Dear Poncho:

My name is Madison. I’m an adult dog who now has a new annoying younger brother, Baraboo. Unlike me, he’s an idiot when it comes to going for our walks, no matter how long of an outing it is. We both wear a walking device that goes around our mouth. It’s cold where we live, so we also wear our snuggly fleece-lined coats.

Joan Mayer and her sidekick, Poncho

Joan Mayer and her sidekick, Poncho

The drama starts before we get out the door! If he sees any movement toward the leashes or coats, he runs and hides. Our humans have to either sneak up on him or distract him to get his collar on. Once they get the leash on, he knows he’s doomed to walk.

I’m quite a bear of a dog and can handle the outdoors, whereas he’s a little sniveling, skinny puppy. Good grief, what a drag it is to deal with him. Sometimes we just leave him at home, but he doesn’t like that either.

We are trying to figure out if it’s because he’s too cold; after all, he doesn’t have much meat on him. Or is it because he doesn’t like the type of walking equipment, or is he just a jerk?


— Madison

Dear Madison:

Geez, dude! Talk about annoying! I know, all you want to do is head out, explore the land, take in some fresh air, and instead you end up watching your humans play “chase the puppy.” No fun for you, and I’m sure your humans aren’t thrilled either. To be honest, it doesn’t sound like Baraboo is having much fun.

I’m a curious canine myself (click here for Poncho’s blog), so I commend your inquisitiveness — trying to figure out the cause of Baraboo’s behavior is a great place to start. You definitely bring up some important points: Is he acting out because of the uncomfortable head halter and/or chilly winter surroundings?

Regardless of the reason, the overall goal seems to be getting Baraboo to enjoy going for walks. You and your humans can achieve this by creating fun times for your little brother every time you head out, or at least until Baraboo is asking to go. I know, I know, you’re probably saying to yourself, “What? Walking is already fun! Why do we need to spoil him?”

Well, my mom is a professional dog trainer, and she’s always playing devil’s advocate when it comes to trying to understand canine behavior. So, let’s see. It could be that Baraboo’s previous walking expeditions weren’t that fun for him. Based on those past experiences, he’s already anticipating not having a good time and has decided he doesn’t want to go, thus looking like a “jerk” to everyone else.

The training steps I suggest have more to do with getting Baraboo to enjoy the experience of going for walks than asking him to do something specific. In other words, you need to make it all about his environment, and not about his own behavior. The best — and easiest — way to achieve this is to pair everything in his environment with some he already loves. The following are steps my mom has taken with me. They should work for Baraboo, too:

» Harness: My favorite walking accessory is the type of harness where the leash attaches in the front, on the chest. It’s really comfortable, I don’t pull, and it takes the pressure off my neck. Ahh, much more comfy.

» Clothing: We have it pretty good in Ventura. However, if I have to wear any clothing, mom makes sure she feeds me little tidbits of yummy treats. She did this with me and my lobster costume last Halloween. Every time she put me in it, I got bits of steak. I say, whatever makes her happy. All I know is, I now associate my lobster costume with steak — I’m my very own Surf n’ Turf! I can’t wait to wear it again. So if your humans need Baraboo to enjoy wearing his coat, then they could put it on him and feed him yummy treats. But he only gets the treats when he’s wearing his coat. No coat, no steak.

» Meals on wheels (paws): If it’s the actual “going for walkies” that Baraboo isn’t into, then change it up to make it fun. Have your humans put whatever food Baraboo eats into a “to go” container (treat bag, perhaps) and take it on the road. They can give him bits of yummy food here and there, all along the way, while you’re on your walk. The goal is to get Baraboo to make the association of “walking equals fun times for me. I love going for walks!” Since he has to eat anyway, why not have your humans use his meals to their advantage?

» Reward bravery: Baraboo is a puppy, right? For puppies (and other young animals, including humans) everything new can be scary. When in doubt, be afraid, because you never know if something could hurt you. So, you can ask your humans to acknowledge when Baraboo is being “brave.” Be his cheerleader. Give him a “good boy” when he encounters something new, and give him a treat, too. That way he’ll learn to trust these novel situations.

I know that you happen to be a dog that just loves the act of going for walkies, and that this kind of plan sounds overindulgent. Trust me, my own dog trainer mom did some of these things with me, and it’s made my leash-walking experiences much more fun.

Remember, just because we’re dogs, doesn’t mean we all automatically love going for walks. With a little understanding, patience and tri-tip, Baraboo should be able to get through these stressful times and learn to love going for walks. As a matter of fact, I can’t wait for you to write in about how Baraboo gets so excited when he sees the leash that he can hardly contain himself.

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified pet dog trainer and dog behavior counselor. Her column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail

Joan Hunter Mayer is a certified canine behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and founder of The Inquisitive Canine. She and her team are devoted to offering humane, pawsitive, practical solutions that work for the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Joan offers training and behavior consulting services both in person and online, dedicated to strengthening the human-canine bond. If you are feeling inquisitive and have dog training questions, email and click here for more training tips. The opinions expressed are her own.