K9U Training Tips
Walking on Leash
Our dogs pull on leashes for a variety of reasons. Many adolescent dogs pull on leash because they were allowed to pull as puppies. Once the leash is tightened, your dog no longer has to pay attention to you, since it has a taut telegraph wire through which it may sense your every move and even your tension.
Also, it seems that pulling on leash is intrinsically enjoyable and self-reinforcing for many dogs, even though for us it is unacceptable and often dangerous. Once the leash is tightened, you can no longer control your dog.
START TRAINING AS A PUPPY
It is much easier and smarter to first practice leash walking exercises indoors where there are many fewer distractions. Right from the very beginning, you should not allow your puppy to pull you on a leash, because in just a few months time, the average dog will be able to pull you in any direction it desires, regardless of your comfort or safety. After so many years of training, I have worked with countless clients who have fallen and broken bones, or developed hand, shoulder, and other joint issues, from constantly being pulled by their dogs.
Using a leash to walk the puppy is necessary as a safety precaution, and leashing the dog is mandatory when leash laws are in effect in most places around the country, like we have here in Montgomery County, Maryland.
First, before you can start leash training, make sure that you can get your pup to follow you around your house and backyard. Make sure your pup is motivated to to stay close to you by using a nice light praise tone, crouching down, or even offering an occasional treat. Also, practice getting your puppy to stand still near you on leash without pulling also inside your home. These are excellent exercises to practice indoors while you puppy is too young to have completed their shots, and you can also have the minimum level of distraction.
Put your puppy on a leash and firmly grasp the end loop with both hands close to your body, while you stand perfectly still. Wait until your pup sits or lies down and then immediately offer a light praise. Then take one step and stand still again. Once again wait until your puppy sits again, and ignore any unruly behavior until they sit again, and then praise them once again.Continue on this way until you it is possible to alternate single steps with standstills without any pulling. Then try taking 2 steps, 3 steps, and so on without pulling. Make sure you do not progress too quickly, or you may find that in no time at all your puppy is pulling once again.Once the sequences have expanded to around 7 steps, you are now walking your puppy on leash without pulling, and it sits automatically by your side when you stop. If your puppy pulls while you are walking, stand still, and wait for it to sit again before moving on. Another activity you can start to practice inside or in your backyard, and then on your short outside walks also starts out by holding the leash in both hands on one side, and then start walking. If the puppy attempts to lunge or go in another direction, turn and go in the opposite direction.
Before heading outdoors, you want to make sure your puppy is calm, cool, and collected. You can accomplish this by making sure your puppy is sitting as you attach the leash. Also have the puppy sit and stay as you go out the door, and then invite your pup out after you. You can start out by practicing the activities you did on the inside, outside on your driveway or just in front of your home. As you both improve you can extend the walks. In general, it is best to keep your walks shorter and more structured initially until these new skills become ingrained.
There are many advantages to starting to teach your puppy how to walk on a leash at a relatively early age. It will not only make your walks more enjoyable when they are old enough to walk around outside, but it will also keep you safe from injury, and enable you both to get more exercise, because you will not be constantly engaged in a tug of war battle. There is a saying amongst dog trainers that states that, “A well exercised dog is a well behaved dog.” By putting in the necessary time with your puppy starting at a relatively early age, you will be rewarded with many years of walking with your well behaved companion.