When it comes to taking a walk, dogs definitely have a different agenda than their human companions. Humans like to walk in an orderly fashion along a sidewalk or trail. Dogs like to go wherever their noses lead them. Humans have a deliberate pace. Dogs vary their speed depending on how long they need to take in a particular scent before moving on to the next.
All this can lead to a love-hate relationship when it comes to taking walks together, especially if your dog is in the habit of dragging you down the sidewalk every time you head out the door. Does your dog pull on his leash? This is what you should do.
The right gear can make all the difference, especially when it comes to walking your dog. If yours pulls, it might be time to invest in a chest-led harness where the leash attaches to a clip on your dog’s chest instead of to the collar around his neck.
Dogs have a natural tendency to push in the opposite direction against pressure that’s being applied to certain parts of their body. For example, when they feel the tug of the leash on their neck, they tend to pull forward. When you push on their back and ask them to sit, they resist.
Using a chest-led harness works with this “opposition reflex” by changing their direction instead of pulling against them. Use it in combination with your dog’s traditional collar so that he is always wearing his identification when you’re outside.
Although it can be tempting, don’t yell at your dog or yank on the leash to punish him when he begins to pull. Don’t give up, though, either. When you allow your dog to pull you along, you reinforce his bad behavior. Instead, the next time he begins to pull, stand still for a few minutes. Don’t resume walking until he comes back toward you and puts some slack on the leash.
Praise him for relaxing, then begin walking again slowly. Repeat the process as often as it takes for your dog to understand that the only way forward motion happens is when he’s walking right beside you or a few steps in front on a loose leash.
Another effective tactic is to reverse direction whenever he begins to pull. Stop and say “let’s go” or “this way” as you begin walking in another direction. Praise your dog each time he obeys your request and joins you at your side. It might take a long time to walk around the neighborhood this way, but after a while, he’ll understand the best place for him to walk is right beside you.
Walking in a straight line on a concrete sidewalk can be extremely boring for an animal who learns about the world around him through his sense of smell. While good leash behavior is important, be sure to identify a few smelly places along the way where your dog is allowed to stop, sniff, and leave his calling card. Not only is this a great way to reward his good behavior, but processing all the smells he takes in is great mental stimulation, too.
Since each smelly stop is a reward, use the “let’s go” or “this way” command when you decide it’s time to move on.
As you work to leash-train your canine friend, use small treats to reward his progress. He’ll quickly learn that being on the leash is fun as well as delicious! Slowly reduce the number of treats you give him as he becomes better behaved on the leash, but never skimp on praise. That’s something that you should incorporate as often as possible to remind your dog what behavior you desire.
This might be the most difficult part of the training. Starting, stopping, changing direction, and constantly monitoring your dog’s progress can be frustrating. Making sure you’re in the right mindset before you head out the door is as important as the equipment you use, the reward you give, and the consistency of your training. Our dogs are extremely adept at picking up on our emotions. We never want them to be fearful or reluctant to keep us company.
Fortunately, with patience and consistency, you will enjoy your daily walks every bit as much as your dog does. Walking is an activity that provides positive mental, physical, and emotional benefits for both humans and canines. Happiness is a contagious state of mind that benefits us all.
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