One of the most important behaviors we can teach our dogs is walking on a loose lead. If we have a dog that acts like a steam locomotive on a walk, we become frustrated, sore, and possibly injured. Our dog is also frustrated. The whole experience becomes very unpleasant, and we stop trying to walk the dog. Now the dog acts out from lack of exercise and mental stimulation, and we miss out on the exercise and enjoyment of simply walking the dog. Don't let this happen to you and your pet! Training your dog to walk on a loose lead is not difficult. Here's what you do:
Whenever your dog is on a leash, NEVER let them pull. If they do, the second they start to pull, STOP. Then turn and walk the other way. Do not say anything, look at your dog, or jerk the leash. When your dog follows you, give him a treat and praise. Repeat.
Remember training takes time, consistency, and practice. Start your practice in a location that is familiar and kind of boring to your dog, because you want to praise more than you correct! When your friend can walk nicely on a loose lead in that environment, move to a new, but not drastically different, location. As Dr. Leo Marvin says in What About Bob: "Baby Steps"! Also, your dog does not have to be in "heel" position. The leash must simply be loose, whether your dog is behind, beside, or in front of you. Be kind, calm, and confident at all times. Just be a hardass about one thing: pulling! The second he pulls, turn around and go the other way!
Basic training principles must be followed when you are teaching this behavior.
- Consistency-Never ask for a behavior you cannot enforce. ONLY train loose lead when you are ready to stop and walk the other way a lot!
- Practice-Training sessions should be short, 5-10 minutes, but performed at least twice a day, 5-7 days a week.
- Reward-You don't work for free and neither does your dog. Find what reward your pet loves and use it consistently, lavishly, and instantly when they do the right thing, or something close to the right thing.
- Patience-Like people, dogs learn at different rates. Puppies learn quicker. Older dogs with engrained habits can be hard to train. Consider your dog's temperament. Is she sensitive and eager to please or is she more independent and tough-minded? Dogs are not robots. They all have a unique set of personality traits that contribute to their learning style. Strive to understand your pet's personality, and tailor your practices to help your dog succeed.
If you are frustrated, just do something fun with your dog like play fetch or find it! Red Rover is here to help you, too. We can answer questions on behavior issues, demonstrate training techniques, and give advice and ideas on how to live happily with your house wolf!