We love walking our dogs – it’s a great way to get outside, get some fresh air and to exercise. Walking is equally beneficial to your dog. It gives her a chance to enjoy a change of scenery with you, to get some exercise, to experience different smells and noises, and have the chance to socialize with other dogs if she’s social.
However, walking a dog who you have to wrestle with for the entire walk while she drags you along behind her is exhausting, frustrating and can often put you off walking your dog completely. Even the smallest dog can appear to possess superhuman strength when she is pulling on the lead, eagerly trying to get you to move faster.
Teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash is beneficial to both of you.
Dogs will do what works for them – if you have a puller, she has learned that pulling on the lead gets her where she wants to go faster.
If you allow your dog to pull you anywhere, even if it’s just from the car to the gate, she will learn that pulling is the action that eventually “gets you to where you want to be, and the more you want to get there, the harder you pull!”
Here are some simple steps to follow to get your eager beaver to walk calmly:
Set your dog up for success. Start in a quiet area – perhaps even just putting on the lead and getting from the front door to the gate. If you allow your dog to pull you anywhere, even if it’s just the short distance to the gate, your dog will learn that pulling is the action that eventually gets her where she wants to be. So teaching her to first walk calmly to the gate is a great way to start.
If your dog starts to pull on the lead, give her a clue – say “oops slowly!” in a neutral tone of voice. If she continues to pull, stop moving and wait for her to come back to you.
As soon as she turns to look at you, and there is less tension on the lead, tell her she’s a clever dog and resume the walk. If she starts pulling again, stop and repeat step 2. She will eventually understand that if she is pulling it means that she isn’t getting to go anywhere.
Reward with yummy treats, a game of tug or lots of sincere praise when she is walking on a loose leash. You need to pay more attention to the loose leash occurrences than you do to the tight ones! Feedback counts. Initially, while you are training this, you will have to reward and talk quite a lot!
Your dog will learn very quickly that pulling does not work and actually ends the fun they are having. As with all training, be consistent and move at your dog’s pace – don’t rush her on to the next step until she has mastered the one she is on.
Also keep in mind that loose leash walking is not heeling – she can walk anywhere near you as long as there is no tension in the lead.