By Linda Cole
Walking a dog is necessary to provide them with proper exercise and give them access to new stimulation they can’t get locked up in the house all day. Many times, though, owners find that their dog is so excited and eager to see what’s around the next corner, he ends up dragging them down the street. It’s not difficult to teach your dog proper leash etiquette, but it does require practice and time.
As with any dog training session, pay attention to your dog and stop when he is tired. Make it fun and he’ll be eager for the next lesson, especially if you have lots of CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ dog treats on hand for a reward. Stay calm, consistent and patient, and you can teach your dog to walk beside you on a loose leash. Walking a dog should not leave you feeling like you need a trip to the emergency room once you get back home.
When you allow your dog to rush forward on his leash, you’re teaching him it’s okay to pull you down the street. But this also creates a dog who can be more aggressive when he’s on a leash. The tight leash puts tension on his neck, and he’s not in a relaxed state of mind. The result is a dog who barks at other dogs and people, or a dog who rushes up to people or dogs in his path. Walking a dog on a loose leash keeps the dog calmer, and he learns to control his excitement.
Begin by practicing with your dog inside your home where you can control distractions. Put the leash on your dog and walk around the house with him by your side. When you’re ready to move outside, grab the treats and head out to the sidewalk in front of your house. You need to teach your dog how you want him to behave before going on a regular walk.
Practice by walking back and forth in front of your house. When your dog tries to move forward, call him back and drop a treat at the back of your heel. You want to teach your dog that’s where he’ll find his favorite treat. As you walk, drop a treat behind your heel each time he moves ahead of you. You’re teaching him that when he stays next to you, good things can happen. Positive reinforcement and treats – what more could a dog ask for?
Another trick you can use to teach your dog not to pull on his leash is each time he moves forward, when the leash becomes tense, stop walking. Call him back to you and take a couple of steps back to get him into a walking position at your side or a little behind you. Place a treat at the back of your heel when he comes to your side. Stop each time he tries to pull ahead, step back when he returns to you and reward him every time he comes back. When he stops rushing ahead and is constantly walking by your side, you can eliminate the treats if you want.
When practicing in front of your house, change directions suddenly to keep your dog on his toes. He will learn to watch what you’re doing instead of looking around for something or someone to bark at. Your dog learns it’s in his best interest to pay attention to where you are going and what you are doing. By suddenly changing direction, he no longer knows which way is forward and is more intent on following you.
Once your dog learns how to walk on a loose leash, you can drop the leash and your dog should continue walking beside you, because that’s where good things happen. He’ll be more interested in walking with you instead of pulling you down the street. This is also a good opportunity to teach your dog to sit whenever you stop walking to help keep him in a relaxed state of mind if you stop to talk to someone and when you stop at a street crossing.
Walking a dog should be relaxing for both of you. If your dog drags you down the street, don’t expect overnight success when you start to teach your dog to walk on a loose leash. It can take several training sessions before you’re ready to go for a walk, so keep trying. It’s much easier to enjoy an afternoon walk when you don’t have to worry about fighting your dog every step of the way.
Did you know that cats can also be trained to walk on a leash? It’s true! Julia Williams has a great article on the subject, which you can read here.
Read more articles by Linda Cole
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Pet Foods.