How to Accomplish Loose Leash Walking with Your Rambunctious Dog
Leash manners and leash training is HARD.
It is probably one of the most difficult things that you can do with your dog, however, with just a few minutes a day and some consistency, you can accomplish it just like the pros!
First, let’s put it in perspective and understand WHY your dog is pulling.
It is called opposition reflex and YOU have it too.
Let’s say that you are in line waiting for your favorite band’s tickets or you’re in line for Black Friday, the crowd around you is growing (adding a little stress), but you have your spot so you are good to go!
Some big, burly guy comes by, walking confidently, and pushes you aside as he walks in front of you.
I mean you barely even saw him coming, and you didn’t know he was going to push you, so you didn’t even have a chance to resist.
Now you see another guy, a few paces behind the first dude.
There is NO WAY you are letting him push you.
So you lock your body and lean a bit forward, as if to say “Not again!”
This is opposition reflex.
Your dog, actually, feels the same thing.
You dig in and pull on his collar, and he opposes and pulls just as hard the other direction.
He doesn’t want to be pulled and strangled!
Do you want to be pulled, pushed or strangled?
Your dog doesn’t either!
Use your right hand to hold the leash, with your dog on your left side.
Use your left hand to hold leashes and lure the dog if need be (but only in the beginning). You can’t lure forever!
Heel position should be the dog on your left, shoulders parallel with your leg.
Teach your dog to find the heel position!
If you hold the leash in your right hand, you simply can’t strangle him on your left side.
Once you put your left hand on the leash, it is almost instinct to tighten up and strangle the dog.
Just don’t do it.
If you need to use your left hand… your loose leash walking needs work 😉
Change Your Direction
I teach my dog to respect his leash and listen to me, by changing my direction frequently.
I tell my clients to act bi-polar when walking.
If the dog is not paying attention, change direction. Because the leash is in the right hand, he has a few moments to pay attention before he hits the end.
If he is forging, turn left and run into him.
If he is lagging, turn right to teach him to catch up!
How to Fail
If you only walk one direction, straight, you set yourself up for failure.
I don’t know how many people fail because they have a specific destination in mind.
If you want to walk to “the park”, chances are you will allow bad behavior because you have this “destination” in mind.
Instead, you need to have “behavior” in mind.
Sometimes, I don’t even get out of the driveway!
If you can’t pay enough attention to me… you can’t get far!
My neighbors think I am crazy, because I go back and forth, back and forth and never really get anywhere with my dog.
This is important, because if you are pulling me, you shouldn’t be rewarded with getting farther away, or closer to, where you want to be.
If you are pulling me, you should lose the privilege of going where you want to go.
I think of it as MY WALK that you are invited to join, if you earn the privilege!
I watched a client of mine walk for about half of a block with their dog. The dog was looking up and smiling and checking in, and the owner never once rewarded the dog for that good behavior.
Eventually, the dog wandered out and began sniffing and pulling.
How often does this kind of situation happen in real life?
You go above and beyond at work, perhaps you take on an extra job, or clean something that has needed it for a long time… yet no one even notices your accomplishment, much less rewards you.
Eventually, you stop trying.
Dogs are the same.
All it would have taken was for this owner to acknowledge and reward the behavior of paying attention to HER and not doing what the dog wants (let’s admit that smelling the ground is more fun) to get the dog to continue the behavior.
I mean, who doesn’t want a dog walking next to them looking up at them in adoration?
This keeps the dog from pulling, barking, lunging and other bad behaviors!
You have a choice.
You can ignore your dog’s good behaviors and his attempts to be good and earn your accolades, affection and rewards.
Or, you can ignore your dog’s good behaviors and wait for bad behaviors to crop up.
Then you must try and convince your dog to go back to that happy dog that wanted to do everything for you.
Now, imagine your boss coming to you and asking you to clean that item or take that other job duty…would you be as excited to do so, after being ignored the first time?
It is much easier to teach your dog good behaviors, and reward his attempts to make you happy!
Your relationship and your training will outshine all the others!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.