Loose Leash Walking
Contrary to popular belief, dogs that pull on the leash while being walked do not want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha, or dominant over their human. There is a much simpler explanation: dogs love to be outside, and the walk is a stimulating and exciting part of their day, so the desire to push ahead is very strong.
A leash, though vital for safety, can also be frustrating for a dog, because being 'tied' to a person essentially stops a dog’s ability to act naturally. That being said, all dogs should be taught how to walk on the leash in a positive way without being jerked, yanked, choked, or shocked, so that walks can be enjoyable for everyone.
If you are overpowered by your dog’s pulling and can’t start teaching for fear of being pulled over, there are humane equipment solutions to help modify the pulling while you teach your dog to walk appropriately:
- A chest-led harness is a perfect training aid, as it takes pressure off a dog’s sensitive neck area by distributing the pressure more evenly around the body. When the leash is attached to a ring located on the chest strap and your dog pulls, the harness will turn his body around rather than allowing him to go forward. This harness is great for anyone who needs extra help, because safety must come first.
- Some dogs are so strong that a canine head collar is needed, which acts the same way a halter does on a horse. Whenever the dog pulls, it automatically brings his head around. Head collars can help in severe cases, especially with pregnant women or elderly clients, but dogs need time to habituate to them, as they can be uncomfortable at first..
- Avoid the use of choke or prong collars, as these devices cause pain and significant physical damage to your dog’s neck.
The Stop and Be Still Technique
- Leash pulling is often successful for the dog because the person inadvertently reinforces the pulling by allowing the dog get to where he wants to go when he pulls. But you can change this picture by changing the consequence for your dog.
- Whenever he pulls, immediately stop and stand completely still until the leash relaxes because your dog either takes a step back or turns around to give you focus. When the leash is nicely relaxed, proceed on your walk. Repeat this as necessary.
The Reverse Direction Technique
If you find the preceding technique too slow, you can try the reverse direction method.
- When your dog pulls, issue a 'let’s go' cue, turn away from him, and walk off in the other direction without jerking on the leash.
- You can avoid yanking by motivating your dog to follow you with an excited voice to get his attention.
- When he is following you and the leash is relaxed, turn back and continue on your way.
- It may take a few turns, but your vocal cues and body language will make it clear that pulling will not be reinforced with forward movement, whereas walking calmly by your side or even slightly in front of you on a loose leash will allow your dog to get to where he wants to go.
- You can also reinforce your dog’s decision to walk close to you by giving him a motivating reward when he is by your side.
Vary the Picture
- Once your dog is listening to you, you can vary the picture even more by becoming unpredictable yourself. This requires your dog to listen to you at all times, because he never knows when you might turn or where you are going to go next.
- Instead of turning away from him when you give the 'let’s go' cue, reverse direction by turning toward him. You can turn in a circle or do a figure eight. Any of these variations will get your dog’s attention.
- Do not forget to praise him for complying, because the better you make him feel when he is walking close to you, the more he will choose to do so.
What Not to Do:
Do not yank your dog around. While it might be tempting to use your dog’s leash to correct him, rely more on teaching him what to do than correcting him all the time.
Problem: My dog is fine walking on the leash but when he sees other dogs he loses his mind and pulls ahead of me.
Solution: In short, change direction before he gets to the point where he reacts. More about walking with an excitable, leash reactive or leash aggressive dog.
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