Who’s Walking Whom?

 Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.  It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them. ― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog

Dog walking human
Is this what you and your dog look like on walks together?

 

In our family, the evening walk with our dog is our “family time” together.  It’s such a great time to bond with our dog, and it’s a great time for us to talk about our day with each other.  Our dog gets to spend “happy time” with her people, and frankly, its the highlight of her day!  If you are gone all day, I can promise you that the evening walk is your dog’s most exciting time of the day.  They do look forward to it, and it’s the very least that we can do for them when they are stuck inside all day, waiting for their people to come home.

However, walks can be very stressful when we are not in sync.  One of my biggest pet peeves (no pun intended) is when a dog pulls on a leash while we are walking together.  It is incredibly frustrating, and it makes the walk very stressful.  The walk ends up being cut short because it’s not enjoyable for anyone.  This can also be dangerous for older people, or anyone with physical limitations. If a dog is pulling on the lead, you can literally be swept off your feet! (I know this for a fact.)

Here’s another problem:  Dogs need to be walked once a day – at a minimum.  Who wants to walk a dog that walks the person?!  No one does.  If walks are stressful, chaotic, or exhausting, you are probably going to be less likely to want to go on a walk with your canine companion. Avoiding walks because they are stressful is not a productive solution!

So what’s the solution?  Teach your dog how to walk politely on a leash.


dog pulling human
Does your dog walk you?

 

Dogs love to explore their outside world.  Going on a walk is the most exciting (and most stimulating!) part of their doggie day, so their desire to rush ahead of you is very strong.  It’s their nature to want to run ahead and seek out all of those incredible scents, sights, and sounds!

Unfortunately, we don’t make ideal walking partners for high energy dogs, since we only have two legs.  A dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours.  When a dog has to put the breaks on their excitement by walking calmly by their person’s side, this is very hard for them, especially when the only thing our dog wants to do is RUN and EXPLORE!  Our boring, slow human pace can drive them nuts, making them want to get further away from the person that’s holding them back.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not pull on the leash while being walked because they want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha, or dominant over their human.  There is a much simpler explanation that does not give credence to the myth that dogs are on a quest for world domination! ~ V. Stilwell

Walking calmly next to a person while out and about on a walk, requires a great amount of impulse control.  This is often very difficult for some dogs to practice.  People often get frustrated and fed up, so they resort to punishment or tools that are downright dangerous.


Tools of the Old School Trade – What to AVOID

There are a variety of tools on the market today that claim to help with leash walking.  Be Aware: Some of these methods are outdated and downright cruel.

Choke, prong and shock collars can irreversibly damage your dog.  Learn why these collars cause hypothyroidism and other health problems:


FACT:  Modern behavioral science has proven that forceful handling such as physical punishment, using choke chains, shock collars, and leash yanking is psychologically damaging for the dog.

I invite you to do a little test: 

1. Open your hands with your thumbs touching each other. Place the thumbs at the base of the throat and with the fingers pointing back and surrounding the neck.
2. Now, take a deep breath, squeeze and pull back with all your force keeping your thumbs connected.
3. This is how many dogs feel when they are on the leash and collar and they are pulling.

If you are still keen to continue with this experiment, put a choke chain or pinch collar around your neck, attach it to a leash, and ask a friend to pull and jerk on it periodically.  Welcome to the dog world!

pinch collar choke collars

 

 


Tips for Success, and What You Need to Consider First!

Before you begin,  here are a few tips that you need to consider:

Reward:  Do you know what motivates your dog?  Is it verbal praise, toys, or treats?  Once you know what their motivation is, you can use that as a tool for training.  Find out what really excites your canine companion and what grabs their attention.  If your boss at work gave you sauerkraut when you performed well, but your favorite treat is chocolate, you probably won’t perform well again.  Make sure the reward is something that will be worth their effort.

Time Limit:  Remember that you don’t need to spend a half hour doing a training session.  5 to 10 minutes is best.  Do a training session with your dog two or three times a day.  Keep it short! Keep it FUN!

Punishment is Outdated:  Positive training is going to produce results faster and is going to last.  It’s far better to have a dog do what is asked because he or she wants to do it rather than doing it because he or she is afraid of the consequences if they do not.

Set them up for success:  Begin inside! Then you can move outside after both you and your dog have mastered indoors!  You want to start in an environment where there are few/zero distractions.  Once you have mastered that together you can move the sessions outside.  When you go outside, follow the same guidelines: zero distractions, in a boring, small area.  (ex backyard, no squirrels, people, or other dogs, etc.).  Once you master small, boring spaces, progress to moderately exiting spaces.  If that’s too much, take a few steps back, and make the environment less exciting. You want to set your dog up for success in an environment where you are way more exciting than anything else that’s happening. Then you can start to add in outside distractions.

TIP:  You will both succeed more quickly if you find a way to tire your canine companion before a training session.  Dogs pull, in part, because they’re full of excess energy.  So unless you can expend that energy, he or she will find it hard to control themselves.   Before training, play fetch in a hallway or your backyard, play a vigorous game of tug, Get crazy with a Flirt Pole, or let her play with her favorite doggie pal first!

High Note: Always end on a positive note (even if you did not see the results you wanted yet)! Ending it on a good note will help you both; your dog will want to do another session with you if she’s having fun, and you will too!

 

You will have more success during a training session if  your canine companion is relaxed and not full of hyper energy.
You’ll have more success during training sessions if your canine companion is relaxed and not full of hyper energy.

Training TRUTH:  The most successful modern training theories show that reinforcing good behavior with rewards while using constructive discipline is much more successful.   Learn more about why positive reinforcement works.

Hocus walking calmly on leash while surrounded by lots of neighborhood distractions.  She doesn't have to walk parallel to me, but we do continue to encourage calm, relaxed behavior on lead.
Hocus walking calmly on leash (while surrounded by lots of neighborhood distractions). Our Criteria: She doesn’t have to walk parallel to us, if she chooses not to, but we do continue to encourage (reinforce) calm, relaxed behavior on lead. Notice that the lead is loose, not tight, which is the criteria we have reinforced. She can walk ahead, but she has learned that it’s no longer reinforcing to pull on her leash. We never punish unwanted behavior. We REINFORCE the behavior we want to see more of!

 

 

paw prints

Behavior Bite:  We add tension and stress when we pull back on the leash.   Not only does pulling back on a dog’s leash prevent the dog from moving freely and naturally, but it creates tension in our dog.  Most dogs will resist this pressure on their necks/shoulders (that you have created) and they will pull harder!  Loosen up. It lightens the load on both you and your dog!


The videos below demonstrate easy and simple techniques that teach you how to teach your canine to walk politely on a leash.  These methods are using positive, force-free techniques:

Victoria Stillwell demonstrates how to teach Loose Leash Training – INSIDE:


Once you have successfully mastered loose leash training inside, you can train again outside:

 


Loose Leash Walking Outside  -Using Tasty Treats, Outside, with Minimal Distractions: 


 

Loose-Leash-Walking
Tip: The goal is to have a “J” shape in the leash/lead.

 

Remember:

Find their motivation.

Keep the training sessions short.

Always end on a high note.

Positive reinforcement always triumphs over negative consequences.

Set them up for success.

Make it Fun!

 

 


Training Truth + Tips for Success: See Beyond The Surface.

Not everything is what it appears to be. Most dogs who lunge on leash are highly insecure. They may look vicious, but behind many frightening Fido faces are dogs that are are experiencing frustration or FEAR.

This is why it’s never recommended to punish a dog that lunges on the leash.

When we yank, hit, yell, or jerk on the leash of a dog that is *reacting*, we are adding fuel to the fire. We are making the situation worse, AND in the process, we are teaching the dog that they should be afraid of whatever it is they are barking, growling, or lunging at.

Our job as their guardian is to do the opposite: We want to teach the dog to focus on something else, and to change they way they FEEL about the perceived threat.  Learn how to by clicking on the image below.

leash-aggression_dog barks lunges on leash

 


 

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2 thoughts on “Who’s Walking Whom?

  1. Pingback: Mr. Pepper Grayson, the Pedicat | Scoop The Poop!

  2. I have two little Bichon Frises that were a little difficult to walk on a leash at first. One of them would just sit down and not budge, and they had to be walked several times a day in Brooklyn. The thing that seemed to help us, and still works, is that I talked to them constantly, using simple words and tone of voice to let them know where we were going, what we needed to do next. Now, I really don’t even need the leash, because they will respond to my voice…unless there’s something too exciting, like another dog across the street. So, I still use the leash for safety, and for poopie bags, of course!!!!

    Like

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