It’s time for another installment in our series of how I prepared our canine Baxter for the birth of our first baby. Today’s post is all about that essential baby accessory—the stroller—and that essential moment in numerous dogs’ days—the W-A-L-K.
To see all of the messages in this baby prep series, click here. A pointer that if you have major behavior issues or special needs particularly when adding a baby to your family, our best guidance is to work with a reputable, professional trainer.
How to Train Your canine to walk With A Stroller
Imagine strolling along on a good sunny day, baby napping quietly in the stroller, canine walking placidly alongside, mama rested and unwinded (it could happen, right?).
Then consider the flipside.
Tight leash, mama and stroller zigzagging down the sidewalk as canine pulls wherever he wants to go, Mama’s take on sore from being jerked, baby crying because it’s having a bumpy ride (or even worse, because the stroller has overturned!).
Walking a canine on leash is not straightforward. walking a canine with a stroller is even much more complicated, so this is certainly something I wanted to practice with Baxter before our baby arrived.
Step one, loose leash walking with a stroller
Do not introduce the stroller until your canine walks reliably with a loose leash.
My preferred leash is six feet long. I find this length gives Baxter the freedom to sniff and trot along at a comfortable distance, but it also gives me control if I need it.
In preparing for stroller walks, I do not recommend a retractable leash. It’s too easy for these types of leashes to tangle around you, the stroller, trees and become a hazard when walking.
We’re fortunate that Baxter is pretty good on leash already. If he feels tension on the lead, he tends to adjust his pace, rather than pulling harder. However, he occasionally needs reminders that he’s not the one setting the speed.
The technique that has worked best for me is to simply stop walking when he pulls. This is typically sufficient for him to remember, “Oh right. You’re attached to me. and you’re bigger than me. I guess I’ll slow down.”
After that, if he starts to pull again, a comment from me like “Watch your pace, buddy” is typically enough to tune him back into me and slow him down.
A natural training opportunity has occurred over the course of my pregnancy as my speed has certainly decreased.
I’m just not able to walk as fast as I typically do. Baxter has adjusted accordingly and will look over his take on much more typically to see how I’m doing.
A note that many caregivers encourage pregnant women to maintain their fitness throughout their pregnancies.
Finding out you’re pregnant is not the time to start a new workout routine, but our midwife has been very pleased that we have a dog—and for that reason a reason—to get out for daily walks.
As always, check with your care company to make sure you’re making healthy choices for yourself and your baby.
As we’ve been practicing loose leash walking, we’ve also practiced a few valuable commands
“With me”—our command of “no, you can’t go sniff best now, keep walking.” See our post: increase your dog’s focus on walks.
“Wait”—“stop walking until I start moving again” valuable for when the baby drops a toy or pacifier out of the stroller… or the day this uncoordinated pregnant lady tripped in the deep snow and ended up face first in a drift—bonus the snow was soft enough that baby didn’t get squished
“Far enough”—“You’ve gone far enough off the path. Don’t take another step and don’t pull, but we can stand here and sniff for a minute.”
“Heel”—For those times when we need it. Meaning, walk at my side closely.
You may decide that you want your canine in a formal heel position many of the time or to walk on a particular side of you. After you’ve mastered loose leash walking, but before you introduce the stroller, establish the new guidelines of engagement with your canine and practice until they’re practice for both of you.
For me, as long as the leash is loose, that’s sufficient. I tend not to mind if Baxter is in front, behind or to the side. However, with a stroller, he has to pick a side and can’t range around me quite as freely as he used to.
Step two, introduce the stroller to your dog
Set up the stroller and let your canine examine it at his own pace. He ought to be able to sniff and look around as much as he wants. If he seems particularly nervous, you can offer him some treats or drop some around the stroller to build a positive association for your dog.
Don’t drop the treats in the stroller. You do not want to encourage your canine to equate the stroller to a treat dispenser and root around when a baby is sitting there.
Go for a walk, but have a pal push the stroller while you walk your canine as normal. This will help your canine to become familiar with how the stroller moves and associate it with his walks.
If your canine seems whatsoever uncertain or nervous, repeat step two as numerous times as needed. You want him to be unwinded and associate the stroller with goodness—like a walk.
Step three, loose leash walking with the stroller & your dog
Once your canine seems comfortable with the stroller’s presence, it’s time to learn to walk with it.
I clocked numerous kilometres—and numerous unusual looks—pushing an empty stroller! before we ever headed out with a baby, I wanted Baxter to be familiar with how the stroller moved and be confident moving with it.
The best way I found to instruct “watch out for the stroller” was to keep pushing, even if Baxter was in the stroller’s path. Being bumped by the stroller or one of its wheels taught him rapidly that he needed to pay attention to where this rollie thing was.
While your hands may be full with pushing the stroller, it’s essential not to attach the leash to the stroller.
No matter how well-trained your canine is, there may be a time where he darts away from you. being able to let go of the leash and not having a danger of the stroller being tipped or dragged is critical.
Initially I put the loop around my wrist and gave Baxter the full length of the leash so that he could relocation around as much as he wanted. However, this gave him so much leash that he could walk best in front of the stroller and wrap us all up.
To acquire slightly much more control, I laid the leash along the stroller deal with to make it a bit shorter. Baxter soon learned he couldn’t walk in front of the stroller and had to stay beside it.
I’m also wishing to find alternatives to walking Baxter with the stroller. This may imply putting the baby in a carrier or finding a gentle hiking spot where Baxter can go off leash and the stroller can still roll.
It may even in some cases imply heading out without baby for some one-on-one time with my dog.
Update: We’ve done some hiking without the stroller!
Me, baby Ellie and Baxter!
Tips for walking your canine with a stroller
1. Master loose leash walking. This basic skill is the most essential step for safe and successful stroller walks. Don’t add the stroller to your walks until your canine reliably walks with a loose leash.
2. use a basic 6-foot leash. This length gives the canine plenty of freedom to relocation around, but also gives you control over your dog. avoid retractable (Flexi) leashes that may get tangled around the stroller.
3. To heel or not to heel. You may decide it’s easiest if your canine is in a heel position or if he walks on a particular side of you. Train this behaviour before introducing the stroller. See our post: ought to I instruct my canine to heel?
4. introduce the stroller slowly. let your canine “meet” the stroller by sniffing it. have a pal push the stroller while you walk your dog. once he seems comfortable, start walking him yourself while pushing the stroller.
5. Do not attach the leash to the stroller. keep everyone safe and keep the leash in your hand. consider a waist leash if you want to keep your hands free.
Me, Ellie and Baxter!
6. Make time to walk without the stroller. use a carrier, go off-leash or leave the baby with a sitter. Walks are some of the most pleasurable time Baxter and I have together.
I’m looking forward to sharing those with baby and finding ways to make them pleasant for all of us.
Do you have any suggestions for walking a canine while pushing a stroller?
What techniques have worked for you for teaching loose leash walking?
Julia Preston is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and diy renovating. She writes frequently for That Mutt.
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