Jackie Murphy G.Dip ABM / A.Dip CBM / MISAP (beh) / MEST (QTLS) / TCBTS, Ambassador of Great Britain for International Society of Animal Professional shares the importance of investing in a decent dog lead and tips using one in the right way.
This is probably the most frustrating behaviour for dog owners. The main issue is that dogs would just prefer to be running about and being on a lead does not feel nearly as good. There are of course times when a lead is essential and it is very worthwhile investing some training time in teaching your dog to walk on a loose lead.
It helps to think about the situation from the dog’s perspective. ‘I want to get to that tree to pick up the smells, I pull and I get there’! The very nature of pulling is rewarding, as it gets the dog what it wants and NOW! Harnesses do stop the owner feeling the full strength of the pull, but in fact, dogs pull harder on a harness as they have greater strength in their shoulders than in the neck. Harnesses will protect the dog’s neck, which is important for safety, but the dog may pull even more! Most owners also spend a lot of time pulling their dog back on the lead. If we stop to consider this, then the owner is therefore just pulling on the lead too!
Using treats to lure a dog to walk nicely is not usually a successful method. Once the food has gone, the dog just charges ahead again. The dog is just learning to follow a treat. As the owner has found here, it also encourages snapping at hands, which is never nice.
Teaching a dog to walk on a loose lead takes time and practice, but is very rewarding. The key point is to teach the dog, that when the lead is loose, it is a rewarding place to be. When the lead is tight, it is not much fun at all as you don’t move.
It is advised to practice in 5-10 minutes sessions so you can keep focus. Decide on which side you would like your dog to walk and concentrate on capturing moments when your dog is doing exactly what you want. Tell your dog to ‘walk on’ and head off. The very second your dog pulls or starts to wander across in front of you, just stop. Do not pull on the lead. Stand still with your feet apart for balance. If your dog moves backwards and the lead goes loose, start moving forward again. If your dog stays still, just change direction so the lead is loose and head off again encouraging your dog. Engage and encourage your dog when he / she is doing the right thing.
Also start to introduce a cue when your dog is walking nicely, ‘heel’ or ‘close’ are common ones. Your dog will soon start to realise that a loose lead means moving forwards and enjoying a walk and will learn that the cue word means keep close to your side. Change direction a lot so your dog focuses on you and walk at a fast pace to make things easier.
It can very much help to get some professional support and a demonstration. You can contact your local Dog Trainer member of the Canine Behaviour & Training Society. The Society has Animal Training Instructors registered with the Animal Behaviour and Training Council. This provides reassurance that you will get knowledgeable and professional help.
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