Choosing the Best Dog Walk to Fit Your Dog’s Personality
As many people return to their offices post Covid, they are often confused when searching for the best service for their Dog. I recently had a call with a woman who was extremely rude to me and took offense when I explained that her extra large breed dog had to start with Solo walks before we would pair them with other dogs.
I want to take this excellent opportunity to write a blog addressing the various services we offer at We Wag, simply because it is not a given that Group Walks or Semi-Privates are the best choices for every Dog, at least at the beginning.
Most dog owners think that the socialization aspect of the Group Walk renders it the obvious choice. As a result, this is the most frequent request we receive. We'll discuss the pros and cons of a Group and examine the differences between a Semi-private and a Solo-walk.
Group Walk (Up to 4 dogs for a minimum of 60 minutes or more)
Group Walks are a fabulous choice for dogs that fit specific criteria. Dogs are pack animals, and they learn from one another. Walking in a Group can help positively reinforce some behaviours, such as a dog that habitually tarries while walking alone. Walking with a pack is most likely the motivation they need to move along, which will help them later on, on their solo walks with their owners. Moving as a pack, they have a good workout while gaining exposure to other breeds and the experienced leadership of a Dog Walker. And yes, one of the main benefits of a Group Walk is socialization, but a dog must already be socialized for the pack to move cohesively. Read on to see if your Dog has the following attributes.
Attributes of Dogs suitable for Group Walks
· Friendly with other dogs
· Able to walk relatively calmly with another dog right beside them
· Does not resource guard
· Does not constantly pull on a leash
· Does not always want to stop to smell everything
· Not easily spooked
· Takes direction from their handler relatively well
· Is not an extra large breed dog
Some people think that if you place a dog in a Group, it will always fall quite magically into place and walk perfectly, but this cannot be further from the truth. Putting a dog that does not have the above characteristics into a Group will inevitably become problematic and could be a safety issue for all concerned.
If your Dog is struggling with leash manners because they constantly want to play with the other dogs while walking, pulling forward like crazy, or if your Dog is particularly shy or anxious, choosing a Group walk would not be the best service for your pup. In these cases, it would be better to select individual or Semi-private walks to give your Dog more specialized attention and to get in touch with a Dog Trainer.
Size can also play a part in deciding which service we book. If a potential client calls in with a "110 lb dog who is jumpy and excitable" and asks for Group walks or Semi-Privates, we will start them out in a Solo Walk and then move them to walk with more dogs if that is what makes sense. We would never place a 110lb dog into a Group or walk with other dogs before having a testing period. It's important to remember that your Dog Walker is not a Dog Trainer, and we need to have realistic expectations. Imagine four dogs or even just two Dogs of this size attached to our waist belts, jumping around or at each other... I don't want to imagine it because so many things could go wrong! I also do not know any Dog Trainers grouping four extra-large breed dogs and walking them together on a 4 to 6-foot leash attached to their waist with the many distractions and triggers we encounter on the streets as Dog Walkers.
While Group Walks are the most common, there is no better service than the appropriate one chosen to meet your Dog's individual needs, which may vary over time. It is quite common that we start a dog out in a Solo Walk and move them to a Semi-Private and eventually a Group, while some Dogs will stay in a Solo Walk. Our dogs are unique individuals, and we should treat them as such.
Semi-Private Walks (2 dogs walking for 45 minutes)
Semi-private walks are a fantastic choice for owners who want more structured training based walks, or for Dogs who are still developing their leash skills, and who like to have a walking buddy. It is also great for some anxious dogs who don't want to have a friend walking directly beside them. A Semi-private allows for socializing, yet each Dog has their separate side. Dogs who feel absolutely at ease while walking with a second dog can in some cases be successfully moved into a Group. However, if they show signs of stress or anxiety while walking with one pup, we may move them to a Solo Walk.
Solo Walks (30 minute option or 40 minute option)
Solo Walks are suitable for every type of Dog; they are not just for a dog who struggles with reactivity but also great for owners who want to have their dogs walk with more structure or, in contrast, for owners who want their Dog to have the freedom to smell and wander on their own.
Solo Walks are designed to meet individual dogs' needs and are an excellent opportunity to be whatever you and your Dog need them to be. These walks allow your Dog to explore at their own pace and take in all the sights and smells without feeling overwhelmed. Of course, and more obviously, a Solo Walk is ideal for dogs that struggle with reactivity, those that are extra-large breed dogs and not great walkers, or those that do not like socializing with other Dogs or a Dog that is shy or easily overwhelmed by new environments. A Solo walk is whatever it needs to be.
I sincerely hope this blog has clarified how and why we do what we do. At We Wag, we tailor our walks to your Dog's specific personality and needs. We want to know your Dog first before blindly placing dogs in Groups when maybe that is not the best thing for them. Also, it's great to remember that your Dog may walk amazingly with only you walking down the street, but how they walk when walking with other Dogs can be a very different story. While out Dog Walking Toronto let's all try to set our Dogs up for success; it is in everyone's best interest.
Lot's of love, Nicola <3