Focused Leash Walking
I have surprised clients when they have rung me up and said their dogs does not walk as well on leash at home as he does in my classes. When we start out to walk so I can see what the dog is doing exactly, it starts like this. They let the dog drag them out the compound gate and immediately let the dog pull them over to a patch next to the gate to sniff, they stand, stand and stand while saying ” come on, come on, let’s go, that’s enough” all the while standing and waiting on the dog. Finally the dog starts to pull to the end of the leash and across the street to another pole or bush.
Dogs want to walk to sniff and leave their mark and they absolutely should be able to do these things on a walk, but they have to be able to walk nicely so everybody gets something from the walk. If your dog is horrible on the leash and wrecks your back and shoulders then you don’t want to walk it. A dog that is a pleasure to walk goes on longer, more frequent walks!
Until your dog is a joy to walk, use focused walks. Starting at your gate, make your dog sit and wait, after you give a release command or a command to walk through then go, but only on a loose leash. If the dog drags you through, turn around and do it again until you can go through on a loose leash. Make sure you have a pocket full of assorted treats. (Cheese, hotdog, fillet, chicken breast, biltong, cat biscuits etc.) When you start to walk always use the same words. ( you can say Let’s walk, Lets go, Walk on. Twende or even Heel although we are not really asking for a heel) Start walking as you say it and the dog will some along as the slack goes from the leash. Don’t actually pull the dog, just get its attention, walk off like it will follow and it will. Move to the center of the street if it’s safe (less sniffing distraction away from the bushes, trees and grass) use a high rate of reinforcement ( treats, praise) as you walk. The leash should be held about 24 inches from the clip on the collar. (Depending on the dogs height and your height) The leash should be loose but short enough to prevent the dog from crossing in front of you or behind you. Count a number of steps of loose leash walking (this depends on the dog and where he is on learning loose leash walking) could be just 2 or 3 steps for a new learner. Give a treat or point with your right hand at the grass and tell the dog “go sniff” This is a real life reward! Your dog wants to go sniff, but he only gets to after some correct walking. Say “let’s go”, then start off again. Don’t wait for the dog, just walk. Next time, make him walk 4 or 5 steps before he gets to go sniff. Also be sure to talk to your dog, especially praise him when he looks up at you, he is checking in and wanting to know “what next, boss?. “ Praise when you get loose leash. As you can go more and more steps of loose leash your dog will understand that walking nicely get him longer walks with lots of sniffing. You can relax and let the dog walk further from you as long as there is no tension on the leash.
I wish you all happy, long walks!