Walking Your Dog

Walking your dog is just plain fun! It provides the highest level of enjoyment for you and your dog.

But it can’t be fun if you don’t feel like you have total control and your dog is secure and safe on a flexi-lead. Without a doubt, every dog owner should decide which leash is better for them. Will you use a flexi-leash or would you prefer a fixed length leash – 6’ or shorter?



I must say that, with the exceptions of going to the vet or some place for outside dining where pets are permitted, I enjoy the flexi-lead for walking our dogs.

Not only do they have the most fun but they get almost twice the exercise as I frequently call them back to me throughout the walk. Another benefit to frequent recalls is that they are always “checking in” with me.

Dogs love to walk and explore. The flexi-lead gives them the opportunity to do just that. We leash walk our dogs at the beach, in many state park environments and local parks and I’m convinced that they have had a better time being able to maximize their time on their fiexi-leads – all the while complying with the local leash laws.

Understand that the goal is not to get your dog to heel on your side all the time, but just to walk on the flexi-leash and enjoy the walk with you. As long as your dog isn’t pulling and you both are enjoying the walk, it’s a win-win situation.
For me it’s a highly effective and kind method for teaching your dog to walk politely on a leash. There are no special collars, no beating up on your dog and no gimmicks.

On a 6’ leash, your dog is already pulling at 3, 4 or 6 feet from you depending on where you hold the leash. This can’t be fun for many new dog owners or even veteran dog owners who still haven’t taught their dog to heel.

Of course you should teach your dog to heel next to you as this works better for you in close quarters like at the dog store, vet office or walking your dog in a retail setting.

While heeling you dog is good for certain situations, being able to flex out on a neighborhood walk, at the beach or state park and feel somewhat free has got to be the next best thing to free-flight for your dog. I know it is for ours!

Guidelines for Flexi-Leash Walking

While using a retractable leash may seem simple, it would pay you big dividends if you considered the following guidelines:

1. Make sure your flexi-leash is of the appropriate size/length for your dog.

• Check the package for recommended length and size for your dog’s weight

2. Learn how the flex-leash works and be comfortable using it in all situations.

• Know how to use the stop button which stops the dog from moving out

• Know how to use the lock button which locks the leash at a certain length

3. Go to a neighborhood park to practice out in the opening before getting into more complex situations like narrow neighborhood streets with cars.

• A small neighborhood park allows you to practice walking your dog on a flexi-leash because you have a lot of room, it’s all grass instead of just sidewalks and streets

4. If convenient, carry a back up leash just in case.

• Just in case you become uncomfortable with your flexi leash, you have a regular leash to put on your dog5. Take food treats for training on your walks – no matter where you take your dog.

• Great motivator to get your dog to come to you once he’s flexed out on the lead. Frequent recalls are important.

6. Do some dog training and make sure your dog knows the come and sit commands outside and in areas where you frequently walk your dog.

• This is what makes using a flexi-lead work with your dog because the training and the recalls keeps you in control.

7. Practice these commands frequently and once your dog comes, get him to sit – click/praise/treat and then release him to go explore once again.


If your dog is extremely bossy, hard to control, out of control or exhibiting behavior problems, the flexi-lead may not give you the control you need for best management of your dog in social situations.

Instead, just continue to use his 6’ leash to walk and control your dog better. Once he is under control, then you can consider giving him a little more leeway by using the flexi-lead – if you wish.

“Sharing is Caring” What Do You Think? Let us know your thoughts on today’s issue by commenting below.

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8500+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step way to teach your dog how to be a great family member.

5 Easy Steps To Improve Your Dog Walks

Problems during walks are among the most common complaints I hear from dog owners.  But the thing that they all have in common is that most dog walking problems are casued by what I call BOHS, or Bad Owner Handling Skills. This occurs when owners communicate the wrong thing to their dogs by keeping their leashes tight when they encounter distractions such as other dogs. The owner’s anxiety travels down the leash to the dog – and the dog reacts with anxiety.

Instead of getting anxious and sending tension down the leash, try this when confronted with a problem while walking your dog.

  1. If he begins pulling on his leash, simply stop. Become immovable until he stops pulling and allows some slack in the leash.
  2. The minute there is slack in the leash, praise your dog and begin walking again. Continue your walk until the dog starts pulling again, stop dead in your tracks once again.
  3. Remain neutral. Wait for slack, praise.
  4. Sometimes, if you simply stop, change your direction and start walking, your dog will have to stop pulling and try to catch up with you going in the other direction. This strategy will also teach your dog to pay attention to you when you walk.
  5. Do not let your dog go sniff and investigate whatever he wants. You must control the walk.

The solution is to learn to walk your dog on a slack leash and check your anxiety at your front door before the walk. Be confident in your handling skills and read your dog. Like kids, dogs respond to leadership, so be as comfortable with the trainer of your do as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2011

Walking on a Leash

Walking on Leash Hi, this is Jim Cunningham.  We hired Jim Burwell to work with us for 3 sessions with our 5 1/2 month old lab puppy, Rio, who was having some issues walking   on  leash and other issues around the house.

We thought the program was very effective. Rio is a lot more pleasant to walk around the block now.  We learned a lot of new skills for dealing with him and we would highly recommend the program.

Listen to Rio’s Testimonial


Your Dog Training Questions: My Dogs Fight

My dogs — brothers rescued from BARC — fight. No serious injuries (yet) but I’m worried I won’t be able to handle the fight one of these days. How can I get them to stop?
– Martin, via e-mail

My Answer:

The problem of sibling rivalry is something I have addressed on this blog before. And that post generated more comments than previous posts, which means this must be a problem a lot of dog owners are experiencing. Without evaluating you and your dogs together, I can only give you an idea of the common causes of dog fighting. It’s likely your dogs are lacking one of these basic dog needs, causing them to act out.


For dogs, leadership is knowing that you control the resources of the household. From this, your dogs understand that  they receive resources on your terms.  Training your dog using leadership is very much like raising a child, the child must understand that mom and dad are in charge, that certain behavior is expected from the child and that the child will get what it wants on the terms of the parents – not the child.


This is another example of how dogs need guidance much like children do. When you provide structure (in feeding, walks, training, schedule, etc.), your dogs will have an understanding of your expectations. Most importantly they will understand what is allowed and what is not allowed. All dogs should at a minimum do a “sit” before their food bowl is placed in front of them and then be released with an “OK” to eat their food.


This is the dog need that is most often forgotten. It’s very simple — wild play outside leads to wild behavior inside.  If playing in the backyard, and running the fence and chasing squirrels is the ONLY exercise your dog gets then he does not understand this same behavior is NOT ok in the house.  A structured walk, where you control the situation, is one of the best ways to practice leadership with your dog. The exercise lets your dog release pent up energy, keeps them healthy and they enjoy it. A good rule of thumb: A tired dog is a good dog.

The key to each of these dog needs is letting your dog know that you are the one in charge. Once your dogs understand that you are the leader, the rivalry between them will fade. They no longer have a reason to fight each other if they know neither of them will ever be the leader of the household. Good luck!

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Dog Aggression? Nuisance Barking? Complex Dog Behavior Problems Do Take Time

While our dogs do give us love and companionship, that relationship can sometimes become blemished by behavior problems such as aggression or out of control nuisance barking. In some cases it gradually gets worse as the dog owner watches or puts up with it thinking it will go away. Other times it is more sudden, as in a dog bite that brings a sense of immediacy to the forefront.

Often times curing a behavior problem may only take a little tweaking, providing the owner with what seems like an “immediate fix.” An owner who gets their dog behavior problem fixed this quickly might be thinking, “Wow! Problem solved. Now, where was I?” as they move on with their life.

However, many dog problems are much more complex than that – requiring weeks, if not months of positive reinforcement behavior modification exercises.

Owners often times believe they can also get a quick fix for their more complex dog behavior problems. They think – a trainer will come in and fix my dog!

The modification of most all dog behavior problems includes changing the way the owners relate to their dog as well as addressing the specific dog problem. Why is this? Most dog behavior problems are due to anxiety, tension or insecurities developed in the relationship with their owners.

These dogs with problems have either:

  • Received too much unearned love and affection
  • Been provided no structure or not enough (for some dogs)
  • Not received enough doggie needs like environmental enrichment and exercise, or
  • Not received adequate continued socialization with other dogs and people.

Sending the dog in to the doggie repair shop like your Ford, Chevy or BMW won’t address the problem that has developed in the context of your home or neighborhood.

You might get an expensive, 2-4 week tune-up in obedience, your dog returned and your wallet a little lighter, but then the reality of the problem sets in once again as you take your first walk in the neighborhood or try to answer your doorbell while dealing with your barking dog.

Modifying problem dog behavior using positive reinforcement, takes many daily set ups- presenting your dog with the stimulus (cause) that produces his unwanted behavior so that “you” can work him through his issues and teach him an alternate, acceptable behavior – all done in the environment in which the behavior occurs, all done using positive reinforcement. This all takes planned time and dedication to fixing the problem. Most won’t. Will you?

Be as concerned with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Dog Behavior: How To Recognize And Reduce Holiday Stress For Your Dog

Overeating, strange relatives, no time to exercise, traveling… and that’s just what your dog is dealing with during the holidays. It’s no surprise that many of the things that cause us stress at this time of year also have an effect on our dogs. Now is the time to observe your dog for signs of stress and take extra care to reduce his stress this month. First, what are some of the behaviors a stressed-out dog will display?

  • unusual house soiling, i.e. soiling your belongings
  • abnormal scratching and chewing
  • constant barking or whining
  • destructive behaviors, i.e. pushing things off tables, tearing up furniture or other belongings

Also watch your dog for any physical signs of stress like drooling, obsessive grooming, itching, rashes, etc. So what can you do to keep your dog calm and well-behaved?

  • do not skip daily walks, they provide exercise, leadership and mental stimulation
  • keep up your good training habits like having your dog perform a sit before meals
  • absolutely no indulging with people food or extra treats
  • skip the holiday costume, it may be itchy and heavy to your dog

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as the teacher of your children, and remember “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Your Puppy Training Questions: We Want A Puppy For Christmas!

Your Question:

My kids are in the middle of a campaign called We Want A Puppy For Christmas! I have to admit I am secretly rooting for them, but I’m not sure they are ready. They are 7 and 9. What do you think about giving a puppy to children as a gift?
– Ellen

My Answer:

A puppy can be a wonderful addition to the family. Even so, don’t take the decision lightly. My first piece of advice is to resist the temptation to make the gift a surprise. Instead, sit down as a family and talk about what a puppy needs: regular feeding, walks, training, grooming, veterinarian costs, etc. Talk about how the family will divide the responsibilities so everyone has reasonable expectations. A surprise puppy might make for a dramatic and sweet holiday moment, but that puppy will be a part of your family for the rest of its life.

Once you have decided everyone is ready and willing to take on the responsibility, it’s time to find the puppy. The best idea of course is to adopt from one of the many animal shelters and rescue groups nearby. If you decide on a pure breed puppy, be sure to throughly check out the breeder. A responsible breeder will welcome your questions, offer references and want to know as much about you and your family as possible. Keep the following in mind:

  • Make sure you buy from a reputable breeder who will, in writing, guarantee eyes, hips and heart health and will have already begun desensitizing all the puppies to noise, human handling and all things that go “bump in the night”.
  • Don’t accept puppies too young.  Ideally, puppies should stay with their litter mates until the 8th week of age or their 49th day.  This gives them time enough to learn their social graces like bite inhibition and how to play. Do not be afraid to ask questions about these behaviors.
  • When getting your new puppy from a shelter, you may not have the luxury of knowing the puppy’s past.  Remember that the window of socialization closes between the ages of 3 1/2 to 5 months of age.  This means that, to the extent you can, desensitize and socialize your pup to as many new distractions (his world as he will come to know it) as you can, to assure that he will be okay with people, noises, children, things. etc

My last and most important piece of advice is to make sure you get your puppy off to a good start by starting training early. The time you invest in training your puppy will pay off when you have a well-behaved dog. My new CD Puppy Training Sins Every New Puppy Owner Needs To Avoid is like having me in your home and is available to order on Amazon. Your gift of a Christmas puppy wouldn’t be complete without it!

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as the teacher of your children and remember, “Opportunity Barks!”
(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Your Dog Training Questions: My Dog Takes ME For A Walk


I have a very rowdy Lab mix who seems impossible to walk. She pulls me down the street, almost at a run. I have given up walking for way too long now and she’s got a new hobby – digging in the yard. I know I should walk her, but what can I do to control her?

My Answer:

I’ve written before about problems with digging, and the root of the problem is usually boredom or pent up energy. In a way you are lucky to know the root of this new bad habit — your dog needs to go on walks again. I have five steps to taking control of your walks.

  1. While you are out for a walk with your dog and he begins pulling on his leash, simply stop. Become immovable until he stops pulling and allows some slack in the leash.
  2. The minute there is slack in the leash, praise your dog and begin walking again.
  3. Continue your walk until the dog starts pulling again, stop dead in your tracks once again. Remain neutral. Wait for slack, praise.
  4. Sometimes, if you simply stop, change your direction and start walking, your dog will have to stop pulling and try to catch up with you going in the other direction. This strategy will also teach your dog to pay attention to you when you walk.
  5. Do not let your dog go sniff and investigate whatever he wants. You must control the walk.

Keep practicing and you should see an improvement. Daily, structured walks can’t be neglected, as you learned when your dog took up digging.

(C) Jim Burwell 2010

Dog Walking: Dog Owners Can Create Dog Behavior Problems

dog walkingThis past Sunday I participated in the pre-game annual Dog Day Afternoon event sponsored by the Astros (they played Cincinnati.)

I was amazed at the number of “good dogs” walking calmly by their owner’s side through the maze of people as if they had done this a 1,000 times or more.

I was more amazed at the number of dogs pulling their owners through the crowd tangling people with the leash or jumping on kids who were trying to walk  and  eat a hot dog (fondly remembered as Dome Dogs).

I’ve been on a number of lessons in the past where dog walking issues was the complaint – more specifically, pulling on leash and sometimes it ended in the dog becoming reactive or aggressive towards other dogs.    One was a Border Collie that turned out to have fear aggression resulting from a lack of socialization.

Another was a 24 month old male golden who, on observation, had always been in charge of the walk.   The owner had the road rash to prove it. The owner seemed to think her dog might be aggressive towards other dogs but really didn’t know because she was afraid to ever let him near dogs.

I immediately recognized the symptom: “BOHS” or Bad Owner Handling Skills. The owner clearly over time kept communicating wrong information to the dog by keeping the leash tight. And, as the dog was consistently corrected for pulling, over time he began to think, My   owner doesn’t want me to go near other dogs.”

Additionally, opposite reflex action – owner pulling back – causes dogs to naturally pull against the leash pressure when owners “honk down” on the leash. And of course, the dog was pulling in the direction of the other dog.  Owner anxiety travels down the leash to the dog and further exacerbates the problem.   Clearly this dog would never get a good butt sniff much less a good playtime with other dogs – unless we could resolve this issue.

In my lesson with the golden, I was not sure what to expect meeting other dogs so I brought two of my dogs. I muzzled the golden, put him on a flat buckle collar and a15’ long line to make sure there was no leash tension and proceeded to approached my two dogs – one at a time (from behind for a good butt sniff).

The golden showed no signs of aggression at all either on muzzle or off muzzle.  I finally mixed up the approaches with pass-bys and frontal approaches and still no issues.   Over the weeks we concentrated on correct owner/dog practice on how to walk their dog on a slack leash around other neighborhood dogs and this eliminated any of my concerns with territorial aggression or aggression to protect the owner.

Key: Learn how to correctly walk your dog on a slack leash and try to check your anxiety at the door before the walk.  Structure your walk with your dog so that he looks to your leadership.

Control most of the walk – but do give your dog his unstructured time to pee, poop, sniff and explore with his nose. It is also a good idea to have your dog sit before allowing your dog to leave your side for his flex time. Build your confidence in your handling skills with practice and time. Remember, the window of socialization and desensitization for most puppies closes by 5 months of age.

Socialize your puppy well and keep it up through the life of your dog. Learn how to walk your dog on a loose leash as this will lead to many more satisfying walks for both you and your dog.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children.  And remember:  “Opportunity Barks!”

Review: dog walking nightmare

I’m Cheryl Yetz and we have 2 rescue Golden Retrievers and we called Jim to help us handle the dogs on walks.

Our younger dog was very excited by prey and birds and rabbits and now we are able to handle our dogs and have comfortable and safe walks with them.

We accomplished this within 3 lessons with Jim  In addition we helped Trudy overcome her fear of going in and out of doors and listening to us and sitting and staying down when we needed her to.