Teaching Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

In the long, intertwined history of people and dogs, the leash and leash walking are relatively new inventions, designed for convenience and safety. Humans walk in straight lines, confident in the belief that they are in charge because they are holding the leash. But restricted, linear walks are unnatural to dogs, who prefer to meander and explore. Dogs pull on the leash in an effort to increase the meandering. Humans pull back to increase the restricting. This combination of pulling away and pulling back puts pressure on the dog’s collar and he starts to choke and feel very, very anxious.* Here are some quick tips to make your walks more pleasant:

* Roaming ahead teaches your dog that he is walking you. He’ll make directional decisions and react to other dogs, people or nuances. Teach your dog to walk with you, not in front of you.

* When walking near roadways or crowds use a hand held or hands free lead. Long or retractable leashes encourage pulling and reactionary behaviors such as barking, lunging and jumping.

* If your dog pulls, consider using a No-pull harness or Head Collar or correction collar to shape cooperative walking skills. Speak to a professional to help you select what might be most appropriate for your dog.

* Use treats and rewards to encourage your dog’s attention. Consider using a clicker to highlight the moments your dog is paying attention to you.

* If a sight or sound distracts your dog do not look at your dog or respond in the moment: stay calm, setting the example by simply ignoring it. Walk faster and encourage your dog to follow you.

Dogs spend a lot of time hanging around the house – it’s safe and comfortable but a bit limiting. Share the world with your dog by learning how to walk together.

*Excerpt from Sarah’s syndicated column on the Bedford-Katonah Patch.