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Get Your Dog Excited for Walks with a Cue

Get Your Dog Excited for Walks with a Cue

The Problem with Pre-Walk Excitement

Over the years, I’ve dealt with my fair share of dog behavior issues. From jumping to barking, there’s no shortage of quirks our canine companions can develop. But one that always leaves me exasperated is the dreaded pre-walk excitement. You know the one – where your dog turns into a whirlwind of barking, circling, and unbridled enthusiasm the moment they catch wind of an impending stroll.

I have three dogs of my own, plus two fosters, and they’ve all been guilty of this at one point or another. Heston, in particular, is the ringleader of the pack. That dog lives for his walks. As soon as he sees me lace up my boots or pick up his leash, it’s game on. The barking, the running, the complete lack of impulse control – I’ve seen it all.

And let me tell you, trying to calm a dog like that down before a walk is no easy feat. It’s like trying to reason with a toddler on a sugar high. The frustration is real, my friends. But the good news is, it’s a problem that can be solved. With a little training and some creative thinking, we can channel that pre-walk excitement into something far more manageable.

Identifying the Cues

The key to tackling this issue lies in understanding the cues we’re inadvertently giving our dogs. You see, our canine companions are experts at reading our every move and associating them with potential rewards. And when it comes to walks, the list of cues can be a mile long.

It starts with the moment I wake up. Heston knows that if I’m up and about, a walk could be in the works. Then there’s the sound of my boots being laced, the jingle of my keys, the opening of the door – each one a puzzle piece in Heston’s mind, slowly assembling the promise of a walk.

By the time I’ve got my coat on and the leash in hand, Heston is a bundle of excitement, ready to race out the door. And that’s where the real challenge begins. Trying to calm a dog that’s already worked up to a fever pitch is like trying to stop a freight train with a piece of string.

Breaking the Chain

The solution, my friends, lies in breaking that chain of associations. We need to disrupt the sequence, desensitize our dogs to the various cues, and make the whole process less predictable. Only then can we hope to have a calmer, more responsive pup on our hands.

One of the first things I did was identify every single cue that gets Heston riled up. I made a list of every movement, every object, every sound that contributes to his pre-walk excitement. Then, I set about systematically breaking the connection between those cues and the impending walk.

For example, I started leaving Heston’s harness and leash out throughout the day, clipping and unclipping them without any actual walking happening. I’d put on my boots and then sit down to watch TV, just to keep him guessing. And when it came time for the real walk, I’d try my best to minimize the number of cues – keeping the routine as unpredictable as possible.

Impulse Control Training

Of course, it’s not enough to just disrupt the cue chain. We also need to work on Heston’s impulse control and frustration tolerance. After all, even a calm dog can still get revved up when they realize a walk is on the horizon.

That’s where our training sessions come in. I’ve been working with Heston on a variety of exercises, from the classic “sit-stay” to more dynamic games that get him thinking. The goal is to help him understand that he needs to focus and stay in control, even when his instincts are telling him to go, go, go.

One of my favorite techniques is the “ball game.” Whenever I start to put on my boots or pick up his leash, I’ll ask Heston to go grab a toy. This gives him an outlet for his energy, while also reinforcing the idea that certain cues don’t automatically mean “walk time.” It’s a win-win, really.

Building Confidence and Consistency

Of course, all of this training takes time and consistency. It’s not enough to just work on it for a few days and expect miracles. We’re talking about unraveling deeply ingrained associations, and that requires patience and commitment.

But the payoff is well worth it. As Heston starts to understand that the pre-walk cues don’t always lead to the big reward, his excitement levels begin to subside. He’s still happy and enthusiastic when it’s time to go, but the frenzied barking and circling has given way to a more controlled, focused energy.

And let me tell you, walking a dog like that is a pleasure. No more arm-wrenching tugs, no more embarrassment as I try to wrangle a Tasmanian devil on a leash. Instead, I have a canine companion who’s eager to join me on our adventures, but respects my lead and stays by my side.

The Power of Cues

It’s all about harnessing the power of those cues, my friends. By understanding how our dogs’ minds work and taking the time to re-write those associations, we can transform our walking experiences from a frustrating chore to a joyful bonding moment.

And the best part? Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can apply these principles to all sorts of other behaviors. has a wealth of resources to help you tackle everything from jumping to digging. With a little creativity and a whole lot of patience, the sky’s the limit.

So, if you’re dealing with a pre-walk loon like I am, take heart. With the right approach, you can turn that wild energy into a well-mannered walking companion. And who knows, maybe you’ll even start looking forward to those daily strolls as much as your four-legged friend.


In the end, it all comes down to understanding our dogs and giving them the tools they need to succeed. By identifying the cues that trigger their excitement, breaking those associations, and working on impulse control, we can create a calmer, more responsive pup – one who’s excited for walks, but in a way that’s manageable and enjoyable for both of us.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a leash, a pocketful of treats, and get to work. Your dog (and your sanity) will thank you.

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