BooBoo holds a bumper on a recent training walk. Photo by Dave Brown

Walking your dog is a great way for both of you to get some exercise and to bond. As we all know, Patagonia is a very dog friendly town that is ripe for walking dogs and another chance to say “hi or “hola” to our friendly neighbors. You can also work in some very basic obedience drills on your walks.

The dogs I walk the most are my two Labrador retrievers, Molly, age two, and BooBoo, age five. They both are working dogs. Their jobs vary from working as non-slip retrievers, where they walk at heel, then go in front of a pointing dog to flush and then retrieve game birds. 

They are also used as flushing dogs, which requires them to work out in front of hunters to flush and retrieve. 

Their last role is to sit in a blind on waterfowl shoots, where they are released to retrieve ducks and geese on land or water. Although I can’t replicate all the above on our town walks, I can work in some simple obedience and retrieving drills.

As we walk, I have them at heel. I work on sit-stay commands. In vehicle safe areas, I’ll throw a retriever training tool called a bumper while both dogs are sitting, and then release one dog to retrieve the bumper. 

While they are at heel, I don’t allow them to pull on the lead, as I want them close to my side. Slightly in front or a little behind is okay, but pulling on the lead is a no-go, as their focus should be on me and the pace I am walking. 

When approaching people, with or without dogs, they continue to walk at heel. If someone wants to say “hi” I have them “sit and stay” which keeps them focused. When a distraction arises such as a lizard running in front or a dog barking at us as we walk by, the command I use is “leave it’ which puts their focus back on me. 

I also have them “sit” at every crosswalk. They are released via the heel command as I step forward. Recall drills are also easy to do by having the dogs sit and stay, then moving in front of the dogs and having them come to me via the command “here.”

These are all simple drills that anyone can do when walking dogs. The tone of this training is extremely light and both BooBoo and Molly enjoy and look forward to it. No doubt, your dog will too. The result is having an obedient dog that responds with vigor to the commands you give. The dog gains more of a sense of purpose and gains more confidence in you, its pack leader.