Loose lead walking

It is understandable that most dogs and puppies can become excited when going out for a walk, the world is an exciting place with lots of amazing smells. As owners we need to train them how to walk well on a lead. Walking well on lead makes for a better experience for both owner and dog. It prevents the owner from being dragged around and the dog will be calmer to provide a more enriching walk. It also helps provide the dog with key skills of how to meet people and dogs politely and calmly.

 

Lead training is very simple but can be time consuming, you will need to be ready for the commitment and patient. You need to allow time for the dog to learn that when they pull, we stop walking and when they walk with a loose lead they can walk forward and investigate their surroundings. You should expect walks to take longer but at the end you will have pleasant walks with a calm and happy dog.

 

To provide the best training you need to have the right equipment, each dog is different and research into your dog’s breed, temperament and personality will help you making choices. For example, draught breeds such as the Husky, Akita, St Bernard’s were naturally bred for pulling carts, sledges or wagons, so naturally bred for pulling which can make lead training tough. Breeds such as these may need a harness that has a clip on the chest/front of the harness instead of a clip on the back as this is where they are strong. However, most breeds will be fine being walked on a flat collar and well fitted harness.

 

When researching equipment for lead training you may come across equipment advertised as a “cure” for pulling. Unfortunately, some of this equipment causes pain or discomfort when the dog pulls on the lead. Some may look friendly but can cause tension in sensitive areas for the dog such as tightening around the chest, neck or armpits. This equipment is unnecessary and can confuse your dog. Positive reinforcement has been scientifically proven to be more successful than punishment. Think about the following points when trying to find a harness or collar:

  • Safety and comfort
  • Does it fit properly?
  • What part of your dog’s body is strongest, where should the clip be located?
  • Where are the pressure points if your dog pulls? Does this cause discomfort?
  • Can your dog move around comfortably?

How to lead train

  • When the lead goes tight, stop walking. Stand still, be quiet and don’t move forward until the lead is loose, then continue walking. Do not pull/jerk on the lead back, just wait patiently. If your dog is finding it hard to understand or becoming frustrated, try walking a couple of steps in the opposite direction to get their focus back to you.
  • Reward when the dog is walking on a loose lead. It will be handy to have a mixture of regular treats and some high value such as sausage, cheese and chicken (whatever your dog finds rewarding). You may need quite a lot of treats to start with (if you think this will affect your dog’s weight, just take it out their food rations). When your dog becomes better at walking the less treats you will need. Keep walking forwards when treating to avoid stopping and starting. Do not reward pulling.
  • Practice in areas that do not have many distractions, so your dog is more likely to succeed and does not get distracted.
  • Never punish your dog if it pulls (telling your dog off or checking the lead).
  • You need to be consistent every time you go out with your dog to avoid confusion.

=However, if you are not able to complete training every day due to work commitments or being in a rush, you can use two different pieces of equipment. Use a different harness, collar and lead. Use the equipment you would like to continue using for training sessions, ideally the new equipment your dog has no association with. Your dog will learn the difference between the two and that they can pull with one and not the other. You must be aware that this will influence the time it will take to lead train; due to the new associations they will need to make.

  • Reactive dogs
  • Separation issues (Although your dogs are loving that you may be spending more time at home, be careful to still work on leaving rooms etc so we do not cause separation problems for the future)
  • Enrichment
  • General obedience training