Teach Your Dog to Walk Nicely on Leash
You love your dog and it’s a gorgeous day so you want to take Fido for a nice leisurely walk around the neighborhood. You put on his leash, step out the door and the fun begins. Fido is so excited he yanks you from tree to fire hydrant back to tree. This continues street after street and you think, “What happened to my nice leisurely walk?”
So why is this happening? You see other folks with their best buddies and they’re behaving nicely. You become envious of them and frustrated with your dog. You need to stop and think a moment. Have you ever taken the time to properly train your dog to walk properly on a leash? Do you take him out on a leash on a regular basis – i.e. every day? Sometimes people assume a dog knows exactly what is expected of him. This is so far from the truth, that you need binoculars to see it.
If you really desire to have your dog walk politely on a leash, you must start taking him out every day, even twice a day if time permits. I’ll explain a couple techniques to help get you on the right path to enjoy walking with your dog. But, first let’s remember we are talking about a dog. Dogs do what dogs do until we humans teach them otherwise. If your dog pulls you over to a tree and he’s successful getting you to that tree, then he has been rewarded. The same is true every time he pulls you to something and you let him do so. He wants to explore things, so he drags you along and once he’s made it to his destination, he basks in the knowledge that he was successful and is now excitedly smelling this object (thus his reward).
Yes, he must do his share of smelling to know where he would like to take care of business. That is perfectly fine. But what you are going to teach him is that he must do so in a polite way. So let’s begin by calling your dog to you in the house. Once he arrives at your feet, ask him for a sit, then put on his leash.
Let’s take a quick side step here: when I refer to a leash, I am NOT speaking of a flexi-leash. I mean a real 4’ to 6’ nylon or leather-type leash. Flexi-leashes are disasters in the making.
Remember to tell him that he’s a good boy for coming and sitting for you. Keep your praise calm but happy. Now your dog is on a leash, approach the door and ask Fido to sit and wait. Your goal will be to have him sit while you open the door. If Fido stands before you’re ready to release him (you want the door open enough to step through it before you release him), close the door and ask for a sit and wait again. Keep repeating this step until he successfully waits; and remember to be firm, but calm.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the front yard. Now this is where we begin to test your patience and how devoted you are to really teaching Fido to walk nicely on leash.
You begin to walk, immediately Fido pulls. Every time the leash becomes tight, you must stop and call Fido to you. When he comes back, reward him with a nice, happy “good.” It is also very helpful to bring along a small bag of delicious treats when you are having your training sessions. Begin to walk again, as soon as Fido pulls, you’re going to stop and repeat the above instructions. In the beginning, you’ll be stopping a lot, so don’t get frustrated. You want to always be calm and patient. It’s very important to remember to be consistent with your praise and reward every time he comes to you when you call. You may be thinking, "What is the point of stopping and calling him to me?" He’ll begin to learn that he’s not getting anywhere and being near you is more rewarding (because you give nice praise – with your voice, a pat on the head, and a yummy treat).
Quick side step regarding treats: because you want to reward and move along as quickly as possible, I suggest using small soft treats, which are easily chewed and swallowed.
This technique works wonderfully and you will be very happy with the results. Loose leash walking does not happen overnight, so be patient and consistent.
If you have a very strong dog or you have a physical condition which makes it difficult for you to walk a pulling dog, there are different types of harnesses I recommend. One is the Gentle Leader head halter and the other is the Holt harness. I’ve had great success with both.
The Gentle Leader is used on the same idea as a horse’s head halter, i.e. if you have control of the head, then you have control of the body. Some dogs take longer to adjust to a GL, but once they become accustom to the feel of it, you’ll be amazed at the results.
The Holt harness goes around the dog’s body. If the dog pulls, the harness gives a slight squeeze on the dog’s chest. This little squeeze gives the dog a slight uncomfortable sensation, which makes him stop pulling.
When using one of these harnesses, or any walking harness, you will still want to use the above training technique to help your dog learn what is expected of him; which, in turn, will make walking with Fido easy and enjoyable. So get out there and have some fun!