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Scott Rall: Where do you fit into your pack?

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Scott Rall: Where do you fit into your pack?
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

Scott Rall

Daily Globe outdoors writer 

It’s Wednesday and the weather has finally gotten to the point where being outside does not require a winter coat. By my calculations the lake in town normally loses its ice on or around the 26th of March. As of the 9th of April, Sunset Bay is ice-free and the lake is about two more days away. I recently moved my LPL Financial office from South Shore Drive to Oxford Street. I miss the view of the lake and watching the ducks and other wildlife.

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With the walking trail located across the street from my old office I watched many, many people stroll the lake for a relaxing walk or run. Many of these people were out with their dogs for a walk, and as they passed by I would always check to see if they were taking their dog for a walk or was the dog walking them.

In almost all cases the dog was walking the human. I have said it many times that the difference between a dog that is obedient and is easy to be around and one that is disobedient is about 10 minutes a week. Many dog owners do not realize that their pet is actually a dog. They treat them like a human and make sure they do everything they can wait on it hand and foot.

Every animal needs to be treated with compassion and patience.

What I will never understand is why would a dog owner want to have to go see the local chiropractor after every dog walk? I have seen people get injured from the dog pulling and jumping at the end of the leash. This is not where the dog belongs, and if this bad behavior is allowed to continue it will only make living with the dog more difficult. Most dogs do not realize that they are a dog. They are not required to do anything but eat, sleep and run around.

Dogs are descendants of wolves, and wolves are pack animals. In every wolf pack there is the dominant member, and this wolf rules the roost. When a dog lays on its back, humans think they want the belly scratched. The real reason a dog does this is to show its submissiveness and expose their throat to the dominant member of the pack. In the wild when a member of the pack gets a little to big for their britches the dominant member will attack the lesser member to assert dominance and — for all practical purposes — put them back in their place. When this exchange is over, the loser will roll over and expose their throat, to (in human terms) “say uncle.”

Dogs need to know that you, the human, are the dominant member of their pack. If the dog is out in front of the human while on the dog walk, the dog is the dominant member. The dominant member of the pack always goes first. They eat first and if there is any food left over after the kill the other members get the leftovers. By making the dog walk at your side or just a few steps behind, they realize they that you are the one in charge.

This is no different than when you open the door of the house to walk outside and the dog blasts past you to get outside first. In some cases they will even knock the human down. A dog never goes through a door before me. I tell them to sit, and open the door. When I am outside I call them and they come outside second. Being in control of you dog is really an all-encompassing thing. You cannot expect the dog to be second in the pack and know their place in life if you only require they do so 50 percent of the time.

I have done private dog lessons with folks who have never successfully taken their dog for a walk, ever. They show up at my house and I tell them to take the dog for a walk. The dog pulls and jumps on the leash and they have both heels dug in and the dog still manages to drag them alone.

I then use a chain collar and my own four-foot leash. We start out on the walk and when the dog thinks that it is going to my boss by aggressively pulling on the leash I give a moderate jerk on the leash and give the command heel. The dog will say there is no way that this human is going to be the dominant member of my pack and will again pull stoutly on the leash. At this point it is another more comanding jerk on the leash and another heel command. After about 10 of these events and with the jerks getting steadily more stout the dog comes to the almost immediate conclusion that the desire to go out front and be dominant is not worth the discomfort of the jerk on the leash. In only a few minutes the dog will walk on a leash with me as though it had been doing it for months.

This lesson only takes about five minutes but has to be refreshed every once in a while. Members of the wolf pack will continually challenge the dominant member to see if they can take over the top spot in the pack. Your dog is no different. If you show them you are the boss they, too, will test your resolve to see if you will allow them to take back the top spot. A perfectly trained dog will revert back to an untrained and out of control dog in only a few months if the human owner lets them.

Something as basic as taking your dog for a walk and making sure that they know who is in charge is the first step in training and owning a well trained dog. Dogs love routine and are the most satisfied when they know their place in the pack. Their location in your pack can be different with every person in your home.

I have heard hundred of times that the dog listens great to my husband but won’t listen to the wife. This is an indication that in this pack the husband is number one, the dog in number two and the wife is number three.

Take the number of humans in the house and that number should occupy all of the top spots and the dog should always be in the next spot after that. The more uniform you can be as to how the humans interact with the dog the better off the dog will be.

I love walking my dog. I can take three dogs for a walk all at the same time and nobody pulls on the leash. They know that they go where I go until I give the command that it is OK to run around and frolic.

I cannot imagine why any one would want to get dragged around by a dog. This seems like no fun to me.

Anyone can have a fun dog walk. They just need to be in control and stay there. When you get this one basic of dog training understood, owning a dog is a lot more fun. If you have any dog training questions you can send them to scottarall@gmail.com and I will send you a reply.

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