Loose Leash Training - Mush Human Mush! [comedy/info]
Dogs are furry balls of curiosity disguised as house pets. When a person tries to walk with one of these creatures for the first time, poor behaviors are going to happen.
The first junk behavior is pulling to move faster. Often a dog will choke themselves trying to get you moving quicker. Do not expect the dog to care that they are choking to death, as the excitement of territory marking is far too luring. Every bush and shrub a siren song to dog urine. What is a little thing like choking when faced with nature's call? And what if a squirrel is waiting around the corner? Mush, human, mush!
The second junk behavior is not pulling. You want to move and the dog does not. Somehow that spot of grass is unique and full of a fresh bouquet of random scents. Each one of those random smells needs a doggie categorization, and potentially, tasting. Investigation is truly a labor of love.
So, how can dog walks become something both ends of the leash can enjoy?
RULE #1: Humans rule, dogs drool. The goal of the walk is to have the dog comfortable stride at your side or behind you.
1.) Pick a side, any side.
The answer was left because right is wrong. The particular side doesn't matter, as long as you keep using the same side. I recommend the side opposite from your dominate hand. This side will become the dog's position on the walks. Choosing a side will also help if you have someone walking with you, as the dog knows exactly where to be inside the "pack" formation.
2.) A harness is not a Pokeball
The dog leash and harness are not meant to capture the dog in a certain small area and keep them there. Instead, each harness touches specific points on a dog, that a human can use to direct the dog. The human can then steer the forward momentum of a pup using this harness. When a leash attaches to a collar, this is often a poor point, as dogs don't steer with their necks. Some use a muzzle harness to drive with the head, but that may restrict sniffing/enjoyment on one side of the leash. Many prefer to use a harness where the leash attaches at the front of the chest. This harness type is typically a good middle ground for both parties.
3.) You are the DD because your dog is intoxicated with smells
When starting, keep the leash slack spooled up so that the dog is right next to you. Step #1 is paramount, so if you haven't chosen a side, please do so. Stubborn pups may need treats to pay attention, so try walking a few steps, then treating. When they look at you, give them a treat. Few more steps, few more treats. Walking is fun! Now switch directions. Be an unpredictable driver that your co-pilot needs to watch with a careful eye. If that eye starts wandering to a patch of grass or tree, and they begin pulling, move in the opposite direction. Another idea is to stop completely in place when they pull. The idea is that positive forward momentum is only achieved by sticking next to the human the whole time. After all... that's where the treats are!
4.) Start as a creature of habit
Start with one route and keep doing that way. If the pup is brand new to this walking on a leash thing, perhaps that route is just the sidewalk in front of your house. Whatever the route is, two things happen with repetition. The dog learns what needs a fresh coat of pee. The second thing that happens is that the human finds patterns on where the dog likes to pee. Giving your dog slack at the right times, then taking up the slack is key to a great walk. Do not let them get ahead of you, keep a close eye on leash slack throughout the entire walk.
5.) Switch up the route
Just when routine was becoming comfortable, be that unpredictable human and go a new way. Keep that dog on their toes so they have to keep watching you. This indecisiveness will allow your dog to find new territory to conquer while enforcing that you are the leader of the pack.
Rule #2: No dog is a zen master. Forgive, forget.
They all have bad behaviors. Your duty is blunt those bad habits as best as you can. Mistakes will happen, just shrug them off and keep working with the dog. Consistency and repetition are the keys to all training.
Loose leash training mastered!
What is the first social thing a young pup should learn?
Fun Dog Game Bonus Round #1!
Easter Egg Hunt
Take a bunch of doggie treats and throw/hide them all over the backyard (assuming your backyard is not in the country, where bears and other mammals will be all about these discoveries). Dogs love to use their nose to find food, so this game is right up their alley. Just be careful not to hide treats inside areas that require destruction to retrieve. For example, a flower bed may not be the best hiding spot. However, under dog toys, such as frisbee's, works very well!
Fun Dog Game Bonus Round #2!
Bobbing for Apples
Buy a kiddie pool, fill that pool up with water, and then toss in tennis balls. Dogs that love the water will jump right in and start having fun. Dogs that hate water will delicately pluck the ball out as if disarming a bomb. Have them drop the ball near you, then throw it back in the pool and laugh. This game is fun for everyone!