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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Double Dog Dare

Things I've Learned by Walking my Two Dogs
Double Dog Dare.

I started walking my two Jack Russells together several years ago and I’ve had the opportunity to learn a few things about double dog walking. Cesar Millan’s methods are right, but mine work for my dogs. I’m not such a strict pack leader but then again, mine are JRTs. Here’s my take on walking my two ‘June bugs on a string’.

1. Use the same equipment on both dogs. Harnesses are NOT recommended, use collars. I don’t like chain chokes, as my dogs are both civilized and small. I prefer the martingale collar. I have heard some people can use a coupler, a short connecting leash between dogs, but I cannot recommend it with Jack Russells. I believe it could lead to fights and possible injury to one or both of the dogs.

2. The leashes must be the same length.

3. Carry a walking stick or a cane for protection against loose dogs, snakes, etc. If you have pepper spray that may work but it can backfire and it doesn't work on snakes.

4. Be sure your gear is fitted properly to include your clothing and packs. Think comfort and safety, pants not too loose or too tight, cotton socks with sturdy shoes. Wear a hat.

5. Use a backpack or a fanny pack for your supplies. You should carry:

A. water for you and your dogs, at least two bottles.
B. bowl(s) for your dogs to drink water from
C. pocket knife
D. whistle to signal your location if necessary
E. cell phone
F. Extra leash and collar for emergencies.
G. First aide kit (band-aides, sterile wipes, antibiotic cream, etc.)
H. wallet with your ID and if you have any health problems an updated list of your meds. I. always bring any emergency meds you might need on the trail such as inhalers and epi-pens.

6. If you've never walked your dogs before start by walking them one at a time to get them trained to the leash and your signals. Take your time with this as you are setting the foundations for their future behavior. I would suggest that you develop certain verbal cues to help them understand what you want from them. Words like 'Lets Go' to indicate forward motion, Perhaps ‘This Way’ for a left direction or ‘That Way’ for a right direction. There are traditional terms like mush, gee, haw and whoa but use what is comfortable for you. The dogs don't care.

7. Once you have mastered the walk try taking them both out together. If one is higher energy, in the beginning you might take him for a short walk alone then pick up the second dog afterwards. At this point in your training, I would recommend that you take one in each hand the first few times. Leave your stick behind at this point. This is just to familiarize them with walking together and to see if you have a fearful dog or if there is aggression between them. They can cause tripping problems for you and excite his pal. Dog fights can occur, be prepared.

8. When you all have become acclimatized to walking with each other, they you can start to fine tune the walk. Determine which side is more comfortable for you to control the dogs on and which side is more comfortable for you to carry your stick with. Traditionally, they go on the left side. I happen to like the right because it is my dominant hand, but that’s just me.

9. Position the dogs on the selected side of your body preferably side by side. Give your command and step off with the foot closest to them. This gives them a verbal and a visual cue to work from. Take a few steps and then give a halt command. Practice this a few times until they understand what you are doing. If they try to switch sides, don’t allow this. It can tangle you up and cause a bad fall. Just tug GENTLY on the leash or tap LIGHTLY on their flank with your stick. Do not scare or hurt your dog. This should be FUN for ALL of you, if it's not don't bother.

10. After this you will learn to adjust to your dogs and they to you. It is a learning curve. Each dog will react differently according to their natures.

I do recommend that you take things slowly and watch your feet. Dogs are tricky and will try to take advantage of many things to be where They want to be. But if you allow them free rein, you can get into trouble. You can take a hard fall just as easily on flat pavement as rocky ground with a tangle. This is a great way to get your exercise and your dogs’ also. It can be difficult at first and as I said, there is a certain danger involved.

You must be prepared, think ahead, and have the proper equipment in the arsenal in your backpack. Good luck and if you learn something I don’t know about, please let us know.

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