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Monday, October 6, 2014

Is It Important To Train Your Dog To Walk On A Leash? YES YES YES!

By:  Laurie Brzostowski, President/Owner, Snaggle Foot Dog Walks and Pet Care-Round Lake, IL

Just the other day I have a new client who has a very very big dog.  However, this dog has not been trained to walk on a leash.  In fact, when he saw a squirrel and went for it, he literally pulled me off my feet and dragged me across the lawn.

Not only is it important for the safety of the dog but for the safety of anyone who is walking your dog is leash training important.  If you would prefer to hire a Certified Dog Trainer that is great.  Just make sure you hire the right one.

Here are some training tips for training your doggie on a leash.  If you are a pet owner, PLEASE take some time with your dog to train him to behave on a leash.

How to Teach Your Dog to Walk Nicely on a Leash
You’ve probably seen dogs at shows or on TV who prance alongside their handlers, staring up with rapt attention. These dogs have received extensive training in precision heeling. It’s impressive but demanding work. Precision heeling demands constant attention from both dog and handler and is not appropriate for long periods of time, like for your daily walks around the block or to the park. Even dogs trained to heel need to learn to walk on leash without pulling when they’re not formally heeling.
You can use various methods to teach dogs to walk without pulling on leash. No single method works for all dogs. Here are some overall guidelines before we look at several methods:
  • Until your dog learns to walk without pulling, consider all walks training sessions. Keep training sessions frequent, short and fun for your dog.
  • Since loose-leash training sessions will be too short and slow to provide adequate exercise, find other ways to exercise your dog until he’s mastered loose-leash walking. In fact, you’ll succeed more quickly if you find a way to tire your dog out before taking him on a training walk. Dogs pull, in part, because they’re full of excess energy. So unless you can expend that energy, your dog will find it hard to control himself. Before you train, play fetch in a hallway or your backyard, play a vigorous game of tug, or drive your dog to the park so that he can play with his buddies.
  • Teaching a dog to walk without pulling requires plenty of rewards. Use highly desirable treats that your dog doesn’t get at other times. Soft treats are best so your dog can eat them quickly and continue training. Most dogs love wieners, cheese, cooked chicken or ham, small jerky treats or freeze-dried liver. Chop all treats into small peanut-sized cubes.
  • Walk at a quick pace. If your dog trots or runs, she’ll have fewer opportunities to catch a whiff of something enticing, and she’ll be less inclined to stop and eliminate every few steps. Additionally, you are far more interesting to your dog when you move quickly.
  • If you expect your dog to control herself while walking on leash, you must also expect her to control herself before you go for a walk. If she gets wildly excited as you prepare for a walk, you need to focus on that first. Walk to the door and pick up the leash. If your dog races around, barks, whines, spins or jumps up, just stand completely still. Do and say absolutely nothing until your dog calms down a bit. As soon as she has all four paws on the floor, slowly reach toward her to clip on the leash. If she starts to bounce around or jump up on you, quickly bring your hands (and the leash) back toward your body. Wait until your dog has all four paws on the floor again. Then slowly reach toward her again to attach her leash. Repeat this sequence until your dog can stand in front of you, without jumping up or running around, while you clip on her leash. This may seem like a tedious exercise at first, but if you’re consistent, your hard work will pay off. Eventually, your dog will learn to stand still while you attach her leash.
Choosing the Right Walking Equipment
While you’re teaching your dog not to pull, you should use a four-foot or six-foot leash. Use whichever width and material that feel comfortable to you. Extendable leashes, such as the Flexi√§, or leashes longer than six feet in length are great for exercising dogs, but they don’t work well if you’re trying to teach your dog not to pull on leash.

Suitable Choices
  • Regular buckle or snap collar
  • Martingale collar (also called a limited slip collar or greyhound collar)
  • Head halter/head collar (such as the Halti®, the Gentle Leader® and the Snoot Loop®) Please note that serious injury could result if they are used with punishment methods using leash jerking.
  • No-pull harness (such as the SENSE-ation®, the Easy Walk® or the LUPI®)
Head halters and no-pull harnesses can decrease pulling enough for you without any additional training. They are effective tools, making walks more pleasant for you and your dog, so some people decide not to train at all. Just keep in mind that if you choose to use them without training, they won’t have any effect on pulling when your dog is not wearing the equipment. Dogs learn very specifically. If they learn not to pull while wearing a head halter, they won’t automatically know not to pull when they’re wearing something else, like a flat collar.

Unsuitable Choices
  • Regular body harness (Actually encourages pulling)
  • Fabric or metal choke/check collar (May be effective for your dog if used under the guidance of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer)
  • A pinch/prong collar (May be effective for your dog if used under the guidance of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer)
Please remember your dog and whoever walks your dog could get injured if the dog is not properly trained.  As the pet parent it is your responsibility to make sure your dog behaves correctly.

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