BHV Director of Training
As the best weather of the year has arrived, walking your dog on a leash should be a fun, pleasurable activity. A great source of exercise for all involved, each walk together helps further the bond between you and your dog. But sometimes, it can feel a lot more like a grueling run in the Iditarod than a nice walk in the park. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to help turn your champion sledder into a model walker.
Try a front-lead harness. With a front-lead harness, you clip the leash on the chest of your dog, not the back. Dog’s have work-animal muscles. When they feel pressure on their neck or back, it can encourage them to push even harder into that pressure. However, when that pressure comes from the chest, dogs are far less likely to continue to pull.
Add some interest to your end of the leash. The world is a fascinating place full of sights to be seen and smells to be smelled. And on most walks, we tend to be pretty boring, talking on our phones or listening to music. Randomly practice different training exercises on your walk with extra special treats. Stop and ask your dog to “sit” while waiting at a curb. Try a “touch” exercise as you pass a neighbor. Practice calling your dog back to your side with their name when you get close to a busy intersection. You’d be surprised how quickly your dog starts hanging around your end of the leash after just a few opportunities to earn a tasty morsel mixed into your walk routine.
Practice in an easy, calm environment. For some dogs, especially young puppies, walking in the neighborhood may be too difficult of a challenge to start. There are countless distractions pulling your dog’s attention in every direction. You have to walk before you can…well…walk. Start inside your home or in the backyard. Walk around while talking to your dog, trying to keep their attention on you as you practice turning in different directions. When your dog will walk comfortably on the leash in an easy environment, you’re ready to practice in front of the neighbors.
Take the time to work on your dog’s leash walking skills and you will reap the benefits on every new walk. And don’t forget the most important rule of walking your dog on a leash. ALWAYS pick up your dog’s poop! Nobody else is going to do it.
See you on the trails!
Michael Litzky is a Certified Professional Canine Behavior and Training Master Instructor (CPCBTMI), a Certified Behavior and Aggression Management Trainer, and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed® (CPDT-KA®). He also is a certified AKC® Canine Good Citizen® Evaluator.
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