How To

How To Walk Your Dog On A Leash Like a Pro

First time dog owners frequently assume that walking a dog on a leash is as easy as the pros make it look. When the reality sets in that your pooch might have his own agenda that can sometimes be entirely separate from your idea one what a pleasant stroll looks like, panic begins to set in.  Sound familiar?

Keep in mind that there will always be a little bit of a struggle when leash training dogs.  Some dogs, and some breeds seem to demands extra attention when it comes to leash training. We’ve put together this handy guide to make sure that your journey to leash nirvana goes as smoothy as possible.

Why won’t my dog stop pulling on his leash?

One thing you have to keep in mind is that leash-walking is NOT instinctive behavior for dogs. As much as we would like for it to be (and as easy as some people make it look) there is absolutely no evolutionary reason for dogs to have picked up this trait. In fact, certain breeds, like huskies and malamutes, have actually been bred to pull. Good leash walking behavior will come over time with training, and a little bit of luck. Here are some possible explanations for what might be going wrong:

Overstimulation.

If you walk your dog in a busy city, or in a place where there are a ton of other dogs around, overstimulation can be a massive problem. To remedy this, try walking your dog in places where there isn’t a ton of stimulus overload. A park, neighborhood street or even (if you live in an urban environment) a quiet side street can all be great options. When your dog isn’t experiencing and overload of sights, sounds, and most importantly smells you just may find their leash manners to be much improved.

Pack Hierarchy Issues.

Pack hierarchy as it pertains to leash walking is a topic of much philosophical debate among dog owners/trainers.  My take on it is as follows. Dogs are pack animals and pack animals have a social hierarchy. Dogs are no exception. If you want your dog to behave well on leash, particularly if you walk a large dog or more than one dog simultaneously you need to be the pack alpha. This is easier said than done but we have an entire article on this exact topic here.

You’re pulling on the leash.

When you pull on your dogs leash it sets up a negative feedback loop where your dog comes to expect leash pulling as part of his walk routine. Don’t allow your emotions to get the better of you matter how frustrating the experience may become. Leash walking is a team effort and when you both finally figure it out you will be rewarded with more pleasant walks, and chances are your dog will be rewarded with more frequent walks. Don’t ever succumb to the “tug of war”.

How Can I Get My Dog To Stop Pulling?

Stop Pulling On The Leash.

When you institute a tug of war with your dog over control of the leash you’re not accomplishing anything. Any short term gains you may make by feeling that you’re more “in control” because your dog is a foot closer to you than he was before are nullified by the fact that you are effectively training your dog to come to expect leash tension. This is NOT what we want.

Stop And Stand Still.

Whenever your dog pulls, stop and stand still. No matter how hard your dog pulls, don’t allow it to pull you in the direction that it wants to. The psychology behind this is as follows: If your dog pulls, and you allow your dog to walk in the direction that it was pulling, the dog learns that pulling is an effective way to go in the particular direction that it wants to. This is not a good things and it will inevitably product one outcome. More Pulling.

Instead, when you’re dog does begin to pull, STOP. Wait calmly and patiently for your dog to stop pulling. THEN, slowly allow the dog to begin to move forward again. This training can be backed up with some positive verbal encouragement and even some treats but it’s important to get into the groove of stopping, waiting, and slowly moving forward again as this is the most reliable method of training your dog not to pull.

Use The Right Kind Of Leash.

The kind of leash you want to buy for your dog if you have leash pulling problems is a straight leash (preferably with a good loop for you to hold onto) between 5 and 8 ft in length. If you have problems with leash walking don’t be tempted to buy a retractable leash. They can work well sometimes for small dogs and dogs who are already well leash trained but if you have a large breed and you’re already having problems with ‘polite’ leash walking retractable leashes can be a recipe for disaster.

Use A Harness Or Gentle Leader Collar.

So you’ve tried the above steps (and doubtlessly some we haven’t mentioned here) and none of it is working. Well, there’s still hope. Harnesses and specialized collars are available to assist you in your struggle. While not a substitute for your dog not pulling, harnesses can prevent the majority of the health issues that your dog might have as a result of pulling. One particular tool I had very good results with when I was training my husky to walk calmly on leash is the Gentle Leader Collar. They are available on amazon and are very affordable.

Summary

  • Avoid overstimulating environments.
  • Be calm, be assertive, be the alpha.
  • When your dog pulls, stop and stand still until he doesn’t pull anymore, then walk forward.
  • Use the right kind of leash.
  • Use a harness or gentle leader.

Whatever you do try and resist the temptation to yank on your dog’s neck when it pulls you. It’s not only ineffective, it’s just mean.  If you follow these pointers, in a calm and consistent manner, you and your dog should be walking like it was a natural thing. Just try to remember that it’s not. Your dog will thank you for it.

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