If you’re a dog owner or frequent dog walker, you’re probably familiar with this habit: You leash up your canine friend, walk out the door, and start to turn left – only to see your dog pull to the right, just like she did the last few times. In many cases, dogs will follow their leader in whatever direction he decides, but sometimes, you may notice your dog sticking to a particular path or walking down a specific street on your walk. While not all dogs do this, many dogs like to take the same route every time, but why?
Dog Behavior and Practices
Dogs are creatures of habit, and for a good reason. Having a set routine can make anyone feel safe, and our canine friends are no exception. Likewise, experiencing the same familiar sights, smells, and sounds can help make a dog feel confident. These can help with some aspects of training, such as potty training, not pulling when walking, and immediate attention when you are out and about.
Routines are a great way to instill regularity and consistency in a dog’s life. However, adhering too strictly to strict routines can end up doing more harm than good in the long run. Behavioral problems such as separation anxiety can develop if your dog becomes heavily dependent on routine, so it’s best to aim for a structured day in a strict regimen. For example, let’s say you want to spend two hours a day exercising your dog. A strict routine might look like two one-hour walks, precisely at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. A structured day might look more like two walks simultaneously each day, or some days a trip to the park in the morning and a walk around the neighborhood later in the evening. Keeping your dog flexible will help them not become so dependent on you 24/7 and will allow you to keep an eye on what’s going on in your life when they show up, in addition to taking care of your dog.
Relive the positive experience
Have you ever seen your dog find a little treat on the floor and round it up before you had a chance to intervene? Chances are, your dog remembers that it happened and probably remembers precisely where it happened and won’t stop visiting the same place – hoping it might happen again. Dogs learn through operant conditioning, a dog training technique to associate positive or negative feelings with specific experiences. Why is youdog walking in circles? What do you do.
So if you take a route down a street with a bank that gives your dog a snack leading to a dog park, or you pass an amiable neighbor who likes to say hello to your dog, she may be learning through positive reinforcement that developing in a certain way will produce good feelings.
Conversely, if your dog refuses to walk down a street or in a particular direction, it may be because something negative or scary happened to her on one of her walks in the area. This could be something obvious, such as a loud bang at a construction site or an angry citizen yelling at your dog. Less noticeable events may also scare a dog away from abandoning a particular path, such as a bag blowing in the street, or lawn decorations that may pose a perceived threat may also traumatize the dog and prevent her from revisiting the area.
I hope the walk continues
In some cases, a dog may try to outsmart us by pulling a fast one at the end of our walk to stay out a little longer. You will see dogs do this when they refuse to reject the particular street leading to their home or just sit or lie on the sidewalk. To keep your dog from deciding how and where to walk, give your dog some mental stimulation and turn his attention to you. Walks are a great time to practice training exercises such as answering machine training and loose leash walking exercises. If you have a particularly high-energy dog, he may need more time outside to burn off the excess steam. So, if possible, add an extra walk to your day or enlist the help of a dog walker to handle one for you. You can also stimulate your dog at home with toys (including educational toys) to keep his brain focused between workouts.