September 1, 2009
“My dog pulls like a maniac when I walk him on leash!” “My dog barks at everything when we’re out walking.” “My dog wants to pull me down the street whenever she sees something run by – even a leaf!”
These comments are just a few examples of what I hear every day from various dog owners. Whether it be attendee’s in my dog training classes, my private dog training clients, or those who have written in to the dog behavior advice column Poncho and I write for, everyone seems to be in the same leash-pulling-boat.
As I’ve said in other posts about walking dogs on leash: “Dogs weren’t born knowing how to walk on leash. And us humans weren’t born knowing how to use one.” Then why is it we think we can just leash up our dogs and head right out the door into a world that, to our pet dogs, is probably more like an amusement park than anything else, and think they would understand exactly what we want? To me, a certified professional dog trainer, this is one of those “unrealistic expectations” kinda moments. Leash walking is an art, a science, and definitely an act that requires practice! And just like any new skill, it’s best to start out slow and simple, and then build as you (and your dog) progress along.
I like to break down the leash walking behavior I teach my dog training students into three sections.
- First and foremost: Reward what you want!!!! If you want your dog walking next to you, then reward him or her with yummy treats while they are next to you. Lure your dog into position and reward them. It’s that simple.
- STOP! If and when your dog does pull, stop dead in your tracks! They will soon learn that pulling gets them nowhere, but walking next to you gets them yummy treats and walkies.
- Use your dogs environmental motivators as rewards! Okay, remember, our dog’s walkies should be about them, and not always about us. They want to sniff? Mark? Say hello to another person or dog? Roll in something dead? Well shoot, use that to your advantage. Ask for a “sit” or “Watch me”, then allow them to go and do their doggy thing. It doesn’t always have to be about food.
Establishing boundaries to avoid doing a face-plant into the sidewalk makes for a nice outing, for both you and your dog.