Leisurely walks with your dog can be one of the great joys of pet ownership, unless they’re dragging you unceremoniously down the sidewalk while you dodge cracks and fellow walkers. Teaching your pet companion that next to you is the best place to be can be done with a bit of patience and a bit of bribery, at least at the start. These tips will help, especially if you share them with your family and perhaps your pet sitter, anyone that will potentially be walking your pooch.
Before you set out, it’ll help tremendously if everybody is comfy. Picking a collar and leash of course would come first. The collar should be flat, and tight enough to still be comfortable when you’ve fitted two fingers under it. Your leash should be four to six feet long. You want your pet to be able to explore while still maintaining control of what he’s sniffing, not to mention he may have business to do and will need some space. The weight of the leash may also be a factor you’ll want to consider. If you have a smallish dog you wouldn’t want to use a heavy chain that would put unnecessary stress on their throats and could even do real damage over time. A harness may be a better option. It should also have a sturdy clasp that won’t easily snap open accidentally.
Besides the leash and collar, perhaps the most important training item would be awesome treats. You’ll be awarding frequently at the onset so before you venture out, stock up on high value, moist, meaty, and aromatic goodies. After all, you’ll be competing with the world of wonder your pup will be experiencing on his walk. Squirrels, other dogs, other people, interesting smells, all will test your puppy’s resolve to stay at your side.
How to Leash Train a Dog
The definition of a “good leash walk” doesn’t necessarily mean they must heel by your side the entire walk. Not for recreational walks. Unless you’re training a show dog, these walks should be fun for both of you! Allow your dog the freedom to do his business and explore the world. He should keep the leash loose and wander back to you every so often.
The behavior you’re trying to foster should begin before you leave the house. When you gather the leash, preparing for a walk, if your dog gets excited and starts jumping and acting pushy, set the leash down. Once he calms down, try again. Only actually clip on the leash and head out into the neighborhood when your dog remains calm while you gather supplies for your excursion. The first time might take a minute, but when your dog figures it out, he’ll gladly wait for you to get ready for the pleasure of going out and about with you.
Some find it useful to use a clicker in the beginning, allowing them to give a unique queue to their dog, even in the chaos that can be inherent to neighborhood activity. To reinforce positive behavior, click and treat, followed by some verbal response they will grow to recognize. “Good dog” or just “good,” as an example. Using these techniques, you can teach your pup to stay close, check in, or even just look at you… a valuable compliment when there’s so much else going on!
You’ll want to be generous with the treats in the beginning stages of your training, rewarding all good behaviors. Walking near without leash tension or looking up at you should be worthy at this point. As they become seasoned walkers you can make them work a bit harder for their treats. Make them spend a longer period sedately next to you before you offer a reward. Gently wean them down until verbal rewards suffice and you can offer a juicy reward at the conclusion of a successful outing.
How to Stop Your Dog from Walking YOU
Dogs who continually pull on the leash are doing it because you let them. The first step to curbing the behavior is to curb yours. When you find your dog pulling, simply stop walking. Wait for your pooch to come see you to find out what’s up. They’ll soon figure out if they want to continue on their outing, they’ll have to wait until you’re ready. If they don’t seem to be getting it, then try back stepping a few steps, drawing them with you, then stop. When they come back to you, resume your walk. You can use the clicker and treats to reinforce your positive feedback if they aren’t getting it right away, but you’ll soon find your puppy will be happily modifying their walking style to fit your pace.
Always Follow the Rules
There’s no such thing as a “training walk” vs a “regular walk.” Your dog is learning no matter what you call it and will do what he can get away with. If you let him chase a squirrel today, tomorrow he’ll have that logged as acceptable behavior and you’re back to the beginning. Enforce the training you’ve instilled and you’ll both be happier.
Leash Walking Safety and Etiquette
A note about retractable leashes. They seem like a great idea, however the typically narrow leash has been known to cause rope burns, or trip one of you, even put your pup in danger. Not all dogs are friendly to unfamiliar canines so your sweet puppy may get less than a welcome reception rushing up to other dogs or people. Always ask other pet parents if it’s acceptable for them to socialize before allowing any interactions. Retractable leashes have also been known to malfunction at the worst possible times. They can lock at the fully extended length and be the cause all kinds of mayhem.
Educate your Family & Pet Sitter
It’s important that you include your pet sitter in the standards you set with your pet and strongly encourage they follow the same process during their walks with your dog. Consistency is key. If you want your pet to learn, involving family and pet sitter can be a great advantage and ensure your pet learns quickly.
Finally, don’t forget to bring bags with you during your walks. Dog waste is a nasty contaminant, and no one wants to see it or accidentally step in it if you fail to scoop the poop. I keep a couple of wipes in my pocket too, just in case, for me, not the pup.