IS YOUR DOG WALKING YOU?? : Happy Tails Speaks DOG
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by Michelle St Germain on 04/24/12

     Is there anything more frustrating than a dog pulling you down the street?  I personally think that this common behavioural issue is one of the most difficult to teach our four legged companions.  They have four legs, we have two, they are naturally faster than most humans!  They are alot stronger than us & when they want something they will often stop at nothing to get to where they want to be.  Every step we allow the dog to take while out at the end of the leash is reinforcing them to continue to do so.  It also makes it next to impossible to control a dog that is out at the end of the leash. 

     The longer this is allowed to continue one of two things will happen:  the owner will become so fed up with this behaviour that the walks will be discontinued OR the dog will become leash reactive.  What is the consequence of these issues?  Firstly, if the dogs walks are stopped then the dog will quickly become de-socialized.  Secondly, leash reactivity becomes a problem simply due to the fact that leash pulling and leash jerking (by the owners) go hand in hand.  As the dog approaches another person or dog while pulling on the leash. The owner more times than not is giving leash corrections to slow the dog down.  This tells the dog that when approaching people with or without dogs it recieves corrections which in turns could result in aggression on the leash.

So how do we control these beasts on leashes?  Here is a list of things you will need before you get started on this journey:

  • high value treats or the dogs kibble(if he loves it)
  • a good soft leash (leather of nylon are easier on your hands than chain leashes or rope)
  • a nylon collar or Gentle Leader Head halter (a choke chain, pinch collar, retractable leash, body harness are not needed)
  • patience and a clear schedule ( don't feel rushed)
  • a realistic goal to start with (don't expect too much from your dog at first)
  • consistency

A helpful hint before starting is to freely exercise your dog with a ball, frisbee or playdate to get the sillies out of him.  If he is a little tuckered when starting the exercise,  it will be easier to keep his attention on you.

     Set yourself up for success:  Remember Nothing in Life is Free???  This is a good place to begin.  Ask your dog for a simple obedience behaviour before snapping on the leash.  While the dog is sitting or laying down attach the leash in a CALM manner.  If you are hyper about the walk, your dog will be too.  If the dog is jumping around, wait till he settles first before that leash goes on his collar.  This may take a few minutes for the dog to grasp this idea.  Be Calm, be consistent, reward each success.  Once the leash is on, he most likely will explode again with excitement.  Once again, wait for the dog to calm down before you open the door.  Ask for a SIT STAY to earn the door opening.  Ask the dog to wait until you have stepped out of the door first...  Forget the old saying Ladies First..How about Humans first...WhY??? not to dominant the dog, but to teach him manners.  It is safer to teach a dog that an open door does not mean freedom for him!!!  Starting the walk in a calm manner will set the walk on the right foot!  Remember be patient!  If you rush, the dog will get frustrated and then so will you...

Now you are outside, what do you do?  Here it is...

  • Leash in the hand opposite the dog, treats in the hand beside the dog.  Roll up the leash enough that the dog cannot get too far ahead of you, but not so tight that there is no slack in it.  Remember if we want to teach a dog to walk on a loose leash than he needs to know what a loose leash feels like.
  • Get the dogs attention with your voice or a food treat (if needed)
  • Take a step forward, if she is beside you reward and Praise her.  If she bolts to the end of the leash STOP and get the dog back into position.
  • Continue this process for the duration of the walk. 
  • Increase the number of steps you take as the dog becomes more attentive to you and less to the enviroment.
  • Use high value treats to get and keep your dog's attention when there is a distraction.
  • If your dog becomes too distracted then simply turn the other direction and reposition the dog by your side.
  • When you stop, Instruct the dog to SIT.
  • Practice daily for faster results.

Other rules to follow:

  • Never allow your dog to pull you to a distraction.  Especially another dog or to a person.  This is very rude manners.  Another dog may see this as a threatening advance by your dog and a doggy argument may result.  A person may become upset with you if your dog rushes up to them.
  • Only allow dogs to interact calmly when on leash and for short periods.  Use this as a reward for the dog for approaching properly.  A release word should be used to allow a greeting to a person or to another dog.  Keep the leash loose while the intereaction is taking place.  A tight leash may result in your dog becoming tense and a quarrel may erupt.  If you do not 100% trust your dog, then avoid these situations and teach your dog to ONLY SIT beside you while another dog is around.
  • Reward and Praise often for the proper behaviour/manners.
  • Keep the dog on one side or the other, do not let the dog choose where he is going. 
  • When passing another dog or person (familiar or not), always have at least one person between your dog and the person/dog.  Never allow a dog to pass someone (with or without a dog) right beside them.  Give your dog space. 

I hope this helps you take control of your walks!  Walks are a great form of exercise and socialization for our dogs.  Not only is it the physical aspect of the walks that make them important but also the mental stimulation that goes along with them.  Mental stimulation is equally important to keep your dog's life balanced!  Smells, sounds and different environmental stimuluses are all things that make a dog confident in our world. If the dog feels confident we reduce the risk of other behavioural issues creeping up on us!

Comments (1)

1. Cammie Ritchie said on 4/25/12 - 12:08PM
Super advice. You have helped me in the past with this issue and it's great to have it in print to refer back to. Thanks!

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