I took my dog, Astro, to the park last weekend. I’ve never walked Astro on a leash before, but for whatever reason (the beautiful weather must have given me a touch of spring fever), I decided that day would be a good day to try. At the park. With 9 million other dogs. Astro is about 95 pounds of pure muscle, and he’s about two years old. What I’m saying is, he’s big and he’s enthusiastic. Do you see where this is going? Walking Astro on a leash in a crowded park was not the best idea. Since then, I’ve gotten him a no-pull harness (which is gentler on his neck), and I’ve read up on teaching him how to walk on a leash. Here are some tips I’ve read from an article on BuzzFeed about getting started. I plan to try again this weekend.
- Until your dog learns to walk without pulling, consider all walks as 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, he’ll have fewer opportunities to catch a whiff of something enticing, and he’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 himself while walking on a leash, you must also expect him to control himself before you go for a walk. If he 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 he has all four paws on the floor, slowly reach toward him to clip on the leash. If he 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 him again to attach his leash. Repeat this sequence until your dog can stand in front of you without jumping up or running around while you clip on his 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 his leash.