Pet Matters: Conquering leash training

April 8, 2019

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced with each of our dogs is training that dog to walk politely on a leash.

Our last dog actually pulled me enough to fall — more than once! She would spot a rabbit, and off she would go. Luckily she did eventually settle down and become well-mannered when on a leash. But, this is the number-one challenge many pet parents face.

It is really important for a dog to be allowed time off-leash. This is when it can get the wiggles out and burn off excess energy.

Many breeds are energetic and must have this daily exercise. Leashed walks should be just one part of the daily regimen, and they can be rewarded with off-leash time when they behave well on-leash.

The best way to get a dog to walk alongside you is with practice in a secure, fenced area. Start without the leash and then gradually add the lead.

Dogs generally like coming with you, so they should naturally enjoy the practice, especially with some high-value treats. Your own back yard will have fewer distractions and give you both a good practice session.

The leather or nylon collar should be loose enough to comfortably fit two fingers under the collar.

Training begins before you even attach the lead — a dog must learn to sit quietly while you clip the leash in place. If the dog jumps around or forges ahead, just take off the leash and wait for it to settle.

The leash should be no more than six feet in length, and the expanding leashes aren’t good. They do not allow handlers to properly control a dog.

Most people traditionally keep the dog on the left side, but that is not a hard and fast rule. Start by leading with your left foot, say “Heel, (dog’s name)”, and step forward keeping your dog’s chest in line with your knees.

As you walk, try changing direction and stop at every curb. Teach your dog to sit whenever you pause.

It helps to occasionally reach down and touch the dog. This will direct his attention to you and can be a way of “checking-in”. Have a good supply of treats and be ready to give them to the dog whenever it follows your commands. We want to avoid giving a dog the impression it is leading us!

One trainer, Nancy Kerns, uses the technique of having the handler notice and reinforce the pups for staying close to them and NOT pulling. That way the dog learns that if he wants to get places and reach things, he needs to stay close to his human. Eventually a dog learns he can go farther when he listens and follows directions. She says the handler should “stand like a tree” when the dog pulls.

Remember that repeated, consistent practice is so important; always be conscious about when the leash is tight or loose.

A loose leash should be your goal, and hopefully the dog will eventually learn it has more freedom when he doesn’t pull.

The first phase of the Western Arizona Humane Society’s new facility is soon ready for the public! Our medical facility will be open this month. Stay tuned…all the community’s efforts are finally coming to fruition!

The Western Arizona Humane Society is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with kennel hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 855-5083 for details. To find lost pets, call 855-4111. View animals found at www.lhcpd.com.