Has walking your dog become a battle of wills over who will be dragging who in what direction?
Polite leash walking can be a frustrating endeavor for many dogs and owners but the good new is by following a few tips, you can help your dog learn how to make walks more enjoyable for the both of you.
1. Walking outside with all the new sights and smells can be highly distracting for dogs who are working on their polite leash walking. To help your dog focus on what you are trying to teach them, try working in a more neutral environment where there are less distractions such as in the backyard or even in your house.
2. Dogs need to be motivated to have good manners and that means you need to plan ahead by bringing high value treats along. A treat pouch offers a great way to easily be able to reward good choices. When choosing a treat make sure that you pick something that will be motivating for your dog even when distractions are present. Typically moist treats are your best bet and they can be cut to a small size (finger nail size) so that you can reward a lot without overdoing how much food your dog is getting.
3. If getting the leash put on sends your dog into an excitable frenzy, the likelihood that you will then be able to go for a calm and well mannered walk drops. Often times the best way to start preparing for a polite walk is by practicing “getting dressed” (putting your dogs walking leash and or collar on).
The key here is to not continue to go for the walk until your dog has calmed down sufficiently and can listen to instructions. So if you have put the leash on and your dog is acting wild, simply ignore them and wait for that behavior to stop before starting your walk. At first, this may take some time while your dog tries to understand these new rules but in no time they will learn that the only way they get to go on their walk is if they keep their cool.
4. Sniffing is an incredibly important part of being a dog and dog owners who attempt to prevent their dog from sniffing are really setting themselves up to fall short. This doesn’t mean however that your dog should be dragging you to go check out exciting smells. Instead, have your dog earn sniff breaks by responding to a command like a sit or come. When your dog performs the command successfully, give them a cue like, “go sniff” and allow them to get their nose on their ground to investigate.
By utilizing sniff breaks you can allow your dog to be a dog while also developing a relationship where they don’t just pull you all over the place to check out their surroundings.
5. The last tip is easily the most important… make sure pulling doesn’t work! If your dog has learned that by pulling towards things, they get access to them you have inadvertently taught them to pull. Whether it’s to greet a person, dog, go through a door or whatever your dog wants to pull you towards, make sure that you don’t allow them to drag you where they want to go. Instead, turn and go the other way or simply stop until your dog gives up and then you can practice walking towards the thing that they want with a loose leash.
Each time your dog pulls, you show them that pulling is not effective by stopping or turning around. Yes this requires some patience and consistency early on in training but that dedication will be rewarded during the lifetime of your dog through relaxing walks.
As Spring bring sunshine and nicer weather, it’s definitely the time of year to get outside and start walking our dogs! Keep these tips in mind to ensure your walk can go smoothly and that your dog is practicing good manners with you rewarding their positive choices as you go!
Erin Kramer is a professionally certified dog trainer who works as the owner and lead trainer for Tug Dogs a dog training business located in Sacramento, CA that specializes in behavior modification for dogs with fear, aggression, and anxiety issues. Erin has a lengthy canine training resume including training and handling dogs for use in TV and film, training for competitive sports such as AKC obedience, livestock herding, protection sport, and scent tracking, working as an evaluator for both service and therapy dogs, testifying in court as an expert witness in canine aggression and training, and working internationally as an instructor and now owner of trainer’s school. Erin is known for offering clear and easy to understand advice that helps dogs and their owners meet the challenges of helping dogs who are facing problem behaviors at home in a thoughtful and effective manner.
You can learn more about Erin, her business Tug Dogs, and see training updates in action by visiting the Tug Dogs Facebook page at: facebook.com/teachtraintug