The Power of the Focused Walk

April 21, 2011  

Ashley Borden explains benefits for dog and handler

By Micaela Myers

Have you ever seen someone try to walk three dogs at once? It most often resembles a kid holding a bunch of balloons—each one pulling in its own direction, trying to fly away.

But if you’re ever in Los Angeles, you may see a far different picture: two pit bulls and a Chinese Crested walking calmly beside their handler.

Ashley Borden, author of Your Perfect Fit: What to Wear to Show Off Your Assets / What to Do to Tone Up Your Trouble Spots is a wellness consultant to the stars. Her clients have included Christina Aguilera, Natasha Bedingfield, Ryan Gosling and Mandy Moore, and her furry family members—all rescues—include Pedro (a hound/pit bull mix), William (a pit bull) and Barbara (a Chinese Crested), plus two cats.

“My animals walk for at least an hour a day. It brings so much more balance.”

Ashley first learned the power of the focused walk back in 2005 when she was trying to rehabilitate a pit bull named McCartney who was dog aggressive and had no social skills after being locked in a garage for five years. Cesar Millan let McCartney come live in his pack for two weeks and then demonstrated to Ashley how he would walk the dog.

“We went out with a bunch of his pit bulls and some other dogs and my dog,” she said. “I watched him first, and then he had me take the pack of dogs and walk with them. He was coaching me on how to stand up straight, walk with a purpose, and hold the leash like you’re holding a purse down by your side with not too much tension. I got to see it firsthand how much dogs need to see that there’s a pack leader there, and how important walking is to an animal and to let go of tension and to relax—especially dogs that are in a house all day. Dogs are pack animals that roam.”

When Ashley decided to integrate a second dog into her home, the first thing she did was take McCartney on a long walk with the new dog. The techniques she learned enabled her to have a multi-dog harmonies household and to rehabilitate other dogs with troubled pasts.

“I have three dogs now, and every day they walk,” Ashley said. “My animals walk for at least an hour a day. It brings so much more balance.”

Not only has it helped her dogs, but she’s learned it’s also an excellent fitness tool for people.

“I always ask my clients, ‘Do you have a dog?’” said Ashley. “When you end up walking your dog for an hour, you feel a lot more relaxed and so does your dog.”

Ashley said when her boyfriend struggled to get back in shape, he started walking the dogs. “He would walk them for an hour, and it was making a big difference in his body and his mental thinking,” said Ashley.

Want to clear your thinking while seeing a difference in your body? Try Ashley’s tips to making walking healthier for dogs and handlers:

* Rather than letting your dog pull and wander around at the end of the leash, you decide when it’s time for him to sniff around. The majority of the walk should be focused, meaning the dog should be walking at your side.

* When you’re walking with focus and purpose, ask your dog to walk at your side. Hold the leash at your side without tension. Stand up straight and walk with purpose. Let go of any fear, anger or anxiety. Walk calmly and with confidence.

* Build up your dog’s stamina slowly. Start out with 15-minute walks and increase the length and pace as your dog gets in better shape. Get your dog a check up at the vet to see what type of exercise he is healthy enough for.

* Make sure to hydrate your dog during walks. If it’s hot out, be considerate of black top or other surfaces that may burn his paws.

* If you’re interested in getting maximum fitness benefits when exercising with your dog—and he’s cleared for the intensity and duration of your workouts—consider monitoring your heart rate. A brisk pace, hill work or running intervals can all increase intensity. Taking your dog on bike rides or rollerblading is another option. Or, use your walk with your dog as a warm up to your more intensive cardio workout.

* If your dog needs to learn to walk politely with other dogs, schedule a walk with a friend who has a dog. Then, the two of you can socialize, and your dogs can socialize in a neutral, controlled and safe environment.

To learn more walking tips visit the ASPCA and click here to access their ideas.

* Note: While this article relates Ashley Borden’s experiences with Cesar Millan, we are not attempting to explore or endorse all of his methods. Instead, we are outlining the focused walking techniques that Ashley has found effective with her dogs. (We encourage your comments, please refer to our commenting policy)

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