Are Your Walks Miserable Because Your Dog is Pulling on the Leash?
Walking a dog that perpetually pulls on the leash is really unpleasant, sometimes even painful. And walking a dog that reacts to other dogs or people is particularly frustrating because your walks tend to feel like Special Ops. missions in which you’re constantly scanning the horizon for impending danger and planning your exit strategy.
Walking politely on leash is a skill every dog needs, especially dogs living in the city. Here are a few things to consider and correct right away when walking your dog.
Quit super-socializing your dog at the dog park and doggy daycare. Your dog’s over-excited, frantic reaction when he spots another dog on your walks may not be because he’s under-socialized, especially if he has regular interaction with other dogs. Instead, it’s because he’s OVER-socialized. Because the majority of his experiences around other dogs are in an excited, aroused state, he begins to call up that excitement and anticipation as soon as he sees another dog.
When he’s on leash, that barrier to making contact with that other dog can create frustration and often his excited response begins to look pretty threatening as he barks and lunges at the end of a leash. Couple that with (let’s face it) probably very little obedience training with you teaching him how to walk appropriately on leash and what the expectation is, and you can see how this would happen. So step one is quit putting him in situations where he gets to practice over-excited behavior with other dogs.
Get the right training collar. The body harness you’ve got him wearing (even the “no pull” harness) is actually making the problem worse. You’re trying to control his movement at his center of gravity, his chest. Harnesses make pulling downright comfortable for most dogs. Put a proper training collar (chain training collar, prong collar, e-collar) on your dog so you can start to control him more easily and communicate important information to him. Head harnesses are generally not advised because they’re actually quite aversive to most dogs – though you may have the one in one hundred dog for which this would be an appropriate management tool.
It’s strongly advised that if you choose to use one of the training collars mentioned here you also get professional help in learning how to use them safely.
Get the right leash. I’ll let you know when the next flexi-leash bonfire is taking place, but in the meantime, pitch that finger-detacher into the furthest recesses of your crawl space. Tell me honestly how you can possibly hope to control your dog’s reactions to other dogs (other people or anything else, really) when he’s 10 feet in front of you? You can’t. Get yourself a nice strong six-foot long slip lead or a high quality leather leash with a sturdy brass snap. From here on out, your dog is walking at your side or slightly behind you and an appropriate leash will help you do that.
Teach your dog to maintain a loose leash. Train your dog (one way or another) to walk at your side on a loose-leash. Whether he’s in a formal heel or not may not matter so much. But the leash must be loose and he must know where he is in relation to you. Beginning with a loose leash alleviates a lot of the frustration and tension he feels that contributes to an over-reaction when he sees other dogs (squirrels, or rabbits or kids). I realize I am dropping this tip in here like it’s really easy; sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not.
Some dogs that have had a lot of time to practice pulling and inappropriate leash-walking behavior, or those that get a particularly reinforcing “high” from their overblown reactions, may be more difficult and take longer to train. Work with a training professional in these instances as they’ll be able to help you trouble-shoot those challenges and proof appropriately.
Teaching Your Dog to Walk on a Loose Leash
Loose leash walking and basic attentiveness is a necessity for all dogs and is the basis on which other training can be built. Contact us if you’d like help teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash, follow you, heel, and ignore distractions in the environment, including other dogs.
I am continually updating, adding to, and improving these “I Need Help With…” pages as I have time to do so in between training dogs and helping people offline. If you don’t see helpful information regarding this topic today, please check back again later. Or contact me so I can provide some recommendations and resources. Thanks!