited barking, hyperactivity, and jumping
Calm dogs who are happy but not overly jumpy
The tone we set with dogs will determine how they interact with us. We need to greet the dogs in a calm manner, speak low and slow, and allow the dog to approach us. Reinforcing calm behavior with treats is part of positive reinforcement and will help us begin to build a rapport with the dog.
Over-excited behavior like jumping should be ignored. If the dog has all of their feet on the floor, the behavior should be rewarded.
Engagement can begin when the dog is fully focused on us. How we engage with your dog from the beginning will affect how our relationship with them develops. Appropriate engagement shows your dog how they need to behave with us at all times and helps them learn to focus and stay on task. Rewarding engagement with a treat will help the dog learn to stay on task.
A walk inside the house or around the yard before embarking on the actual walk is a good way to practice engagement and focus with any dog.
When we exit your home, we need your dog to be calm. This helps establish an easy, stress free walk for your dog where they can mentally stimulated while behaving appropriately on leash. The dog should not be allowed to step out until they are walking calmly and not jumping, barking, or attempting to run.
A calm exit at walk time sets your dog up for a successful walk because they will not be overstimulated. They will be ready to engage, and pay attention to the task at hand.
Calm exit methods and tricks were demonstrated so that our staff could see the proper way to help calm a dog before proceeding with a walk.
Loose Leash Walking
If your over eager dog is pulling on the leash, this is not the way they should be walking. The proper way is with a loose leash. You and your dog should be relaxed, and your dog should be allowed to sniff at their leisure. They should not be reacting to other dogs or people. Remember: the less you react, the less the dog will react, and the leash should have some level of slack in it at all times.
Clicker Training and Hand Targeting
One of the methods we learn for working with dogs is clicker training. Snapping the clicker when the dog performs the desired behavior after the command then handing them a treat. This is positive reinforcement. The clicker tells the dog they did what they were supposed to. Make sure to give your dog a treat within 3 seconds, so they associate the reward with the behavior.
Bet you didn’t know there was so much training involved in pet sitting! It’s so important that our staff becomes a positive influence on your dog’s behavior. We know what a well-trained, attentive, and engaged dog can do for your family’s well being and overall safety.
Booking your first dog walks with Pet Waggin’? You’ll find that many of your dog’s early walks will incorporate training. Your dog will start to understand what is expected of them, and you may even see a beneficial change in behavior when their sitter isn’t present.
The training doesn’t stop there. If you really want to see a change in your dog, you can take some of what you’ve read here and start training your dog on your own! Training is great mental exercise for your dog and will help you build a stronger bond with them. Include it with other enrichment activities like a simple game of catch or even puzzle toys. Your dog will be a well-rounded hound with model behavior in no time!