A top reason for getting a dog is to have a walking companion. In addition to exercise, walks provide socialization and mental stimulation (smells and sights galore!) for the dog.
With spring around the corner, wouldn’t it be nice to get on the right track to have an enjoyable walking buddy? Train your dog to walk politely on leash by using these techniques:
Stop whenever your dog pulls and the leash is tight.
This is often referred to as “be-a-tree” because you are unmovable (like a tree). Your dog learns that there is no forward motion when he pulls! Variations of be-a-tree include changing directions after you stop - say your dog’s name and then walk the opposite direction. You may need to be-a-tree 20 times to go even a block! That gets boring for us impatient humans so let’s intermix be-a-tree with the next two methods.
Treat your dog when he is not pulling.
When your dog is walking next to you or near you with slack in the leash, this is the “cookie spot” where cookies happen! Over time, increase the duration that your dog has to walk in the “cookie spot” before you give him a treat.
Interact with your dog throughout the walk!
This helps keep his attention on you and may stop pulling before it starts. Every 10-100 feet, ask your dog to do a skill and then reward him with a treat, praise, or the continuation of the walk. Use commands such as sit, down, shake, or nose touch. For a nose touch, the dog races back to you and touches his nose to the palm of your hand – now the dog is closer to you and there is more slack on the leash!
Work on loose leash walking every walk and ensure anyone who walks the dog is on board to not allow pulling. Be sure not to sometimes let the dog pull or the dog will learn that he sometimes gets to go where he wants to go by pulling, so he may try pulling all the time!
Use management devices sparingly.
If you don’t have time to work on loose leash walking but still need to exercise your dog, use a management device, such as a head halter (i.e. Gentle Leader) or an anti-pulling harness (i.e. Easy Walk). These devices manage the pulling, but do NOT train your dog not to pull. Set a goal is to use the management device intermittently for 6-12 months (not the life of the dog) when you are unable to work on the loose leash training. Perhaps use the management tool only when you’re in a hurry or for the first part of your walk; then on the last part, attach the leash to the buckle collar and train.