How many dogs do you see walking nicely by their owner's side? Just enjoying the stroll, leash dangling off the owners fingers, nary a tight leash in sight? Not often. It's more likely you see the dog dragging the owner, the dog's leash is a straight line from dog to owner, the dog is probably gagging himself, but still moving forward.
Believe it or not, it really is possible to teach your dog leash manners. If this doesn't seem to be possible, maybe you're doing something wrong. Not in an intentionally bad way, of course, but still, maybe a few tweaks here and there could really improve your dog's leash manners.
Mistake #1: You follow the dog when he pulls.
Following a pulling dog is just like saying "Good dog! Keep pulling!" They get to go where they want – why on earth would they change their behavior? Watch the leash – when it gets tight, stop. Just stop. Don't say anything, don't jerk the leash. Just stand still. Wait for that leash to get a little bit of slack in it. The instant there's slack in the leash, click and move forward. If your dog is too strong and is physically capable of moving you against your will, you'll love the Gentle Leader or the Easy Walk Harness from Premier.
Solution: Don't follow the dog
Mistake #2: You use a retractable leash (a Flexi).
Using a Flexi means your dog must pull to go forward. That's the only way to get the leash to get any longer. So when using a Flexi, you're actually teaching your dog that tension on his collar is a good thing; it's how he gets to go where he wants. Unless you're on a deserted trail, you don't need a Flexi anyway. They're dangerous to use in town where there's both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. There's no good reason your dog needs to be any more than six feet away from you anywhere except a big field or on a deserted hiking trail.
Solution: Use a six-foot leash.
Mistake #3: You never taught your dog how to walk on a loose leash.
You can't blame the dog if you never taught him how to do what you want. If you've not taken the time to teach the dog that a slack leash is the way to get anywhere, start now! It's relatively easy: click and deliver a super-delish treat whenever the dog is within reach when you're on your walks. Honest. It's that easy. Once the dog figures out that walking next to you is (1) really easy and (2) really reinforcing, you've got it! To make it easy for you and the dog, start in a quiet, non-distracting environment. Click and treat a lot! You want to give your dog lots of chances to discover how easy it is to earn a goodie from you. So give him lots of clicks and treats. Click every step if you want! This is fun for you and your dog – it's hard to overdo this step!
Solution: Take your clicker and treats on walks and teach your dog how to walk politely.
Colleen A. Falconer, CPDT-KA CTC says
Nice, straightforward post, Laurie. Loose leash walking is the Holy Grail of dog manners! I think one of the things that undermines owners’ training so often is that dogs go from house to outside and are put in such a state of excitement from the outside environment and its thrilling sights, sounds and smells. It’s easy for dogs to suddenly tune their owners out and it’s easy for owners to become discouraged because they interpret this as the training not working anymore or their dogs being obstinate. Owners would be wise to temporarily up the ante as far as reinforcers/rewards go, using especially exciting treats their dogs don’t normally receive but would do backflips for (instead of their usual dog treats) and increasing their praise and enthusiasm when dogs are alongside them, so dogs will orient to owners despite how exciting being outside is.
Those were some great tips. I appreciate you putting that together. I will probably link to this from an article I have on my site. You can check it out here:
Laurie Luck says
Colleen, I completely agree with you. I like to also teach attention separately, so that outside doesn’t become Disney World for my dogs. Paying attention to me usually leads to my granting access to what my dog wants to see, sniff, or investigate. So I’m sort of building in attention outdoors from the get-go.
Laurie Luck says
Thanks for the comment! I would be happy to have you link to this if it fits your purposes. Thanks again.
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dog shop says
I am completely agree with your views.It’s natural for a dog to pull when walking on a leash, however it can be rather dangerous for both the pet and owner. Such scenario can cause injury to the dog, such as in its neck, shoulder, front legs, and more. And as to the owner, he or she can suffer from broken bones and strained muscles from trying to control his untrained dog.So it must dogs are taught how to properly walk on leashes.