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Rucksack Walk


This is not a training exercise, it is a bonding and enrichment opportunity. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it so don’t put any pressure on yourself and just enjoy it. How long can you make it last? 

While the contents of the rucksack are important, the true magic is in the delivery. Treat everything that comes out of the rucksack as if it were a baby bird. Cupped hands, build the excitement. It’s all very precious so open the bag slowly. 

Peek inside. ‘Oooh, what is this? Ohhh wow.’ This is the point where you will have a captive audience. When Helen and I ran puppy classes I would demo this at the very end of the last class. Dogs and owners sat captivated. You could hear a pin drop. There’s something about the hushed voices and sense of mystery that dogs find irresistible. Every word is a whisper, every movement is slow. Think of the nursery school teacher reading a story, the children cross-legged and transfixed. Channel that teacher. 

However, some dogs just say, ‘You had me at Velcro!’ 

Sit down together. There’s something wonderful about sitting on the grass or floor with our dogs. If you can’t sit on the floor though, don’t worry – a chair is fine. 

At all times remember the baby bird: precious, quiet, curious – shhh! Shield it in your hands – it’s now an injured baby bird, an unexploded bomb! Gently peel back a corner of the lid – a little more, a little more, letting your dog investigate. 

Open the boxes in this order:

  • Novel scent – let them smell it! 
  • The Thing –  allow investigation! See what noises it can make if you rub it, blow it, tap it with your finger, scratch it with your nail.
  • Novel food – let them eat it! 
  • The chew – just ‘be’. 

Slowly close the boxes again and put them back into the rucksack before bringing out the next one.