Going for a walk with your dog should be one of the best things about being a dog owner. There are so many fun times and adventures to be had and memories when taking your dog for a walk. However, if you are like many pet owners and have troubles taking your dog for a walk then you are not alone and The Pet Embassy are here to help you.
Dogs pulling on their leash will be something that may make you feel like you don’t enjoy the walk and the precious bonding experience of going for a walk might become a burden to you. This could lead to your dog being under exercised as you don’t want to take your dog for as many walks as before. However, even the most aggressive leash pullers can learn to walk on their leash without pulling as long as you are patient with your training and consistent in your teaching. Also, a pocket full of tasty treats will also help you bond with your dog and teach them how to walk on a leash properly.
The Pet Embassy’s “How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash”
Equipment and Safety
The most important step in all of this is choosing a leash that is both comfortable and safe for you and your dog. We would recommend looking at the 4 to 6ft long fixed leashes as they are the safest option.
What type of leash should I get?
We recommend a fixed leash over a flexible one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, with the extra long cord on a retractable leash its possible that the mechanism inside the leash will encourage your dog to pull on the leash as they run away and you quickly stop them using the button or lever on the handle.
Secondly, with a 6ft leash there is enough room for your dog to sniff around where they need to as well as enough space to the toilet without your being too close. On the extra long leash, you may find your dog running off to approach other dogs and people which could be dangerous if the other dog is not friendly.
Do I want a harness or a collar?
If your dog is an aggressive puller we would recommend looking into getting a harness over a collar, just until your dog has learnt how to politely walk. A collar might be slightly uncomfortable for a dog that pulls on the leash as it creates tension around the dogs neck, whereas, a harness that clips into the leash will distribute the tension across your dogs body rather than solely on their neck.
Sometimes, the dog may be a little more powerful that yourself or you may be having a hard time when they pull on the leash. Therefore, you should consider looking into a no-pull harness. These harnesses are solely designed to reduce pull by changing the fulcrum point of the leash thereby making it difficult for a dog to actually pull.
It’s also very important to find a good location that is safe when you teach your dog how to walk on a leash. You should look for a quiet place where you have little chance of coming across a distraction during your walking time. We would recommend taking your dog down a quiet trail in the park away from other people and dogs.
Goal of leash training
It’s important to understand that going for a walk is your dogs chance to explore the world that is outside of your front door. Therefore, having your dog glued to your side is not a healthy experience for them, you should let your dog sniff around and get the full experience of being outside rather than stuck to you and too afraid to enjoy themselves as well as mark and track where they have been. The goal of leash training is to maximise both of your experiences and build the bond between you two.
What a well mannered walk entails
A well mannered walk with involve both you and your dog walking in unison with little tension one the leash. You may find your dog a couple of feet in front of you or a couple of feet behind you, both are perfectly fine as long as you know where your dog is and what they are doing. It’s important to note that unlike other activities, there is no such thing as a training walk. So bare that in mind when trying to train them, any pull on the leash or harsh wording will condition your dog to believe what they were doing is wrong, therefore, always provide consistent lessons.
If you followed our advice and went to a quiet trail in the park, well done, if it’s not possible to do that then make sure you load your pockets up with tasty treats, because if you’re trying to train your dog and there are many distractions a good way to keep focus is through the use of these treats. Wether it be a squirrel or a large car passing by, it’s imperative you keep your dog focused on what they need to do. If something or someone catches the attention of your dog and they begin to pull on the leash, ensure that you stop walking. Many dogs may not be accustomed to a quick change of pace and this will startle them for a second. Ensure your dog calms down and the lead becomes loose again, once this happens praise your dog and being walking again.
How to Train a Puller
Unfortunately, dogs believe that a very tight leash should mean forward movement and that a slack leash should be to stay still. However, this is obviously not the case so you need to unteach the conditioning that your dog has gone through. Basically, what this means is that in the early stages of training, the rewardable behaviours are literally anything other than the ones that make your dogs leash tight.
To start of with, you should take a few steps with your dogs and if the leash remains slack between you two, then look to reward them with either positive reinforcement or a treat (be careful with how many treats you give your dog). Continue to do this, for a while and treat your dog to more positive reinforcements or treats if they walk with you and the leash is loose.
A little tip is to make your dog come to you when you feed them the treat as this will condition them into believing that staying close to you is something that is very good and is often rewarded with treats. If you are in the early phases of teaching your dog how to walk properly, then it’s important you overload them with positive reinforcement as this will teach them what works and they are more likely to continue doing it.
If you think that you are making progress and your dog starts pulling on the leash again, then be firm and continue to stop walking until your dog regains focus.
As your dog gets a little better at keeping the slack in the leash and they no longer pull on it as they once did, make sure you make it progressively harder for them to earn treats. Get your dog to walk longer distances before you decide to reward them or if there is a distraction and they no longer pull on the leash. Think about ways you can make your walk a little more challenging for your dog to really stimulate their brain and to properly teach them how to walk politely on a leash.
Lastly, it’s important that you remain consistent in everything you do. The times you go for a walk shouldn’t change too much, keep your dog in routine and this will help them develop behavioural patterns. When you are out on the walk remember what works and what doesn’t work quite as well. Most importantly, remember to enjoy your time together as this is the best time for your dog to let loose and enjoy themselves and we think you should too.
Should I Let My Dog off the Leash?
If you feel like you have mastered taking your dog for a walk on the leash you may be thinking the natural step is to take them for a walk off the leash and let them run free. Letting your dog off the leash is arguably the best way for them to let off some steam and to burn through those calories. However, before you think about letting your dog off the leash there are some important questions that we feel you should know the answer too before.
Will my dog enjoy being off the leash?
If your dog is quite nervous or shy then it may not be the best choice for your dog to be let off the leash. There is a possibility that your dog may get a little spooked or jumpy from something and run off or if they are not the friendliest dog they may be on guard at all time looking for other dogs. We understand that not all dogs are confident enough to walk off a leash, we have wrote a recent post on building a dog’s confidence, which you can find here. If off leash doesn’t suit your dog’s personality, there is no need to push it. You can have just as much fun on the leash.
Will my dog come back to me?
This is a very important question that you must know the answer too. If you were to let your dog off the leash would they come back to you or would they continue to run away. Like leash training, the best way to master this is to actually do it. The Pet Embassy have compiled a few helpful steps to help you recall your dog.
If your have treats in your pocket then this is a good time to get them out, make sure you make some noise with the treat and call your dogs name – at this point they should be on a leash. Once you have their attention and they start coming towards you, show them the treat and ask them to come. Once they have nibbled at the treat, lot’s of positive reinforcement is best at this point so your dog associates coming to you when you call with treats and warm embraces.
Next step would be to telling them to stay or to sit and backing off a few metres. Once you feel like the distance is enough begin to call their name and hold some more of the treat out, once they come to you repeat the first step. Continue to do this for as long as you feel like but each time you keep increasing the distance by a little bit each time.
Is it legal to let my dog off the leash?
You should do a quick search of areas where you can and cannot let your dog off a leash. There are many places which have designated off leash dog parks. You can find these places using a quick google search. If you are unsure whether it’s legal or not when you get to a place, prepare to have a leashed walk and have a look around for signs or other dogs and then make a decision.
What happens if I lose my dog?
Regardless of how strong your recall is, there is still a possibility that you may lose your dog on a day out. This is a horrible outcome and we don’t wish it about anybody. However, we must ensure we take the relevant measures to combat this situation. You should ensure that your dog wears a collar with their name on it as well as yours, your contact details and your address. If it’s possible to get your pet microchipped then we would recommend doing this as soon as possible. Lastly, invest in a GPS tracker for your pets collar as the ultimate safety precaution.
If you found The Pet Embassy’s “How to Train Your Dog to Walk on a Leash” helpful please let us know in the comments section, we would love to hear your stories.
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