Many people have had their visions of taking long, leisurely walks with their best doggie friend replaced by visions of spending time in the chiropractors office for shoulder and back pain. Dogs that pull on-leash have a problem. The owner hates the walk, and hence he/she shortens it. And the dog, which simply wanted to explore the world, is cut short. That's why teaching the dog to walk nicely on a leash is one of the foundations of a good quality of life for both owner and dog.
The reason dogs pull on-leash is because they haven’t been taught to walk any other way; pulling gets them where they want to go. When your dog pulls, every forward step you take reinforces the behavior and trains him to continue pulling. Therefore, part of the training process is to stop rewarding your dog with forward movement for pulling.
Every time the leash gets tight, stop dead, freeze. Wait a few seconds. If the dog turns around to look at you, praise and let him come to you to get the treat, then start walking again. It is important to deliver the treat near you and not walk to the dog to deliver it.
If, the dog is stuck at the end of the leash without turning back to you, turn around and start walking in the other direction. The dog will follow you and you can treat when he is by your side again.
As long as the leash is loose, keep walking as you praise and treat often as the dog walks by your side, especially when he looks at you.
At the beginning you will have to praise and treat very generously, but gradually you will be able to increase the loose leash walking duration between treats.
Practice these steps over and over on a short stretch of path or road. When your dog masters the loose leash walk on that stretch, gradually add more distance.
Let your dog explore
One of the greatest rewards your can give your dog for walking nicely on-leash is the freedom to explore. And, puppies need more freedom to explore than adult dogs, because the world is so new. For every 5-10 minutes of walking, provide freedom. Give the cue “Okay - free,” and allow your dog to sniff and wonder as you follow for a while. It is now your job to keep the leash loose. When you’re ready to go just pat your leg and say “Lets go.”
What if I want to take my dog on a long walk or don’t have time to train?
I recommend purchasing equipment that will reduce pulling behavior. The head halter (Gentle Leader or Halti) and control body harness (EZ Walk Harness or Sense-ation Harness) can be of great help in this area.
Feed your dog all or part of his meal while walking along; use a fanny pack and simply feed him one bite after another as long as he is in correct position.
Play a game with your dog before going on a walk to get the ya-ya’s out. And give your dog regular walks, preferably on a daily basis. Regular walks are an antidote to the extreme excitement and loss of self-control that occur when dogs rarely get out of the house.
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