Your boy won’t quit pulling? Are you at your wits end? In that case, read on! Leash walking can be both a horrible, terrifying experience, or it can help solidify the loving bond between you and your pet! Master the easy dog walking techniques listed in this article, and you will both impress onlookers with your new found control and enjoy the wonders nature has to offer.
Choosing a Leash
You can’t very well walk a dog without the proper lead. Sure, there are many styles- extendable flexi-leads, chain-link leads, thin nylon leads, and short leather leads among the most common. They all have their purpose; not one is better than the other. However, each is best for certain easy dog walking situations- they all have their benefits.
Extendable ‘Flexi’ Lead
The park is where this type shines. Here, it is safe for your pooch to explore a bit further on his dog walk, to chase that Frisbee (for example). Little Fido is able to run and jump around without the worry of obstacles entangling the lead. You don’t need to worry about endless foot-traffic getting in the way.
However, this is not the type of leash you want to use when you walk a dog everyday, where the many legs of other dogs and people can become problematic. These are also a poor choice when embarking on training exercises.
Does your dog like to chew, or bite on his leash? Is he so strong that his excessive pulling causes the leash to break? Chain leads are good for their strength and durability. They are able to withstand the tugging of giant breeds, such as the Mastiff, or the muscular Bulldog. Chain leads are perhaps best when securing your dog to one area- such as when attached to a steak in the ground.
Dog walking also can be very hard on the hands. If a light stroll in the city is the plan, these may not be a good idea. If your dog pulls so aggressively that metal is necessary to walk, the problem lies in the dog’s pulling- not the choice of leash. The pulling behavior needs to be worked on before any enjoyable walk can occur.
I have seen many chain link leads with leather hand grips out there- which make very little sense to me (unless the leather surrounds the chains, but many aren’t like that). Strength is the point of metal, but that feature is lost with leather. A solid lead doesn’t help when you loose control of it.
Nylon leashes come in many attractive colors, and tend to endure the elements well (rain, snow) where leather might become brittle and metal could rust. If you just have to have that flashy sense of style when walking your dog, nylon is the choice for you.
On the other hand, when dealing with a strong puller- nylon can leave ‘leash burns’, or even cut into the hands of a handler. When first leash training, nylon may not be the best choice.
During training exercises, leather is best type for easy dog walking. Leather is the easiest on the hands and looks attractive. If you are willing to spend a little extra early on, this type is what you want.
You want to start off with a short lead (4-6 feet is preferable). If we are going to train our dogs to walk nicely beside us, allowing excess room to run around seems counter-productive. Leave enough length so your dog is not hanging himself, or hopping off the ground, but not so much so they are allowed to run in front of you.
I have seen quite a few leashes that resemble bungee cords recently. I have never used one myself, but this type seems like a good idea. For one, the material is very strong and durable. They are not long enough to become entangled, not thin/sharp enough to damage skin, and very comfortable to hold onto.
Overall, this is likely the best design to establish easy dog walking!
Realize that dogs naturally walk faster than humans. They need to be taught to slow down to our pace. Marking (urinating on objects to leave their scent) is also natural, especially among intact males. On top of this, your dog is likely going to be curious about the outside environment, and want to experience the many scents it has to offer.
The Harness- Yay Or Nay?
A lot of mixed reviews and opinions exist out there on the ‘dog harness’. One thing is for sure- any harness that is built to tighten as the dog pulls is probably not good, and can present potential dangers.
There are many different designs and styles here. ‘Back-clip’ Harnesses are easy to put on, and protect the dog’s neck area from strain or injury- often the ones I would suggest, if I were to use them at all.
Again, the type and style you would use depends on the circumstance- size of the dog, leash-reactivity, energy, etc. Most often, I wouldn’t use them at all.
Consistency– You want to do the same thing every single time. This is the best way to condition easy dog walking; become inconsistent, or alter your methods, and your dog may become confused. At the very least, it will take them longer to learn the behavior we want. This principle is a constant throughout all types of training, whether it be leash, agility, tricks, or simple potty training.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat! Your dog isn’t going to catch on the first time. However, they will eventually understand what is being asked of them after multiple sessions. Did the hockey player learn to ice skate the first time? Did you hop on your first two wheeled bike as a child, and cruise down the road right off the bat? Not a trainer in the world will tell you otherwise.
Check out my easy to follow tutorial about dog jump & hurtle training!
Why can easy dog walking seem so… Hard?
Dogs pull for a number of reasons, but most can be chalked down to over excitement/arousal. Indeed, they are like kids at Disney World. Can you really blame them- consider all the countless smells and sounds they were deprived of until now- that is a big deal to a dog. It is exciting to be outdoors, to explore new places!
So what are a few things you can do prior to the walk- to help ease that excitement, and step a little further toward easy dog walking? Well:
#1. Exercise in the house. Play a game or go through some tricks. Try to eliminate some of that pent up energy.
#2. Make it Fun. The only thing they may enjoy more then finally experiencing those smells and sounds is making s game out of it. Can you think of fun ways to intellectually stimulate them intentionally, to give them a reason to focus on you? The ‘dog treat fanny pack’ I have listed below is a great tool here; don’t neglect the rewards!
Negative reinforcement has a slightly different meaning then most people apply; you are taking away something undesirable to cause a desirable behavior to continue; the devices I list below would more accurately be termed ‘positive punishment’.
These methods may work, and work well- in the Short Term. The reasoning behind this- any intelligent creature maintains a self-preservation instinct, and prioritizes it over pleasure. However, ‘negative reinforcement’ (positive punishment) can also create a sense of fear in our dogs, and a fearful dog can easily turn into a dangerous dog; if a dog cannot escape its tormentor, and all of its efforts to communicate displeasure have been ignored, it may lash out; the basic ‘fight or flight’ instinct.
This is an extreme example, but not the only one. The use of many negative reinforcement/ positive punishment techniques, or aversives, could damage the pet-owner relationship that we are working to improve. You are essentially defeating the purpose you began with. So, yes- this may yield fantastic results quickly, but also may cause irreparable damage in the long run.
In psychological terms, all this means is you are adding something to reinforce a behavior.
This type of reinforcement is our ‘bread and butter’, a straight path to easy dog walking. The key to this, as with most successful training techniques today, is causing our dogs to want to perform a behavior for us rather than fear failing. The reward is a type of positive reinforcement; you’re reinforcing a behavior with enjoyable outcomes! Give the dog a reason to want to perform!
In a dog’s way of thinking, it is simple; they are only going to make that choice if they see the outcome as worth the effort. For example- they aren’t going to abandon their interests to return to you when called simply because you want them to. They have to see the recall as more beneficial.
Try to make every training experience a positive, happy one. You will reap the rewards in the end!
Easy Dog Walking – Method 1
Sit, Recall- to use this method, your dog must first know these two commands.
Stand next to your dog (attached to a 4-6 food lead). Begin walking. If and/or when your dog reaches the end of this lead, and begins to pull you, simply stop. Don’t move; wait until your dog stops pulling, and call him back to you. As he returns to your side (or no longer in front of you), have him sit, and reward with a treat. Repeat this process; eventually, your dog should learn that he gets nowhere by pulling; puling actually is detrimental to the walk. However, if easy dog walking takes place by your side, and your pet does not pull- the easy dog walking continues!
If you wish, you can continue to give treats on a regular basis as the dog walks beside you. He may look up at you, or stay next to you, because the reason you are giving him outweighs his desire to pull ahead. Remember to be consistent- repeat the same thing, every time.
As with most training, this isn’t going to come all at once. It may take a few days, or a few weeks. Eventually, though, you will notice your dog is pulling less often, then rarely at all! This requires patience, but the outcome will be worth it!
Careful, however; your dog might catch on to you; you don’t want them believing they will be rewarded if they first pull the leash, then return to your side (in that order). Don’t think they are that smart? Think again; if you condition them this way (perhaps not with all breeds), they will.
Easy Dog Walking – Method 2
You will need a pouch or pocket full of treats for this; preferably small training rewards. Start walking, as you did with method one. Every two-three steps reward your dog; pop a treat. It won’t take long before they are walking right next to you, watching your every move in anticipation! As you continue with training sessions, slowly lengthen the duration between treats. If your dog becomes distracted, and pulls in one direction, simply stop (as with method one). Use your recall, and resume.
With these first two methods, distraction is our enemy. You need to find a way to eliminate distractions, or limit them, as much as possible. In some cases, as with city-walking, this might not be possible; so try to make the reward seem more interesting than the distraction! Add praise!
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