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Walking on the lead doesn’t come naturally to every dog breed. And when it comes to taking your dog out every day, it can be all too easy to head to the nearest park or field and let your pooch have free reign to roam as they please. But if you live in a busy urban area or don’t trust your dog to come when called, lead walking becomes part and parcel of your outdoor routine.
If your dog decides to drag, pull and whine as soon as you attach the lead to their collar, then it’s time to take action.
Training your dog to walk well on a lead not only reduces the strain on their body and keeps them safe, it also makes the experience enjoyable for both of you.
Follow these top tips and turn your dog walks from a drag to a delight.
Be Patient and Positive
Training a dog to do anything requires time and effort, but a little bit of practise goes a long way. Many dog accessory brands will sell collars, harnesses and leads that claim to be “anti-pulling”, but nothing beats positive reinforcement and repetition when you’re out on your walks.
Lead walking is all about ensuring that your dog’s focus is on you. Stock up on your dog’s favourite treats, or even carry their favourite toy by your side so that they’re not quite so distracted by the big wide world around them.
Hold the lead firmly in your left hand and keep a few treats in your right. Your dog should also be on the right side - the same side as the treats - as you walk, so that they can keep their focus on your hand and ultimately, match your walking pace. The lead should cross loosely over your body, and your “treat hand” can also grab the lead if you need a little extra handling. (Switch sides if you prefer your dog to walk on your left side).
Positive reinforcement is absolutely critical at this stage to encourage good behaviour. It’s important that your dog knows where their treats are so that they’re encouraged to stay close to your hand. Every time you start walking, you should start rewarding. Lure your dog with treats whenever they stay by your side, and use a warm, encouraging voice when they get it right. Gradually, as you extend your distances and your dog learns that he or she will be rewarded for staying close, you can reduce your rate of reinforcement to keep them on track.
Don’t Reward Negative Behaviour
If your dog continually pulls and strains against the lead, then you have to stop and take the time to reset. As soon as you feel tension on the lead, stand still. This will teach your dog that a loose lead means they get to move forward - and a tight lead means they don’t.
Whilst your dog continues to pull, it’s important not to react. Jerking the lead back, shouting or getting annoyed is only going to teach your dog that pulling triggers a reaction. Instead, don’t say anything. Stand and wait until your dog pays attention to you again before you set off.
Sometimes good walking is about getting your dog to stay calm and not overexcited. If excitability is the main problem, then start implementing good practices before you even set off. Asking your dog to sit and stay by the front door before their lead goes on, and not encouraging them with high-pitched cries of “walkies!”, will help them to concentrate when you head outside.
If you live in a really busy area, then practising in your home or garden is a great place to begin where they won’t be quite so distracted. Start with smaller walks away from the house, and build up the distances until your dog can concentrate for longer periods of time.
Consistency Is Key
No matter who’s walking your dog on the lead, each walk should have a level of consistency so your dog doesn’t get confused and start to act up. One of these rules is the verbal cue. Whether you choose “heel”, “let’s go” or “close”, as with any other dog tricks it’s important that they associate a certain word with walking by your side. Pick your cue and stick to it, so your dog understands and doesn’t start pulling if you use words or phrases that they haven’t heard before.
If your dog is a family pet who is taken out by various family members throughout the day, then it’s important to make sure that everyone is following the same routines. Go out together and if you’re the primary lead walker, show your family how to walk your dog correctly and which cues to use. This will avoid any discrepancies in your training and keep you all on track.
And there you have it - simple tricks to revolutionise your dog walks! Looking for the perfect treat to keep your dog coming back to heel? Our eco-friendly treat bags are the pawfect place to start. Happy walking.