Loose Leash Walking Takes Time, Patience

May 11, 2019

Taking walks with your dog is a wonderful bonding experience. It is also great physical exercise for you both. But leash walking can be frustrating and tiring when you have a dog that is constantly pulling and forging ahead. Even small dogs have power behind them, but the large and heavier breeds can literally pull you off your feet. Today I will talk about some tools to apply in teaching your dog polite leash walking. Keep it short Smudge never required much leash training. He was not one to pull and charge ahead. His biggest problem was darting back and forth in front of me when excited. He will still do this on occasion, but when I ask him to “heel,” he will walk politely at my side. As for Swayze and Rue, both are excited and overzealous youngsters, eager to see and experience everything that is in their world. And they do this by lowering their heads, digging in their paws, and charging full steam ahead. I am actively working on attention and loose leash walking for short intervals with treats and lots of praise. Break it down into steps When you start your walk with an extremely excited dog, you are setting yourself up for failure. This excitement begins and quickly escalates into a frenzy when you pick up the leash. Change this scenario and teach your dog that he will go outside when he is calm and attentive. Pick up the leash and fasten it on your dog’s collar, asking him to calmly sit and wait during the process. Repeat by attaching and re-attaching the leash and reward for attention and calm behavior. This leash association will begin to teach your dog that calm behavior will be rewarded. Next step is calmly walking to the door after being attached to the leash, but not going outside. Repeat this as well. The purpose of these exercises is to train your dog to remain calm when the leash is introduced as you prepare for the walk. The dog should sit and wait in the doorway while you exit, and he should not go through until he is released. This exercise is also taught separately. Remember to break things down into small components. It is not until you can successfully complete each component repeatedly that you can begin to string them together. If the dog should fail in one area, continue to concentrate and reinforce that specific behavior that you want. A dog’s failure will tell you that you have gone too far too fast. Keep it simple and take it slow and easy. Get your pupil’s attention Teaching your dog an attention word such as “watch” is an integral part of every behavior, including walking. If you do not have your dog’s attention, he is disconnected from you and not doing what you ask of him. If you walk very slowly, deeply concentrating on your dog’s actions, you will discover he is more likely to wander and sniff, given he has the time and pace to easily do so. If you step out with confidence, briskly and deliberately, your dog will be compelled to follow suit, and with those few steps that your dog is prancing at your side and looking up at your face, you will win the jackpot reward! What a great feeling and pretty picture it is to see you and your dog in sync. Remember not to walk for long distances as you teach loose leash walking. A couple of steps at your side is where you will start, and then build on that. Again, your dog’s failure means you have gone too far too fast. Treats have their place In teaching the dog not to forge ahead, you can use treats, dropping one behind you. As your dog retrieves the treat, you will take a few steps forward, and as he comes up, looking to see if you have another tasty treat, you will reward. Your dog will be learning that good things happen with you, not ahead of you. Don’t be an autocrat During my walks, I have never expected my dogs to walk at my side the entire time. I want them to enjoy their outdoor excursions, and what better way than to use their noses. They are absolutely allowed to sniff and explore. And when I ask them to heel and walk briskly at my side, they will happily oblige, knowing that their time will come to check their “pee-mail” during the walk. A word on other dogs If a dog becomes reactive when another dog comes into its sight, punishment is not the solution. The dog is reacting from insecurity, fear, or perhaps a previous negative experience. It is important that the dog understands that he is safe from harm while on the leash and that the other dog is not a threat. You must counter-condition the dog to have a positive association when another dog is in its sight. This will begin by asking your dog to sit and offering a high-quality treat with the other dog a distance away. The dog is being rewarded for calm behavior and attention. The delicious treats will disappear when the other dog is gone. Your dog will learn that if another dog is barking at him from a distance, if he remains calm and looks at you, a yummy piece of cheese might be forthcoming! These hours are well worth the effort Ultimately, your dog wants to please you. Training a dog is work, it is effort, it is time, and it is patience. But the rewards are that you have a wonderful and well-behaved companion for many years. Having two canine youngsters, I have learned that as a senior, I am certainly not as fast or as patient as I was in my younger years. Sometimes I persevere, other times I just want to say “uncle!” But the pups keep me moving, keep me thinking, and keep me laughing. R-E-S-P-E-C-T This afternoon, I was driving through the Heights in Wilkes-Barre. As I approached a stop sign, I observed two dogs in a chain-link fenced yard (Rottweiler and German Shepherd). As a young boy passed the yard on the sidewalk, both dogs barked. The boy continued slowly walking, then came back and began tormenting the dogs in the worst possible way. He was snarling, waving both arms over his head, and hopping back and forth, and the dogs became frantic and defensive. I pulled up to the stop sign and blasted out the window “Get outta there!!” The kid retreated, and both dogs stopped barking and stared at me. I was shaken to think what might have happened had these dogs gotten loose and gained access to their tormentor. Please observe your dogs at all times when they are out in the yard. And parents, please teach your children to respect animals. Dog bless. Resource: dogster.com Judy Endo writes about pets. Contact her at judyendo@outlook.com