We love walking our dogs – it’s a great way to get outside, get some fresh air and exercise. Walking is equally as beneficially to your dog. It gives her a chance to have a change of scenery, exercise, experience different smells and noises, and even 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 seem to have superhuman strength when they are pulling on the lead, eagerly trying to get you to move faster.
Teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash and training her to understand that pulling on the lead does not work is beneficial to both of you.
Dogs 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, your dog 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.
When your dog is on lead and there is any tension on the lead, immediately give her an orange light warning (this is to tell her she is doing something you don’t like, and that she needs to stop). You can for instance use the phrase “ah-ah gently”. Only say this once, then stand still and wait for five seconds. If she doesn’t come back to you within five seconds, say “too bad”, turn around and walk her back towards the house. Keep walking even if she’s resisting: just gently keep pressure on the leash to take her with you, but do not yank her. She’s learning that pulling means the end of her walk – not something she wants at all. Keep doing this step until she does come back to you in the 5 second time frame.
When she does come back to you after an orange light warning give feedback like “good dog!” and carry on walking. 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.
When your dog walks next to you nicely without pulling at all, reward her by giving her little bits of yummy food, or praise. 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.