A staggering 80% of you have dogs who pull on the lead at least some of the time! For most dogs they can walk with a loose lead in some situations, often not the ones that matter to you the most. So first, take a look at what’s really going, even ask someone to video for you. It’s often good to check out if they can walk on the lead in the house as many can do this. What about as you leave the front door, the whole time you are out or is it just if there is a really good distraction. Is their lead walking just as difficult in a town centre as at the park?
You’ll need to put together a practical training plan and allow yourself a few weeks to start notching up some successes. Remember that your dog may have spent weeks, months or years learning to pull so we need to allow ourselves some time to relearn this life skill. This is where a professional consultation can be really helpful, they can help manage our progress through specific stepping stones and also manage our expectations! Here are my seven secrets to unlock a perfect loose lead walk!
1 - Stop stepping forward when they pull
is to make sure that you no longer allow the pulling to be rewarded by you taking a step forward. So, if they pull you stop until the lead pressure has reduced. In fact, pulling stops the walk. You’ll need to be careful here because you may find that you have actually got quite used to all the pulling too!
2 – Practice little and often
This is a new skill and a hard one at that. So practice for two or three lots of fifteen minutes a day only for the first couple of weeks. If your dog is particularly hyped at the start of a walk, perhaps because he has been home alone during the day, then you may want to go out in the car for some off lead running or alternatively some training or extra enrichment at home.
3 – Practice in a new environment
Some dogs will have become used to always behaving in a certain way in a particular environment. So if you have an entrenched steam train style puller then starting the training on a different footpath or park can help your dog to realise that you are doing something new
4 - Consider your equipment
Consider changing your walking equipment! If your dog has never walked in a harness before then this change may also help them realise that you are doing something new. It’s also worth remembering that if your dog is pulling on their collar they may be at risk of damaging themselves. Head collar’s can make your dog more sensitive to lead pressure and slow them down, but many dogs find them really uncomfortable so they need to be introduced in a very slow and positive way.
5 – Prepare to reward your dog for their small successes
This will involve lots and lots of tasty treats to start with because really High Value Rewards for the dog help them to remember and repeat a particular behaviour. You may want to use some of your dogs daily food allowance by the amount of the kibble that we want to use in the training session. If the dog isn’t particularly motivated by kibble to start with then reduce the previous meal but use fresh food like hotdog, sausages or cheese cut into tiny treats. All this can feel a bit over the top especially if you are actually a bit annoyed with your dog in the first place. I remember not really believing that they deserved all these treats because they were the ones not doing what they should be!
6 – Teach your dog to ‘look’
Teaching your dog to look at you is a really useful trick. Dogs often forget where you are and some forget that you are on the end of the lead altogether! So, teach them to ‘look’ by lifting a treat from their nose up towards your eyes and then rewarding them when they make eye contact. It can be worth getting some professional help to make sure you get your timing right here.
7 – ‘Lure’ your dog into a few steps of loose lead walking
Finally lure your dog into walking to heel first of all (if necessary) by holding a treat a nose height between thumb and forefinger in the palm of the hand and stepping forward for three to five steps as they nuzzle the treat. When you’ve practiced this a few times then break up the stepping to heel with sits and downs. Concentrating on this new behaviour is hard so lots of sits and downs help to give them a little break.
You can now gradually increase the number of steps between treats and if they get it wrong you can use your ‘look’ command to get them to look back at you. You'll need to build up their endurance slowly and then vary the locations and distractions that you use.
Your dog’s pulling behaviour has taken a long time to be learned by your dog, so good, positive practice is essential. Entrenched pulling can result in neck injuries and so this effort now is thoroughly worthwhile. Enrolling in a training class is a good opportunity to practice this new behaviour in a new setting and around new dogs. To kick off though I'd thoroughly recommend working with a professional. Contact me now for a 121 consultation on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01462 504722.