Leash Control: It’s Not About Control at All

FullSizeRenderAt its very basic definition, a leash is simply a line that keeps your dogs attached to you for their safety and for the safety of others. But when you ask the average pet parent what the purpose of a leash is, many will respond with something containing the word control. I don't think that's a coincidence considering that over the years, the leash has become a source of great frustration for both pet parents and their dogs. Leash reactivity has become an all-too-common phenomenon in pet dogs, and I think what's ultimately to blame in many cases is the mythical unicorn of a concept called "leash control."

When you think about the term "leash control", you probably picture a dog in a perfect heel position that's completely focused on the handler. People in the pet dog world go to great lengths to try to achieve this "gold star level" of leash control using all kinds of methods, from yanking on the leash, using physical corrections on a choke or prong collar, or even using a shock collar to force compliance. But here's the thing: true leash control isn't about control at all.

I've got two big dogs. I'm a small person. To physically force my dogs into walking by my side would be a miserable time for all of us. I don't believe in the use of prong, choke, or shock collars. So what's a girl to do? Teach the dog what you want from them.

It's such a painstakingly simple concept, but so many pet parents miss this critical opportunity to truly teach their dog to walk politely on leash. A dog isn't born with the innate knowledge that they should walk by our side and should never pull us over to smell things or greet others. A dog that does these things either has not been taught these concepts, or has not experienced enough handler consistency to actively practice what he's been taught. These dogs are not dominant, stubborn, or resentful. Their pace is naturally faster than ours and they want to get where they're going. Simple as that.

You can find training techniques and step-by-step videos for teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash here. If the videos won't load, you can watch them on Victoria's Teacher's Pet YouTube series. I would recommend using the Positively No-Pull Harness or a similar chest-led harness in conjunction with this training so that managing your dog is a bit easier.

At first, walking one of my two dogs was like being dragged along by a freight train, but with time and consistency, I now have a dog who knows exactly what's wanted of her, and it's her choice that she voluntarily makes to comply with what I'm asking. As a result, she gets a great walk every day, and I get to keep my arm attached to my body. You can have the same!


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Positively Expert: Alex Andes

Alex Andes is the owner and head trainer of Peach on a Leash Dog Training & Behavior Services in Atlanta, GA.


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