When you go out for walks with your dog, are you walking your dog or is it the other way around? Do you find yourself playing an unintentional game of tug-of-war with your dog? Does your dog turn into a break dancing dog at the sight of other dogs, squirrels, or the mailman?
Being a dog walker, I have encountered these situations and worse. Walking with your dog should be enjoyable for both of you so here are my proven strategies which work for me and, if used consistently,will work for you as well.
The right leash
When walking dogs, I find that a short, cotton leash works best. The short length of leash allows me to have more control over my dog and provides for quicker, more effective corrections when needed. Why cotton? Nylon leashes, although cheaper in most cases, will cause a nasty nylon burn if pulled through your hands quickly. Also, cotton is not as slippery as nylon and provides a better grip.
Take the Lead
When walking your dog, remember to take the lead. Walk in front of your dog so that he is aware of who is the alpha in the relationship. Remember, you are in charge. When getting ready for your walk and leaving the house practice having your dog remain seated until you are ready.
When exiting the home, you should have your dog sit while you open the door and not move outside until after you have done so and given him the OK to follow you. This not only reinforces where your dog’s attention needs to be, it also serves as a safety measure so that your dog does not rush the door and potentially get into harm’s way. Have your dog sit and wait while you lock up behind you as well.
Allow yourself enough time
How long should you walk with your dog? This depends on your dog’s age, energy and fitness level. Consult with your vet for guidelines related to your dog. Generally, a half hour to one hour is sufficient time to burn off excess energy and enjoy the outdoors.
I find that the best way to stop your dog from pulling on the leash is to not give him anything to pull against. How do you do this? Think about this, if you are walking with your dog and he is pulling on you while you in turn pull on him, what reason does he have not to pull? Instead, I find that when I am walking a dog who is pulling I don’t give him anything to pull against. Nothing to pull against, no reason to pull.
To do this, I repeatedly use short, quick tugs on the leash every time my dog pulls on the leash. I continue to tug, tug, tug until he stops pulling on me. His reward is the cessation of tugs. OK, your timing must be precise for this to work and it will take some practice to get it right. Keep at it…it does work!
For a more in depth and detailed explanation of my “tug, tug, tug” method, read my post, “Why tugging stops your dog from pulling & other amazing secrets!”
Stop the chase
How do you stop your dog from having a wandering eye just waiting for something to chase? Keep his attention on you while walking by using the same tug, tug approach. If you see him looking at something or becoming distracted, tug, tug, tug to redirect his attention on you where it belongs. Continue to do this throughout your walks and eventually your dog will pay attention to you and not the squirrel in the tree.
Remember to continue to maintain your dog’s focus on you even when returning home. Have your dog sit while you open the door and follow you into the house after you have given the OK to do so. Consistency is the key so keep it up and soon you will be walking your dog like a pro!
Remember, these strategies work for me, but I am a professional trainer and walker. If you continue to struggle with walking your dog in a safe and controlled manner, seek the help of a dog training professional.