Since our business and skills have grown, we’ve incorporated more tools to our dog handling repertoire. One tool that we utilize for some pack walks is a walking stick. We get occasional comments on the stick as some see it as a weapon. “Beating them into submission eh?” is what comes to some minds when they see it. On the contrary, the walking stick has many non violent uses for us. To be very clear, we never ever beat dogs with anything.
After one of our sheep herding days, I decided to try the stick out on a pack walk. In sheep herding, they use a “crook” which looks like a stick that Little Bo Peep would use, a staff with a hook on one end. It’s a communication tool to give direction. Tap on the ground to show “this is not the direction I want you to go” among other things. It’s an important tool that’s been used in various circumstances for thousands of years.
"The crook as a symbol of power, guardianship or prestige appears in both ancient and modern art and emblems. The crook and the flail were two symbols associated with the ancient Egyptian god, Osiris. Political and religious leaders from Pharaohs to Jesus to Kings and Popes have carried them to symbolize that they shepherded or led their people.”
It’s a leader’s tool. If you’ve ever walked with one you've likely felt a sense of stability and confidence. You may walk with your head a little higher, your posture a little straighter and your stride a little more calm and intentional. The effects on your state of mind in itself are beneficial when you are in a leadership position. Leaders have a calm and confident energy and this is the energy that animals follow. Whatever tool makes you feel this way is a tool that will benefit and accommodate your biggest asset, your energy.
With your calm and confident energy found, the stick now becomes a guide. It’s now an extension of that energy and yourself. On a pack walk, when placed to your right, dogs will go left. Placed left, dogs go right. Placed in front, dogs stop. When we have 15 leashes in one hand, the walking stick helps us to guide dogs gently to one side or another, guard from other passing people or animals, stop unwanted behavior by hitting the ground or a little tap on the butt and can also be used in defense of stray or off leash dogs who approach. It’s handy for untangling leashes, hitting crosswalk buttons and we’re hoping to have mounts attached soon for camera use (selfie sticks, we love 'em we hate 'em).
We don’t always use walking sticks but when we have a lot of dogs, it’s super useful and helps us keep our cool. All our clients dogs give us their trust, respect, loyalty and love. They know we’ve got everything under control so they can relax and follow. No violence necessary.
Check out one of our pack leaders, Yasmeen, guiding dogs out of the grass with the walking stick. We stop for potty breaks at times specified by us. When the dogs are allowed to walk in the grass by their own decision, we get noses down to the ground and tracking behavior which means their attention is not with us. Notice the stick never touches the dogs.
If you’re interested in sheep herding or learning how to effectively use a walking stick with your dogs, give us a call!