Now that the weather is finally nice, it is time to get out and walk our dogs more! This can be hard to do sometimes- either your dog is pulling you or you are pulling your dog. Here is an article from PetMD that gives some tips on leash training your dog.
While many first time dog owners may think teaching their dog to walk on a leash is a breeze, the rest of us know it can be anything but. Between pulling your pup to walk and getting dragged behind them as they speed ahead, there’s a certain science to getting your dog to walk nicely. We’ve asked an expert to share her leash training tips.
The Difficulties of Dog Leash Training
A common mistake dog owners make then they start leash training their dogs is to use the leash like a steering wheel: pulling it left, right or back at you to get the dog to do what you want, says Pamela Barlow, certified professional dog trainer at the ASPCA adoption Center. It seems natural, but it’s unfortunately not an effective way to train your dog. Signs of a poorly trained pup can include constant pulling on the leash or not paying attention to the handler, while signs of a poorly trained handler can also include constant pulling on the leash and neglecting to use their voice to praise their dog, Barlow said. Poor leash manners can also be a dog’s way of expressing their energy needs. If they haven’t had the opportunity to run or get proper exercise, they may be prone to pulling constantly.
Steps for Dog Leash Training
As impossible as it seems, you can absolutely teach your dog to walk nicely on a leash at any age. The first day you take home your pup, whether they’re eight weeks or eight years old, say a phrase like, “let’s go” while encouraging your dog to stay close to you with food, toys or verbal praise, Barlow says.
“After they’ve learned that this cue means to stick with you, attach a leash to your dog and let it drag on the ground while you practice,” she says. “When you’re very good at staying together, pick up the leash, say [the cue] and enjoy a leisurely stroll.”
Once you’re on a walk, keep your dog within a certain distance of you and encourage them to look at you regularly throughout your walk. Do this using positive reinforcement like toys, praise, or food in a quiet area before moving to a new area like a busy sidewalk or park, Barlow says.
Tips for Teaching Your Pup to Walk Nicely
Here are some additional tips from Barlow to help get you and your pup on the fast track to perfect leash walking:
- Keep your dog’s attention on you by using your voice and body language before directing with a leash and if you exercise your dog before you walk by throwing a ball or playing a game in the house, you’ll have an easier time getting their attention and walking down the street.
- Using toys and treats will make leash-training fun for both you and your dog. Another thing to keep in mind? Your attitude! “Dogs walk wonderfully with handlers that are ‘tuned in’ to them, making the walk fun,” Barlow says.
- Find a leash length you’re comfortable with and stick to it. This keeps the expectation of how close your dog needs to be to you consistent and will help them catch on to training. Mark the leash with a knot, marker or piece of tape as a reminder of what your ideal length is.
- If your dog’s an expert puller, try a harness or head halter to help. Just be sure to follow the directions of these devices carefully, as they have specific instructions about the sizing and proper use.